Empirical Evidence and Application in Contexts

Past meta-analytic research on the TPB has identified a positive association between behavioral intention and behavior change within the contexts of health and social psychology. For instance, in a meta-analysis of 185 studies, use of the TPB revealed a positive association between intention and behavior, as the TPB accounted for 27 percent of the variance in behavior and 39 percent of the variance in intention (Armitage & Conner, 2001). Meta-analytic studies have also assessed the application of the TPB to exercise behavior and revealed an average correlation between intention and behavior of 0.47 (Hausenbias, Caron, & Mack, 1997). In a meta-synthesis of 422 studies, behavioral intentions were found to account for 28 percent of the variance in behavior on average (r = 0.53; Sheeran, 2002). Further, in a meta-analysis investigating the influence of intentions to change behavior on observed behavior change within interventions, the TPB was the most utilized theory (i.e., 29 percent of the included sample) and found to have a moderate effect (<7 = 0.40) on behavior change across studies (Webb & Sheeran, 2006).

Although less prominent, the TPB has also been investigated in educational settings, where it has been shown to play a key role in determining intention and behavior of students, teachers, caregivers, and principals. For example, Edannur and Firsad (2016) found that students’ attitudes towards behavior (i.e., personal beliefs about continuing education) and perceived behavioral control were significant factors in predicting intentions of high school students for continuing higher education. Students’ attitudes towards cheating and perceived behavioral control have also been found to significantly predict self-reported cheating behaviors (Kam, Hue, & Cheung, 2018). Moreover, the subjective norm against cheating was significantly associated with self-reported cheating behaviors, whereas students were significantly less likely to report participating in cheating if they perceived cheating as inconsistent with their perceived subjective norms (Kam et al., 2018). The TPB has also been examined with students in special education, where results have indicated that children’s attitudes and perceived behavioral control were significant indicators of their intentions to interact and socialize with peers with physical disabilities (Roberts & Smith, 1999). The TPB has been applied to smoking behaviors of high school students and in one study the theory was found to explain 72 percent of participating students’ smoking behavior, whereas students’ attitudes towards smoking were found to be the most prominent component that predicted reported smoking behavior (Acarli & Kasap, 2015).

Additionally, the TPB has been important to conceptualizing and changing the intentions and behaviors of teachers and other school personnel. For instance, principals’ attitudes and perceived subjective norms significantly predicted intentions to implement inclusive education practices (Yan & Sin, 2015). Further, principals’ behavioral intentions and perceived behavior control significantly predicted power in their self-reported inclusive education practices (Yan & Sin, 2015). Regarding teacher attitudes and behaviors towards inclusive practices, past research has indicated significant links between teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ expectations (i.e., subjective norms) and teachers’ inclusive practices (MacFarlane & Woolfson, 2013). The TPB has also been used to guide research connecting intention and behavior of school personnel for supporting students with disruptive behaviors (Malak, Shanna, & Deppeler, 2018), preventing harassment of LGBTQ youth (McCabe, Rubinson, Dragowski, & Elizalde-Utnick, 2013), and collecting assessment data within student interventions (Ruble, McGrew, Hang Wong, & Missall, 2018). In all of these cases, mechanisms and components (i.e., beließ/attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control) within the TPB are consistently highlighted as critical to behavior intention and change.

Lastly, the TPB is particularly relevant to foster and support parent involvement in schools. For example, Bracke and Corts (2012) explored differences of attitudes and subjective norms, and perceived control related to parent involvement in parents deemed by teachers as “involved” and “not involved.” Overall, findings revealed that both groups of parents indicated that it was very important to be involved in their child’s education, in addition to most parents reporting that they held good intentions about participating in various school events. However, a significant difference between groups was revealed for subjective norms, whereas parents perceived by teachers as “not involved” held a different conceptualization of other parents’ involvement. Specifically, the group of parents perceived by teachers as not involved were significantly more likely to report that friends, neighbors, and other parents at their children’s school were unlikely to be involved in school activities (Bracke & Corts, 2012). Perry and Langley (2013) applied the TPB to parental involvement and found that behavioral beließ/attitudes and subjective nonns significantly predicted fathers’ intentions to engage, whereas perceived behavioral control was not a significant predictor. Additionally, behavioral beließ/attitudes predicted fathers’ engagement behaviors (i.e., the number and frequency of care giving, social, and physical activities fathers engaged in with their children; Perry & Langley, 2013).

Overall, the TPB is a viable theoretical lens for examining, explaining, and instilling behavior change across various academic disciplines. Considering the theoretical application and empirical evidence, the TPB is especially applicable to school psychology practice and research. Although not every study discussed in this section of the chapter revealed significant behavior changes based on the three key mechanisms involved within the TPB (i.e., attitudes/beliefs, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norms), this section highlights that these mechanisms can all play a critical role in influencing behavior change. Thus, school psychologists must consider that behavior is often driven by an individual’s or a school system’s intention to change, and that one’s intention is largely determined by attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.

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