This study examined predictors of perceived athletic competence and subsequent physical activity in a longitudinal sample of adolescent girls.
A sample of 149 girls was assessed at ages 9, 11, and 13. Perceived athletic competence (PAC) was measured at all ages. Nonaesthetic versus aesthetic sport participation, body fat percentage, and breast development were measured at age 9. Accelerometers were used to measure girls’ moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at age 13.
Girls who participated in nonaesthetic sports at age 9 reported higher PAC at age 11 than those who participated in only aesthetic sports, while more advanced breast development at age 9 was associated with greater relative declines in PAC between ages 11 and 13. Both age 11 PAC and the relative change in PAC between ages 11 and 13 were significant positive predictors of age 13 MVPA. Results were independent of age 9 socioeconomic status and self-reported physical activity.
Perceived athletic competence is a suitable target for intervention efforts designed to increase adolescent girls’ physical activity. Particular attention should be focused on girls who are overweight or experiencing puberty. Participation in nonaesthetic sports may be particularly important in the development of PAC.