The Relationship of Self-Concept and Perceived Athletic Competence to Physical Activity Level and Gender among Turkish Early Adolescents

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The purpose of this study was to examine the self-concept and perceived athletic competence of Turkish early adolescents in relation to physical activity level and gender. Self-concept was assessed using the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, and perceived athletic competence was assessed by means of the Athletic Competence subscale of Harter's Self-Perception Profile for Children. In addition, the Weekly Activity Checklist was used for assessing physical activity level. Males and females were assigned to low and high physical activity level groups based on their mean scores. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed significant main effects for gender and physical activity level, but there was no significant gender by physical activity interaction. Univariate analysis demonstrated a significant main effect for physical activity level on perceived athletic competence but not global self-concept. In addition, univariate analysis did not reveal a significant difference in either global self-concept or perceived athletic competence with respect to gender.

The benefits of physical activity to the health of young people have consistently been highlighted by researchers. Physical activity has been shown to assist in children's psychological well-being and may assist in their adherence to regular physical activity into adulthood, where there may be further benefits such as reduced risk of hypokinetic diseases (Hagger, Ashford, & Stambulova, 1998). Thus, physical activity affects the overall functioning of an individual (Scherman, 1989).

Establishing a link between physical activity and the development of self-concept can enhance the value of sport and exercise (Ebbeck & Weiss, 1998). Many studies have indicated that there is a positive relationship between participation in physical activities and sports and the development of self-concept (Sherrill & Alguin, 1989; Olu, 1990; Sonstroem, 1984; Joesting, 1981). Pangrazi (1982) noted that physical education and sport programs offer a variety of situations for individuals to experience feelings of personal competence and to gain a sense of achievement, as well as to develop self-concept.

The issue of self-concept is also central to an understanding of motivation and behavior (Fox, 1990). Generally, much of what we do, consciously or not, is directed toward maximizing our chances of feeling good about ourselves. We learn to avoid situations in which we lack confidence and which expose our inadequacies, and we are attracted to those situations which provide us with success. Therefore, self-perception plays an important role in explaining motivation to either participate or not participate in sport and physical activity (Ulrich, 1987).

Perceived competence is another important psychological mediator of achievement behavior and motivation among children and adolescents in both the academic and physical domains (Harter, 1990). In addition, perceived competence plays an integral role in most theories of self-esteem and is delineated in several multidimensional models of the self (Epstein, 1973). The construct of perceived competence is central in Harter's model (Weiss, 1987). Harter's (1978) competence motivation theory views perceived competence as a domain-specific indicator of self-esteem that is responsive to a number of antecedent variables and that influences affective and motivational outcomes. In addition, Harter's model holds that the components of competence are integrally related to the development of self-esteem and provide an appealing framework from which to study patterns of self-esteem and achievement behavior in sport and physical activity (Weiss, 1987). Theory and research support the notion that a child's physical self-estee m, or self-perception of physical capabilities, is a major determinant of future sport-related behavior (Duda, 1987; Weiss, 1987).

Roberts, Kleiber, and Duda (1981), employing competence motivation theory, found that level of perceived competence was related to sport participant status. …