An exploration of the narrative dynamics of physical activity intervention and its potential for public health practices in behaviour change

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The burden of non-communicable diseases has drawn public health attention to lifestyle behaviours such as physical inactivity. Attempting to change behaviour through the practice of intervention has become part of the public health repertoire bolstered by theories that evidence manipulable correlates of behaviour with the expectation that inactive people can be changed to active people. The lack of direct and lasting effectiveness of specific approaches coupled with the moderate and transient effectiveness of a wide variety of approaches has prompted divergent research into the complex dynamics of behaviour change. This thesis adds to the divergent literature by exploring the narrative dynamics of material-discursive agencies enacted through physical activity intervention. Using a design-based methodology, a qualitative frame comprised of narrative and cultural psychologies was used to explore the small and big stories of parents, their nursery-aged children, and community health improvement practitioners in designing an intervention to promote intergenerational physical activity. Across three distinct design phases, stories were gathered and analysed using rigorous dialogical narrative analysis. In phase 1, stories were used to co-construct typologies of physical activity in the everyday lives of parents and children. In phase 2, tensions identified by the dialogical analysis in phase 1 were used to story a material object designed to participate in the conditions of possibility for intergenerational physical activity. In phase 3, the prototype object was implemented, and stories of its use demonstrated that the narrative dynamics enacted by participation with an intervention was not change but becoming. The processes and findings from across the phases culminate in an original model for lifestyle intervention based on narrative dynamics called the Relational Innovation Model. The model proposes lifestyle intervention based on abstraction rather than normativity and demonstrates how stories participate with meanings causing them literally to matter.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Award date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 12 Apr 2018


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