Considerations for descriptive analyses of physical activity

Document Type

Conference Presentation



Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the California Association for Behavior Analysis


California Association for Behavior Analysis


Garden Grove, CA

Date of Presentation



Descriptive observation is typically employed to identify environmental variables related to levels of physical activity. The primary purpose of the current study was to compare the results yielded from descriptive analyses of physical activity across brief and extended observation times. Additionally, because discontinuous measurement systems are often used to record the occurrence of physical activity, a second purpose was to compare results of the analyses using partial and whole interval recording methods. Descriptive analyses for six preschool children were conducted during repeated, 30-min naturally occurring outdoor times on a playground at a local daycare. The Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in Children was used to define the conditions and various levels of physical activity. Overall, results for all participants suggested high correspondence between outcomes of descriptive analyses when observations were brief or extended, and when using whole or partial interval recording methods. These results suggest that brief assessments using partial-interval records might be the most efficient way to conduct descriptive assessments of physical activity. However, the degree to which such assessments would yield reliable data about functional relationships will also be considered.

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