‘Once upon a time I used to be active’. Adopting a narrative approach to understanding physical activity behaviour in adolescent girls.

Ann-Marie Knowles, Ailsa Niven, Samantha Fawkner

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16 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we adopted a narrative approach to understand the decrease in physical activity (PA) behaviour in adolescent girls during the transition from primary to secondary school in relation to their socio-cultural and embodied/physical experiences. Fourteen adolescent girls were asked to tell their PA stories from their past whilst at primary school through to the present day whilst in secondary school. We adopted the analytical standpoint of a story analyst where the girls’ stories were used to examine the psychological processes that occur within the socio-cultural transition of their school environment and the embodiment transition from a child into a young woman. Our findings emphasised that the arena of physical education lessons provide a backdrop for a different identity (active identity) to be developed which contradicted with the socially acceptable stereotypical feminine identity. These competing identities for adolescent girls created narrative tension and enhanced psychological processes such as perceived competence and self-presentation. These were further shaped by the embodiment transition experienced. Important acknowledgement of the body as more than in its physical form needs to be understood as for many of these adolescent girls, the body held more meaning in their stories and influenced PA choices and beha
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Early online date7 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • used to be active
  • once upon a time
  • narrative approach
  • exercise
  • health

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