During the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in the self that has focused on the study of individual differences as well as developmental change. Much of this work can be subsumed under the rubric of the "self-concept," where there has been a proliferation of theoretical and methodological activity, leading to a growing body of empirical evidence on the self (Harter, 1990).
The degree of interest has been stimulated by the important role of self-concept in the explanation of human well-being, and its initiator and mediator role in human behavior (Fox, 1990; Marsh, 1993). Research has shown that self-concept is associated with many positive achievements and social behaviors including leadership ability, satisfaction, decreased anxiety, and improved academic and physical performance (Fox, 1992).
Despite the theoretical and practical significance of self-concept, like many other personality constructs, reviews of self-concept research typically identify a lack of theoretical models for defining and interpreting it and the poor quality of measurement instruments used to assess the construct (Marsh & Jackson, 1986). In an attempt to remedy this problem, researchers have shifted the focus from the self-concept as a broad global construct to a multifaceted, hierarchical construct (Marsh, 1993, 1994). The multidimensionality of self-concept emphasizes that people have different perceptions of themselves in specific domains of life, such as physical, social, and work (Harter, 1985; Marsh & Shavelson, 1985).
With this recognition of the multidimensionality of self came the opportunity to investigate the physical self as an entity in its own right (Fox, 1997). Perceptions of an individual in the physical domain are considered factors in determining levels of global self-worth (Fox, 1992). The greatest recent advance in the study of this important construct has been the development of multidimensional physical self-concept scales. These instruments have produced much richer profiles that are capable of characterizing groups or individuals, documenting links between the physical self and related behaviors, and mapping self-perception change more precisely (Fox, 1997). Many researchers have begun to conduct different studies on physical self-concept; the effects of athletic participation (Marsh, Perry, Horsely, & Roche, 1995; Welk, Corbin, & Lewis, 1995; Marsh, 1998), age (Marsh, 1998) and gender (Marsh, 1998; Hayes, Crocker, & Kowalski, 1999) on physical self-concept and cultural differences in physical self-perception (Hagger, Ashford, & Stambulova, 1998) are some examples.
Research on physical self-concept has generally found that males score consistently higher than females (Marsh, 1998; Sonstroem, 1998; Hayes et al., 1999). However, age differences have not been clearly shown. Most of the studies on age effects used a multidimensional self-concept scale, reporting that self-concept increased with age during late adolescence and early adulthood; however, during preadolescence self-concept showed a decline with age (Marsh, 1998; Sonstroem, 1998). Marsh (1998) examined the age effects on physical self-concept of Australian students by using multidimensional physical self-concept scales and reported no change in physical self-concept with age during adolescence. As can be seen from the literature, age effects on physical self-concept are not clear, and most of the studies were conducted with subjects from Western cultures. Hence, the present study extends previous self-concept research by focusing specifically on age and gender effects in multiple dimensions of physical self-concept for Turkish late adolescents.
Participants were 477 female (mean age 20.95 [+ or -] 1.75) and 518 male (mean age = 21.52 [+ or -] 2.02) university students enrolled in elective courses from the physical education and sport departments often universities in Turkey. …