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Stephanie Field, Jeff Crane, Patti-Jean Naylor, and Viviene Temple

Developmental experts have theorized that during the transition from early to middle childhood, perceptions of physical competence will become more accurate ( Harter, 2012b ; Robinson, Stodden, Barnett, & Lopes, 2015 ; Stodden et al., 2008 ). Understanding this process is important because boys

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M. Kjerstin Baldwin and Kerry S. Courneya

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between physical exercise and self-esteem in breast cancer survivors using Sonstroem and Morgan’s (1989) exercise and self-esteem model (EXSEM). Participants were 64 women from four breast cancer support groups. Each participant completed a battery of self-administered questionnaires that assessed exercise participation, physical competence, physical acceptance, and global self-esteem. Pearson correlation analyses demonstrated that physical acceptance, physical competence, and exercise participation each had significant zero-order relationships with global self-esteem. Multiple regression analysis determined that these three constructs together explained 46% of the variance in global self-esteem. Consistent with hypotheses, path analysis showed that the significant relationship between exercise participation and global self-esteem was mediated entirely by physical competence. It was concluded that the EXSEM may be a viable framework for examining the mechanisms by which physical exercise may influence self-esteem in breast cancer survivors.

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Jodie E. Southall, Anthony D. Okely, and Julie R. Steele

This study compared actual and perceived physical competence of overweight and nonoverweight children. Participants were 109 nonoverweight and 33 overweight Grade 5 and 6 children (mean age 10.8 years). Overweight status was determined using age- and gender-specific international body-mass-index cut-off values. Actual competence was assessed using the Test of Gross Motor Development, 2nd ed., and perceived competence was assessed using an expanded version of the Athletic Competence subscale of the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC). Overweight children had significantly lower actual and perceived physical competence. When actual competence was partitioned into locomotor and object-control skills, however, differences only existed for locomotor skills. These findings indicate that low actual and perceived physical competence might be important contributing factors in maintaining childhood obesity. Interventions to improve actual and perceived physical competence in overweight children should provide opportunities to learn and master fundamental movement skills in an environment where parents, teachers, and coaches provide positive and specific feedback, encouragement, and modeling.

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Janice L. Causgrove Dunn and E Jane. Watkinson

This study explored the relationship between perceived physical competence and physical awkwardness in an effort to gain further understanding of the effects of motor incompetence on behavior. Subjects included 195 children in Grades 3 through 6. Multiple regression analysis found that gender, the importance attached to physical competence, and the interaction between severity of awkwardness and grade were significant predictors of perceptions of physical competence. As expected, males reported higher perceptions of physical competence than females. In addition, the higher the rating that subjects attached to the importance of physical competence, the higher their perceptions of physical competence. Investigation of the interaction between severity of awkwardness and grade revealed that the expected decrease in perceptions of competence associated with increasing severity of awkwardness was present only in third-grade children. It is suggested that older awkward children may utilize strategies to maintain positive perceptions of competence and motivation.

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Jacqueline D. Goodway and Mary E. Rudisill

This study examined the relationship between perceived physical competence and actual motor skill competence in African American preschool children at risk of school failure and/or developmental delay (N = 59). A secondary purpose was to determine gender differences and the accuracy of self-perceptions. All children completed a perceived physical competence subscale (Harter & Pike, 1984). Actual motor skill competence was measured by Ulrich’s (1985) Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD), resulting in three scores (locomotor, object-control, and TGMD-Total). Stepwise regression analysis revealed that locomotor competence (p = .99) and gender (p = .81) did not predict perceived physical competence, but object-control competence (p = .01) did significantly predict perceived physical competence. Adding gender to this regression model did not significantly predict perceived physical competence (p = .69). These findings showed that these children are not accurate at perceiving their physical competence.

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Joonkoo Yun and Dale A. Ulrich

The purpose of this paper was to examine the relationship between perceived and actual physical competence in children with mild mental retardation (MMR). Participants were 54 males and 55 females, M age = 9.47. Pearson correlation indicated no significant relationship between perceived and actual physical competence in children with MMR. When the age factor was partialed out, the resulting partial correlations revealed a significant moderate relationship between the two variables for older children with MMR. A 6 × 2 (Age × Gender) MANOVA revealed a significant interaction between age and gender on perceived physical competence. No gender difference was found in younger children, whereas in older children, males had significantly higher perceived competence than females. A possible explanation for the nonsignificant correlation between perceived and actual physical competence in younger children may be insufficient cognitive functioning for making self-evaluations.

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Deborah R. Shapiro and Dale A. Ulrich

This study examined the relationship between components of Eccles’ (Eccles et al., 1983) expectancy-value model and perceptions of physical competence of children with and without learning disabilities (LD) across three physical activity contexts (physical education class, outdoor school recess, and at home). Participants, 60 children with and without LD between 10 and 13 years, completed the Modified Pictorial Scale of Perceived Physical Competence (Ulrich & Collier, 1990) and an expectancy-value questionnaire measuring perceived importance, usefulness, enjoyment, and gender orientation of selected motor skills. Gender differences in perceptions of physical competence were found in recess and home settings. No significant group differences were observed in perceptions of physical competence. Expectancy-value subscales contributed differently to understanding competence judgments of boys and girls across context. Results are discussed with implications for improving self-concept and expectancy-value among girls toward sport and physical activity.

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Deborah R. Shapiro and Dale A. Ulrich

The purpose was to examine the reference groups used by children with and without learning disabilities (LD), ages 10-13 years, when judging perceived physical competence in three contexts (in physical education class, during outdoor school recess, and at home). Participants, 30 students with LD and 30 without LD, completed the athletic competence subscale from the Self-Perception Profile for Learning Disabled Students (SPPLD; Renick & Harter, 1988) and two social comparison questionnaires in each activity context. Differences in the percentage of students citing the various reference groups across context was not statistically significant. Observations of responses indicate participants relied primarily on classmates, self-comparison, and family members to judge their physical competence. These results suggest that, while students with and without LD tend to compare themselves with their general education classmates, their reliance on eight different social comparison groups from which to judge physical competence varies with context.

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Dale A. Ulrich and Douglas H. Collier

Self-perceptions of competence are thought to mediate a person’s motivation to participate and persist in tasks under optimally challenging conditions. Little systematic research has been conducted related to the self-perceptions of physical competence in children with mental retardation and the influence on achievement motivation in this domain. Various models of self-concept are reviewed, followed by a discussion of self-concept and special populations. Preliminary data are presented on a modified pictorial scale of perceived physical competence for use with 7- to 12-year-old students with mild mental retardation. Future research directions are proposed related to achievement motivation, perceived competence, and mental retardation.

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Arto Gråstén, Anthony Watt, Jarmo Liukkonen, and Timo Jaakkola


The study examined the effects of school-based program on students’ self-reported moderate to vigorous physical activity and physical competence, and associated links to gender, grade, body mass index, and physical education assessments.


Participants were 240 middle school students (143 intervention, 97 control) from 3 small cities in North-East Finland. The intervention group received task-involving climate support in physical education classes and additional physical activities during school days across 1 year.


The intervention group’s physical competence increased, whereas the control group’s competence remained stable across the period. However, physical activity levels were stable in both groups. The findings also showed that body mass index was negatively associated with physical competence and activity in the intervention group at the follow-up measure. Physical education assessments were positively related with only the baseline scores of physical competence in the intervention group. In contrast, the assessments had positive relationships with physical competence and activity of control group students.


The present program was an effective protocol to increase student’s perceptions of physical competence. Since the quantity of school physical education including recess activities cannot be dramatically increased, positive learning experiences should be provided, and thus, support perceptions of physical competence.