Reconceptualizing Decisional Balance in an Adolescent Sun Protection Intervention: Mediating Effects and Theoretical Interpretations

Marc A. Adams, Gregory J. Norman, Melbourne F. Hovell, James F. Sallis, Kevin Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Objective: The Transtheoretical model (TTM) integrates principles of operant learning, such as stimulus control and reinforcement, and psychological factors, such as decisional balance. Understanding interrelationships between decisions, behavior, and consequences from multiple-theoretical perspectives can advance theory and inform development of more effective interventions. Method: This analysis examined the mediating effects of a special case of the decisional balance construct in which the pros of competing behaviors (i.e., sun protection vs. exposure) were measured rather than the pros and cons of the same behavior. Participants included 819 adolescents (10 to 16 years old, 53.5% girls, 58.4% White) randomized to a 24-month expert system intervention (SunSmart) or a physical activity and nutrition comparison group. Main Outcome Measures: Self-report measures included sun protection behaviors, pros for protection, and pros for exposure. Mediation analysis using latent growth curve models found both the treatment-to-mediator and mediator-to-behavior paths significant for decisional balance, producing an indirect effect of .323 (p < .01) and good model fit (CFI = .973, RMSEA = .055). Results: Multiple strategies for conceptualizing and measuring decisional balance appear to be valid. Results are interpreted from the TTM and operant perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • behavior analysis
  • expert systems
  • outcome expectancy
  • theoretical model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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