Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The Psychosocial Influences on Participation Rates within Secondary School Physical Education

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The Psychosocial Influences on Participation Rates within Secondary School Physical Education

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This paper examines the social and psychological factors that affect young people's participation in secondary school physical education (PE).

"Little is known about the reasons why people do and do not participate in physical activity and the relationship between their levels of participation and different stages in their lives." (Allender et al., 2006:834)

Over the past few years there has been a big push from the government to increase health and physical activity to reduce the obesity rates in Scotland. One of the many reasons for this 'obesity epidemic', as researchers have documented, is a decline in physical activity, with a significant drop in participation during the transition from childhood to adolescence (Hardman and Stensel, 2009). One way in which the Scottish Government are looking to combat this is by assigning PE a time slot within the curriculum. Pupils have been allocated 2 hours of PE on their timetable each week (Scottish Executive, 2004b). This assigned time slot has increased the status of PE from the margins of the curriculum (Green, 2000) to a more central role and will continue to do so due to the Curriculum's focus on health.

There are many factors which influence pupils' participation rates within PE and these factors will differ from person to person and from day to day. With a high prevalence of health related disease and a focus on youth obesity rates, understanding the factors that affect young people's participation in physical activity is of great importance (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). The report of the review group of physical education (Scottish Executive, 2004b) suggested that PE is the foundations for a physically active life, along with the belief that it has the potential to alter the "alarming growth in sedentary lifestyles and poor mental health" (Scottish Executive, 2004a:14). Thus it is helping to fight the so called 'obesity epidemic' that Scotland is currently facing (Bailey et al, 2008). Therefore, this research study aims to address the psychological and social influences on participation rates within PE. This is important because providing an understanding of youth motives for sport participation is central to understanding the quality of youth physical activity experiences (Smith 2003:27).

Peer support, self-presentational thinking and gender issues all play an important role in participation in physical performance, whether that is in PE lessons in schools or in other activities in everyday life. Each of these factors has an effect on our motivation levels, ability to learn and on our performance as a whole. A key point to take into account here is that everybody has different traits and each of the previously mentioned factors will affect different people in different ways. This occurs as certain individuals have a higher need for obtaining social approval or avoiding disapproval than others (Leary and Kowalski, 1990).

The bulk of research on social agents affecting physical education or youth physical activity focuses mainly on coaches, parents and teachers, with little research on peer influence. The following study aims to expand on previous research in the area of psychosocial effects on third and fourth year pupils in physical education. It featured the majority of third and fourth year pupils from a rural secondary school in the highlands of Scotland. The participants filled out questionnaires based on 3 psychological scales measuring the effects on ones participation in PE.

2. Overview of Literature

There are many reasons for participation and more importantly lack of participation in sport and Physical Education (PE) in secondary schools. The majority of reasons behind the lack of participation in any type of activity are down to an individual's own circumstances and beliefs. Some of these reasons, which will be spoken about in more detail, include motivation, social status, gender, peer acceptance, self-presentation and other psychological causes. …

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