Exploring the measurement of quality participation over time in exercise for persons with physical disabilities

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Koch, Laura
physical disability , community-based exercise program , quality participation , dynamic structural equation modelling , confirmatory factor analysis , idiographic , meaning
Previous research into fostering full and effective participation for persons with disabilities has primarily focused on the quantity, or amount of involvement, in a given activity. However, this way of thinking about participation neglects the subjective experiences and satisfactions that a person derives from participating – referred to as quality of participation. A recent framework developed to conceptualize quality participation suggests quality experiences are comprised of six aspects: autonomy, belongingness, challenge, engagement, mastery and meaning. Quality participation is believed to vary depending on the individual, the context and over time; postulations that are supported by qualitative research. To facilitate quantitative inquiry, the Measure of Experiential Aspects of Participation (MeEAP) is a 12-item scale developed to assess the six aspects of quality participation. However, preliminary research suggests that measurement issues emerge when utilizing the scale in an exercise setting. Thus, this thesis sought to explore, over three sequential studies, the measurement of quality experiences in exercise for persons with physical disabilities. The first two studies utilized confirmatory factor analysis to assess the fit of the MeEAP when applied to persons with disabilities engaging in exercise; the first sample (N = 263) was national and cross-sectional, while the second was a smaller, longitudinal sample of members in a community-based exercise program (N = 18). In both samples, the aspect of meaning showed considerable statistical overlap with the other aspects, causing convergence issues. In the final study, 12-month intensive longitudinal data from a community-based exercise program were utilized to develop person-specific dynamic structural equation models (N = 8) to capture variability in quality experiences between people and over time. The model diagrams visually demonstrate key considerations of the quality participation framework. These findings extend our understandings of quality participation over time for persons with disabilities. Methodologically, the final study sheds lights on how emerging statistical modelling tools can help to quantitatively explore quality participation in a way that recognizes the idiosyncrasies of each individual’s lived experience.
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