A Longitudinal Examination of the Accuracy of Perceived Physical Competence in Middle Childhood

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 University of Victoria
  • 2 Memorial University of Newfoundland
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Children who underestimate their physical abilities have lower motivation, higher anxiety, and lack of understanding as to why they may be succeeding or struggling in sports settings, which can result in withdrawal from physical activities. Theoretically, middle childhood is a time when perceptions of physical competence (PPC) become more accurate as children develop the cognitive capacity to interpret new sources of feedback and develop a realistic sense of their physical abilities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which accuracy of PPC changed from grade 2 to grade 4. Participants were 238 boys and girls (Mage = 7.8 yrs) from eight participating elementary schools in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Test of Gross Motor Development–Second Edition was used to assess motor skills. PPC were assessed using the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for Young Children (for grade 2) and the Self-Perception Profile for Children (for grades 3 and 4). Results revealed that participants who underestimated or overestimated their physical competence in grade 2 saw an improvement in accuracy, and, by grade 4, had similar accuracy scores to their peers who were considered ‘accurate’ estimators. These results reinforce theory that suggests PPC become more accurate in middle childhood.

Field, Naylor, and Temple are with the School of Exercise Science, Physical, and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Crane is with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

Field (sfield@uvic.ca) is corresponding author.
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