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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

John Sirard

Second Advisor

Sofiya Alhassan

Third Advisor

Nicole LaVoi

Fourth Advisor

Katie Potter

Subject Categories

Other Public Health


Physical behaviors (PB), defined as physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB), tend to be less favorable in women than in men. Low self-efficacy (SE) and social support (SS), and gender norms hinder women’s PB. Benevolent sexism, a theory on gender norms, could explain the gender disparity. PURPOSE: To 1) assess the associations among benevolent sexism endorsement (BSEN), experiences with benevolent sexism (EBS), PB, SE, and SS, 2) evaluate if BSEN or SE mediate the relationship between EBS and PB, and 3) develop a questionnaire that measures a woman’s sexist experiences in PA. METHODS: Study 1: Women (N=186) completed a survey that measured PB , BSEN, EBS, and SE. Bivariate associations were assessed with Pearson’s correlations. Mediating and direct effects of BSEN and SE on the relationship between EBS and PB were assessed with structural equation modeling. A subsample of participants (N=21) participated in a focus group or interview to inform the development of the Physical Activity and Sexism Experience Scale (PASES). Study 2: Women (N=427) completed the survey from Study 1 with the addition of a social support (SS) questionnaire and the PASES. The PASES was validated with Exploratory Factor Analyses and Cronbach’s alpha. The same analytic methods from Study 1 were performed. RESULTS: Study 1: All associations between sexism outcomes and PB and SE were weak. BSEN had a negative effect on moderate-vigorous PA (MVPA) (β=-0.23, p=0.05). SE mediated the relationship between the BSEN and MVPA (β=0.07, p=0.01). Study 2: Weak positive associations were found between BSEN and screen-time (r=0.27) and between EBS and all PA outcomes and SS (r=0.12 to r=0.22). The PASES demonstrated internal consistency (α=0.88) and resulted in 14 items. Weak positive relationships were found between the PASES and screen-time and all PA outcomes, excluding vigorous PA, and SS (r=0.12 to r=0.15). BSEN and EBS showed negative and positive effects on MVPA, respectively (β=-0.17, p=0.02; β=0.29, p=0.00). CONCLUSION: Benevolent sexism was observed in women’s experiences but the relationships between sexism and PB are still unclear. More diverse samples and further consideration of potential moderating factors should be considered in future research.