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Prev Med. 2004 May;38 Suppl:S69-77.

Psychometric properties of optimism and pessimism: results from the Girls' Health Enrichment Multisite Studies.

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Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research (CHPPR), School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 77030, USA.


Background. This study investigated the relationships among optimism, pessimism, physical activity, and dietary behaviors among 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls in the Girls' Health Enrichment Multisite Studies (GEMS). Methods. Ninety-two girls were randomly assigned to a 12-week physical activity and diet intervention or comparison group and completed psychosocial assessments including the Youth Life Orientation Test (YLOT) of optimism and pessimism, physical performance self-concept, physical activity self-efficacy, physical activity outcome expectancies, and physical activity and sedentary preferences. Also, preferences for bottled water and sweetened beverages were assessed. Physical activity and dietary intake were assessed by self-report and parent-report at baseline and follow-up. Also, physical activity was objectively assessed by wearing an accelerometer for 3 days. The psychometric properties of the optimism-pessimism subscales were analyzed. Results. The measures of optimism and pessimism in children were reliable (r = 0.75-0.82). In the multiple regression analyses without the intervention interaction terms, pessimism was positively and significantly related to increases in MET-adjusted usual activity (P = 0.008) and sedentary behaviors (P = 0.0004). Additionally, a negative (P = 0.026) pessimism by intervention interaction term for MET-adjusted usual activity was found such that the intervention group had a lower change in physical activity per unit increase in pessimism compared to the control group.


Among 8- to 10-year-old African-American girls, pessimism was related to increased sedentary behaviors and usual activity. Previous studies have reported relationships between optimism and health-compromising behaviors. This study found that pessimism may positively or negatively influence efforts to increase health-promoting behaviors. Future research should confirm and clarify the meaning of these findings.

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