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Alienation from physical education causes students to withdraw emotionally and physically from participation in classes. In addition, belief in one’s competence in physical activity and physical fitness appears to influence both participation in physical activity and fitness levels. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between physical factors (fitness performance and strength measures), psychological factors (alienation from physical education and two types of perceived physical competence), gender, and age in middle school children. Participants in this study were 242 children (138 girls, 104 boys) enrolled in 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade physical education classes. Data were collected on alienation from physical education; perceived competence toward physical fitness and toward physical activity; and grip strength, standing long jump, mile run, percent body fat, and body mass index. Using factor scores, a two-step regression procedure revealed that (a) gender and perceived fitness competence were significant predictors (p < .05) of fitness, explaining 41% of the variance, and (b) age, alienation, and perceived physical activity competence were significant predictors of strength, explaining 25% of the variance. Independent of gender and age, the psychological variables of perceived physical competence toward fitness and alienation are related to physical performance. Highly alienated youth were less fit, and children with lower perceptions of physical competence were less fit.
Nancy A. Burkhalter is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, PO Box 425647, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX 76204-2581. Janice C. Wendt is with the Dept. of Health & Human Performance, 104 Garrison Gym, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-6015.