Sport Participation and Self-Esteem as Mediated by Perceived Peer Acceptance and Sport Self-Concept in Taiwanese College Students

Article excerpt

Previous researchers (Larson, 2000; Smith, 2003) have emphasized the importance of sport participation for individuals' self-esteem. For example, some researchers argued that sport promotes positive adjustment by offering opportunities to learn, for example, athletic skills, peer relationships, and nonacademic competency (Larson, 2000; Smith, 2003). While the majority of researchers have focused on adolescents and children, there is a dearth of research on college students. Additionally, researchers (Daniels & Leaper, 2006; Slutzky & Simpkins, 2009) have investigated a variety of variables proposed to mediate the relationship between sport participation and individuals' self-esteem, including sport self-concept and perceived peer acceptance. Therefore, in this study we proposed a model that incorporates the mediating effect of sport self-concept and perceived peer acceptance on the relationship between sport participation and individuals' self-esteem among Taiwanese college students.

In the Exercise and Self-esteem Model (EXSEM) it is proposed that individuals' physical self-concept is a key mechanism through which the time individuals spend on sport is related to their self-esteem (Sonstroem, Harlow, & Josephs, 1994). Moreover, individuals' perceived sport ability is a key sport self-concept and is viewed as a critical correlate of individuals' self-esteem (Slutzky & Simpkins, 2009; Sonstroem, 1998). As a result, we formulated the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Sport participation will have a positive relationship with sport self-concept.

Hypothesis 2: Sport self-concept will have a positive relationship with self-esteem.

Past researchers have indicated that sport participation makes a positive contribution to individuals' peer acceptance (Jaffee & Ricker, 1993). Furthermore, Daniels and Leaper (2006) revealed that peer acceptance had a mediating effect between sport participation and self-esteem. Therefore, we formulated the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 3: Sport participation will have a positive relationship with peer acceptance.

Hypothesis 4: Peer acceptance will have a positive relationship with self-esteem.



A total of 500 survey questionnaires were distributed to four universities in Taiwan (two located in the north and two in the south), with a two-stage sampling design utilized to ensure the representativeness of the sample. A total of 479 valid survey questionnaires were returned for a valid response rate of 95.8%. The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 27 years (M = 20.51, SD = 1.50). In addition, 241 participants were male (50.3%) while 238 were female (49.7%).


A pilot study comprising 97 valid surveys (out of 100 distributed) was performed using students from two universities in Taiwan (one in the north and one in the south) before the current study was conducted. Students were selected from physical education classes and were informed of the objective of this study. Additionally, students were asked to answer questions based on their perceptions and complete all the questions.


Sport participation was measured using two items modified from the work of Daniels and Leaper (2006) as well as that of Slutzky and Simpkins (2009). The first item was "During the past week, how many times did you play an active sport, such as baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, or swimming?" Response options ranged from 1 = not at all to 5 = five or more times. Participants who reported no sport participation were eliminated from the analysis. Thus, only participants who indicated that they participated in an active sport at least once a week were retained in the study. Another item was "How much time did you spend in an active sport in terms of hours per week?" Responses ranged from 1 = less than one hour per week to 5 = more than 20 hours per week. …