Social and Behavioral Theories

4. Important Theories and Their Key Constructs

Stages of Change is a heuristic model that describes a sequence of stages (see Table 1) in successful behavior change:

  1. Precontemplation;
  2. Contemplation;
  3. Preparation;
  4. Action; and
  5. Maintenance.

The Stages of Change model can be used both to help understand why people at high-risk for diabetes might not be ready to attempt behavioral change, and to improve the success of health counseling.

Another application of the Stages of Change model in organizations and communities involves conceptualizing organizations along the stages-of-change continuum according to their leaders’ and members’ (i.e., employees’) readiness for change.

Table 1

Behavior Change Stages and Their Characteristics
Precontemplation No recognition of need for or interest in change (in the next six months)
Contemplation Thinking about changing (in the next six months)
Preparation Planning for change (generally within the next month)
Action Adopting new habits (for at least six months)
Maintenance Ongoing practice of new, healthier behavior (over six months and chances to return to old behavior are few)

People do not always move through the stages of change in a linear manner – they often recycle and repeat certain stages, for example individuals may relapse and go back to an earlier stage depending on their level of motivation and self-efficacy.

Prochaska, J. O., & Marcus, B. (1994). The transtheoretical model: Applications to exercise. In R. K. Dishman (Ed.), Advances in exercise adherence (pp. 161-180). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

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