DCU Research News: Perceived Competence a Key Factor in Chil

|Mar 30|magazine16 min read

Concept of "If you think you can-then you can" influences attitude to physical activity

DUBLIN, March 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- New research findings from Dublin City University has found that among children aged 8-12, their perception of their abilities to carry out fundamental movement skills (running, hopping, skipping, jumping) plays a key role in their decision to take part in physical activity.

The concept of "if you think you can, then you can" comes into play as the research showed, that the child's perception of their competency to carry out these basic movement skills, was a greater determinant of their likelihood to take part; far greater than their actual competency in the skills.

Led by DCU's School of Health and Human Performance and the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, in partnership with the GAA and Dublin GAA, the research investigated whether "movement competence", a combination of fundamental movement skills and perceived competence, actually promotes skill in sport, and an interest in long term physical activity.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Cameron Peers commented; "Parents are advised to provide constructive feedback and encourage kids to keep moving, with the main focus on enjoyment. Also, at a time when kids are house-bound due to COVID-19, developing and learning to value simple movement skills each day, can alleviate boredom and promote engagement in physical activity long-term."

The research findings have led to calls to combine what is termed "perceived movement skills competence" (PMSC) with fundamental movement skills (FMS) which are the basic building blocks for children to engage in physical activity.

It is anticipated that by doing this it will help to promote a "positive movement experience" that will contribute to developing a child's physical self-efficacy (PSE) defined as their "personal belief to participate in physical activity".

The greater the degree of PSE in a child, the more likely they are to overcome obstacles to physical activity and to view obstacles as something to be overcome through increased effort.

The findings were published in the paper "Movement Competence: Association with physical self-efficacy and physical activity" in Human Movement Science.

 Key Findings:

  • First study to show that PSE (physical self-efficacy) explains the movement competence (combination of fundamental movement skills and perceived movement skills competence (PMSC)) and physical activity relationship.
  • It assessed 860 pupils (47.7% F, 52.3% M) from third to sixth class from 30 plus schools.
  • It shows that movement competence (FMS and PMSC) is a source of information that helps to promote the PSE/PA relationship.
  • Findings support past research which shows that PMSC is playing a critical role in increasing physical activity.
  • Results showed the direct and indirect effect of PMSC through PSE is significantly larger than the effect of FMS.
  • Findings emphasise that fostering children's PMSC is crucial to improving children's physical self-efficacy and in turn physical activity.
  • Future movement skill research should consider FMS and PMSC's position when contributing to the dynamic relationship between the various components of an individual which support them in developing and maintaining a physically active lifestyle.

Commenting further on the findings Dr Cameron Peers added:

"We are learning more about the impact of fostering movement and how it develops children's belief and physical activity. Of course movement ability is necessary, but fostering children's perception of their movement and belief about participating in physical activity is just as important. Although, findings show Irish children's basic movement skills require attention to be improved, what this research shows is the impact development of the skills and perception of these skills can have on their attitude and physical activity levels.

Commenting on the findings Dr Sarahjane Belton, School of Health and Human Performance said:

"We are learning more and more about the impact of movement on the attitudes of our children and young people in Ireland. In normal circumstances less than one in every 5 children is active enough to sustain health. It cannot be known what the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions may have on health and physical activity levels, but in many ways it offers a tremendous opportunity to some parents and their children to get outside and get active together.

As we all face challenges amid social isolation, why not see this time with our children as a privilege. Spending a little bit of time encouraging and teaching our children to move, and indeed moving with them as adults, not only has short-term mental and physical health benefits for us all, but will also have long-term benefits on our children's physical activity participation. If children develop skills and motivation for movement, they will develop positive attitudes towards movement, and this will foster confidence that they will take into physical activity for the rest of their lives."

Commenting on the findings Dr Johann Issartel, School of Health and Human Performance, said:

"These findings highlight core issues that teachers, parents and coaches can address - if the current generation of children don't perceive themselves as being good at basic movements, why would they choose to play? "It is not fun" that's what they say and if it is not fun they won't believe they can play. Developing confidence and competence for our children at this time is paramount. Encouragement and feedback will improve children's belief and physical activity levels. COVID-19 is a barrier to us all, but we do not want to stop children playing; children at play for as long as possible every day of the year is what we want."

Commenting on the findings Prof. Noel O'Connor, Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, said:

"Obviously if you can't measure something then it's next to impossible to understand how to improve it. The Moving Well-Being Well study has allowed us to measure and therefore understand how this perceived competence affects their participation in physical activity. This improved understanding helps us identify how we can impact this, and allows us to develop strategies to ensure this improvement takes place. It's a great example of how the power of data analytics can allow us to positively impact the health of our society on a national scale."

Notes to editors:

Dr Cameron Peers along with the full research team of Dr Sarahjane Belton, Dr Johann Issartel, Prof Noel O'Connor are available for media comment upon request to DCU Communications.

"Movement Competence: Association with physical self-efficacy and physical activity" is published in Human Movement Science and authored by Cameron Peers, DCU School of Health and Human Performance, Dr Johann Issartel, DCU School of Health and Human Performance, Dr Stephen Behan, DCU School of Health and Human Performance, Dr Sarah Jane Belton, School of Health and Human Performance, Prof Noel O'Connor ,SFI Insight Centre for Data Analytics, DCU.

The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is a joint initiative between researchers at University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork, and Dublin City University, as well as other partner institutions. It brings together a critical mass of more than 400 researchers from Ireland's leading ICT centers to develop a new generation of data analytics technologies in a number of key application areas.

Project Partners:

  • Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics
  • Moving Well Being Well
  • GAA 
  • Dublin GAA