ERIC Number: EJ857843
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 22
Capitalizing on Opportunities to Refine Health Behavior Theories
Rothman, Alexander J.
Health Education & Behavior, v36 n5 suppl 1 p150S-155S 2009
Theories provide valuable guidance for research and practice. They provide a framework for generating testable hypotheses and integrating empirical evidence and, over time, a road map for the design and implementation of intervention strategies. With repeated use, a theory or set of theories can become the dominant lens through which investigators come to understand the domains in which they work. Although these theories may prove to be productive, investigators may habituate to the perspective afforded by a theory in the way that one can forget that one is wearing glasses. When this happens, theories can become static or fixed entities. As Noar and Zimmerman (2005) have illustrated, investigators rely on theories to guide their work but rarely directly test or question their underlying assumptions. Because of this pattern of behavior, the ongoing development or refinement of theories slows. In a series of provocative articles (Burke, Bird, et al., 2009; Burke, Joseph, Pasick, & Barker, 2009; Joseph, Burke, Tuason, Barker, & Pasick, 2009; Pasick, Barker, Otero-Sabogal, Burke, Joseph, & Guerra, 2009; Pasick, Burke, et al., 2009; Stewart, Rakowski, & Pasick, 2009; Washington, Burke, Joseph, Guerra, & Pasick, 2009), Pasick and colleagues have challenged investigators to stop and be mindful about the theories they employ and to consider the applicability of constructs that are routinely used in the behavioral sciences. This interdisciplinary team examined whether behavioral constructs such as self-efficacy, intention, and perceived vulnerability are conceptualized and operate differently across contexts. Although comparisons across context can take many forms, Pasick and colleagues focused on comparisons across different racial/ethnic populations. The questions posed by Pasick and colleagues are challenging and difficult to answer. Their findings provide an initial assessment of these issues and offer an opportunity to initiate a theoretical and empirical conversation about the applicability and utility of behavioral theories and the constructs they employ. With an eye toward the continued analysis of these questions, in this commentary the author considers a series of issues that may enrich the insights and impact afforded by these efforts.
Descriptors: Health Behavior, Behavior Theories, Behavioral Science Research, Hypothesis Testing, Intervention
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
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