A comparison of descriptive and experimental analyses of physical activity in preschool children

Document Type

Conference Presentation



Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis


Association for Behavior Analysis


Seattle, WA

Conference Dates

May 25-29, 2012

Date of Presentation



Direct observation of children being physically active often is viewed as the "gold standard" measure of assessing physical activity. Although direct observation can provide information regarding contextual variables (i.e., context and composition) related to moderate and vigorous physical activity, environmental variables often are not manipulated and thus causal relationships cannot be determined. We developed an experimental analysis methodology to assess the effect of outdoor activity context and group composition on level of physical activity in preschool children. The purpose of the current study was to compare the results from descriptive analyses of physical activity to those of experimental analyses. Descriptive analyses were conducted during 30-min sessions on an outdoor playground at a local daycare. Experimental analysis sessions were conducted on an outdoor playground within a multielement experimental design, with each condition lasting 5 min. The Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in Children (McIver et al., 2009) was used to define the conditions and various levels of physical activity within both the descriptive and functional analyses. Initial data suggest that the degree of agreement between the descriptive analyses and experimental analyses varies by participant.

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