Work Type



Fall 2023

Faculty Advisor

Danny McMillian, PT, DSc, OCS




What Motivates Highly Active Mothers? A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

Natalie McDaniel, SPT; Stephane Robert, SPT

Mentor: Danny McMillian, PT, DSc, OCS

Background: Physical inactivity is a major global health concern linked to high mortality rates. Extensive research demonstrates the role of physical activity (PA) in enhancing overall well-being, longevity, and disease prevention. Mothers living with children face significant challenges in pursuing PA.

Purpose: This qualitative research uses Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to investigate experiences and beliefs influencing PA motivation and satisfaction in highly active mothers.

Methods: (N=5). Participants completed the Motives for Physical Activities Measure - Revised (MPAM-R) and the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale (BPNSFS) and participated in semi-structured interviews which were subsequently coded.

Results: Based on coding frequency from the interviews, participants collectively expressed greater psychological satisfaction (32) than frustration (19). Coding further reveals the following motivational themes in order of magnitude: Competence (80), Fitness (49), Autonomy (46), Social/Relatedness (45), Interest (40), and Appearance (18). MPAM-R scores indicated high satisfaction across Fitness (6.36), Interest (6.17), Competence (5.97), Appearance (3.7), and Social (3.52). BPNSFS outcomes consistently favored psychological satisfaction over frustration in Autonomy (r=0.57), Relatedness (r=0.634), and Competence (r=0.63).

Conclusion: Motivational factors influencing PA were most associated with competence, suggesting the importance in mastery of PA. The frequent expressions of psychological frustrations demonstrate this demographic’s ability and motivation to overcome these obstacles and maintain high levels of PA. Clinicians working with this population should be equipped to assist with inevitable challenges and provide mothers with the resources to overcome them.


University of Puget Sound