This cross-sectional study examines if there is a relationship between student ethnic identity and their motivation towards physical activity (PA), with a particular interest with students who self-identify as Hawaiian. Results indicate that there is a small but positive correlation between motivational indices and measures of ethnic identity. This study surveyed 301 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from one of the Hawaiian Islands. The survey consisted of the Situational Intrinsic Motivation Scale (SIMS) instrument (Guay, Vallerand, & Blanchard, 2000) to measure motivation of PA and the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure-Revised (MEIM-R) instrument (Phinney & Ong, 2007) to measure ethnic identity. Participants were given a pedometer to measure PA (steps) and a list of sports and activities they participate in outside of school. MANOVA was used to examine significant differences among group variables (gender and ethnic identity) for selected variables (motivational indices, ethnic exploration, ethnic commitment, and steps). Data analysis reveals significant gender effects for all response variables, notably males being significantly more intrinsically motivated (MIM = 5.94), externally regulated (MER = 4.55), and amotivated (MAM = 2.77) towards PA than females. Yet, females explore their ethnic identity (MExplore = 3.78) and are committed to their ethnic identity (MCommit = 4.00) significantly more than males. Significant ethnic identity effects were found for motivational measures amotivation (AM), self-determination index (SDI) score, notably Hawaiian students demonstrating significantly lower AM (MAM = 2.18) than Hispanic students, and Asian students. Also, Hawaiian students demonstrate significantly higher SDI scores (MSDI = 9.02) than Asian students. Hawaiian students in general explore and commit to their ethnic identity more than not, and are positively motivated towards PA. Hawaiian students who explore their culture and are committed towards their ethnic identity are more likely to be positively motivated towards PA. Although this indicates a relationship between student ethnic identity and motivation towards PA, future research needs to be made on the relationship of ethnic identity and motivation towards PA with a larger population of Hawaiian students.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





Hawaiian adolescents, ethnic identity, motivation, physical activity