Skip to main content

Table 2 Summary of behavioural diagnosis using the Theoretical Domain Framework and COM-B components over the three focus groups (n = 19)

From: Co-design of a school-based physical activity intervention for adolescent females in a disadvantaged community: insights from the Girls Active Project (GAP)

TDF Domain

Domain Definition


Participant Quote

COM-B Component

Behavioural regulation

Anything aimed at managing or changing objectively observed or measured actions

Adolescent females needed to have systems in place that they could use for monitoring whether they participated in PA. They needed to action-plan, self-monitor and adopt procedures or ways of working that encouraged them to do PA.

“[we have] no [reminders], unless, you’re part of a team and you’ve training” (Student B, Senior Cycle).

“I think reminders would work. Like get the teachers to write ‘PE tomorrow’ on the board. Or get the prefects to remind the class to remind them to bring in the gear for the next day” (Student F, Junior Cycle).

Psychological Capability

Environmental context and resources

Any circumstance of a person’s situation or environment that discourages or encourages the development of skills and abilities, independence, social competence, and adaptive behaviour.

Some of the students felt that time, the changing of uniforms for PE class, not having PE as an option and the lack of sport options available in the school, were barriers to being active.

The Steering Committee felt the school offered many opportunities for the students to be active.

“it’s a massive effort to change into PE tracksuits, so [students] just say they forgot them and not do PE” (Student D, Junior Cycle).

“there isn’t as many [sport] teams for seniors” (Student C, Senior Cycle).

“if you do honours maths you can’t do PE, cause its during that time” (Student B, Senior Cycle).

“there’s very little we don’t have” [and] “there is no day after school that the hall is free, and the lunch times too” (Teacher B, Steering Committee).

“we have lots of options” (Teacher F, Steering Committee).

Physical Opportunity

Social influence

Those interpersonal processes that can cause individuals to change their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours.

Adolescents needed social support from their friends, family and classmates to exercise, and the opportunity to be part of a group and provide encouragement. Many of the females felt nervous about exercising alone and worried about how they would be perceived by their peers.

“I wanted to join the fitness club, but none of my friends would do it” (Student A, Junior Cycle).

“you won’t do it if there’s someone in the group you don’t get on with, or if none of your friends are doing it” [and] “I don’t want to look stupid, or have people laugh at me” (Student D, Junior Cycle)

“if your friends are there with you, you have more confidence” (Student B, Junior Cycle).

“I’d probably end up quitting if it weren’t for the people on the team” (Student B, Senior Cycle).

“people would rather do other stuff, like hang out with your friends” (Student F, Senior Cycle).

“they won’t play because they’re afraid of what their mates would say” (Teacher F, Steering Committee).

“it’s always about how they look, and how they’re perceived. That’s the number one barrier from what I’ve seen” (Teacher C, Steering Committee).

“I think being in a group of friends is a really positive aspect of them engaging in physical activity because we know with [Teacher G], we do our class and its groups of friends that come, and it’s a positive influence all the time” (Teacher A, Steering Committee).

Social Opportunity

Beliefs about capabilities

Acceptance of the truth, reality, or validity about an ability, talent, or facility that a person can put to constructive use.

Adolescent females lacked confidence in doing PA, especially alone. They found it difficult to try new sports or activities and became self-conscious when doing so.

“it’s difficult when you’re trying something new” (Student F, Junior Cycle).

“you become very aware of yourself when you’re surrounded by girls who are very good at it, and you start to close into yourself” (Student A, Senior Cycle).

“I think their confidence levels are on the floor” (Teacher C, Steering Committee).

“in terms of capabilities, I think there is loads of capabilities, but they don’t often see it” (Teacher F, Steering Committee).

Reflective Motivation


Mental representations of outcomes or end states that an individual wants to achieve.

Other priorities, for example homework, exams, family and social life competed for adolescent female’s time. They struggled to balance it all and needed to feel that PA was a priority.

“when teachers give us homework, they give us a lot and like you don’t have the time to do it at home, and you want to do exercise, but you can’t because you’ve stuff at home to do” (Student B, Junior Cycle).

“just trying to fit everything in, you’re supposed to get 8 h of sleep, then 3 h of study a night, and then be active as well?” (Student C, Senior Cycle).

“their commitment levels just fall off, and their priorities change” (Teacher C, Steering Committee).

Reflective Motivation


Increasing the probability of a response by arranging a dependent relationship, or contingency, between the response and a given stimulus.

Adolescent females needed to feel that they wanted to do PA and for it to be fun/enjoyable. They liked having choice/autonomy and being with friends. There were punishments in place for not partaking in PE at school, but felt that they wanted more positive reinforcement for them to participate in PA.

“stuff with friends. Or even if they did ‘trial classes’, which would introduce new people to a sport” (Student F, Junior Cycle).

“they [teachers] don’t change the sport, even if we say we don’t like it” (Student D, Senior Cycle).

“it’s important to balance fun and competition – it wouldn’t be fun without the competition either, a mix of the two is good (Student A, Senior Cycle).

“I think in first year, they say you have to join at least one team but that’s it. They tell us to join one team, but we’re not followed up on it” (Student E, Senior Cycle).

“you’d get a bad note into your journal if you didn’t bring in your PE gear or if you refuse to take part” (Student C, Senior Cycle).

Automatic Motivation

  1. PA Physical Activity, PE Physical Education, TY Transition Year