Self-Image and Physical Education - A Phenomenological Study

By Perrin-Wallqvist, Renée; Carlsson, Eva Segolsson | The Qualitative Report, July 2011 | Go to article overview
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Self-Image and Physical Education - A Phenomenological Study

Perrin-Wallqvist, Renée, Carlsson, Eva Segolsson, The Qualitative Report

In this study our aim was to investigate (a) how the awareness of one's self-image reveals itself as a phenomenon, and (b) if self-image is influenced by physical education in a social context with teachers and pupils. Six pupils, aged 15 and 16 years, attending compulsory school were interviewed with the use of an empirical phenomenological psychological method. The Empirical Phenomenological Psychological (EPP) analysis of the interviews resulted in two main themes in terms of self-concepts: self-image as self-contemplation and the factors of influence upon a pupil's self-image in physical education each with three subthemes. We end with a discussion about the different aspects on the noetic and the noematic perspectives on self-image and self-contemplation. Key Words: Phenomenology, Physical Education, Self-Image, Self-Contemplation, Verbal, and Non-Verbal Communication


Throughout life, we seek the answer to the question "Who am I?" and this question is particularly in focus during our development as teenagers. During this time, major physiological and psychological changes occur and adolescence constitutes the sum of all our attempts to adjust and incorporate these external and internal changes within the self (Blos, 1962; Erikson, 1977). In this context, the body is essential to experiencing ourselves. It acts as a symbol of the self and is also of significance in furthering the individual's identity (Sparkes, 1997). When the body changes and develops, the identity also undergoes upheaval. The development of the self-identity can either be seen as a process entirely ongoing within the individual in a way that is described in classical psychoanalysis or as a process occurring in concert with the social environment (Ahlgren, 1991; Harter, 1996, 1999; Oyserman & Marcus, 1998; Schutz & Luckmann, 1974).

There are many homonymous and synonymous terms for self-concepts both in the Swedish and English language literature. Self-concept, self-esteem, self-perception, self-confidence, self-image, self-awareness, self-evaluation, self-worth, and self-consciousness are some examples of English expressions. Self-concept has been defined as an umbrella term for the attributes of the self and self-esteem as an evaluative and developing component according to Lindwall (2004), while other researchers use the terms synonymously (Lintunen, 1999; Sonstroem, 1997). According to Moser (2006), this makes it difficult to unambiguously define both the Swedish and the English self-concept. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of consensus regarding how the significance and constitution of self-concept arises, namely from how we assess ourselves as people and how others look at and assess us (Bean & Lipka, 1984; Brissett, 1972; Rosenberg, 1979; Swann, Chang-Schneider, & McClarty, 2007).

The self and its relationship with other factors are often described in models and structures. Fox (1988, 1997), Rosenberg (1979), and Shavelson (2003) are of the opinion that the self is constituted in multidimensional and hierarchical structures whose objects have a global and a general significance. According to Fox (1997), self-esteem as a global phenomenon has a subcategory, Physical Self, which with regard to sporting ability consists of an attractive body, physical strength, and fitness. Shavelson, like Marsh, Craven and McInerney (2003), identifies self-concept as a global object with underlying categories of social relationships, academic ability, or physical and health-related proficiency. Sonstroem (1997) describes an alternative model in which participation in physical activity yields psychological advantages in terms of self-esteem and in which physical expertise spans external exercise and internal self-esteem.

Hattie's (2003) critique of the application of various models, in accordance with the above, is "that these conceptions are 'there' with no reference to time and place" (p.

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Self-Image and Physical Education - A Phenomenological Study


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