Physical Self-Perception Profile of Female College Students: Kinesiology Majors vs. Non-Kinesiology Majors

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to compare college student’s Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP) (18) scores in female kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology majors. Participants included 68 female kinesiology majors and 88 female non-majors in a mid-sized university. The mean age for the kinesiology majors was 20.8 years with a standard deviation of 2.31 and non-kinesiology majors was 19.7 years with a standard deviation of 3.16. MANOVA results indicated a significant difference between kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology major’s self-perceptions. Results show that kinesiology majors had significant higher self-perceptions of their sports competence, physical condition, physical self-worth, and physical strength. Researchers believe that identifying groups of people with low self-perceptions of theirphysical abilities and implementing strategies to improve these self-perceptions to increase physical activity levels may help in decreasing weight related health issues. This study will aid coaches, teachers, parents, athletic trainers, and health and fitness instructors in assessing individuals who struggle with low self-esteem in relation to their physical abilities and movements. Professionals will be encouraged to provide physical ability support and implement effective strategies to improve self-perceptions in order to increase physical activity levels.

INTRODUCTION

Over half of the United States’ population is either overweight or obese and approximately 10 million people have eating disorders (34,33). The lack of physical activity is a consistent variable contributing to the rising obesity epidemic (43). In addition, in the U.S., adults and adolescents physical activity participation is below recommended daily requirements (44).

Body image is characterized by an individual’s views, emotions, and judgment of their body through body size estimate, perceived body attractiveness, and feelings connected to one’s body shape and size (25,32). Since body image is a comprehensive construct, researchers in one study focused on more specific constructs such as body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, or body-esteem in order to explain destructive body image behaviors (24). Negative aversion to the appearance of one’s body has been associated with the cause of serious eating disorders, extreme depression, and suicidal attempts for many females (37).

Self-esteem is one method used to express self worth, which directly impacts psychological well-being (36,38). Theories used to explain self-esteem emphasize the multiply levels of formation and comprehension, while distinguishing the fact, people have varied perceptions of themselves in diverse circumstances (17). Consequently, these defined self-perceptions may globally define our levels of self-esteem (26,27).

The relationship and interaction between the dimensions of body-image, self-esteem, and physical activity participation is without clear understanding (11). Women experiencing negative images of their bodies suffer from higher incidents of depression and low body-esteem is well documented in research (8,7,31). Deficient levels of physical activity in U.S. adolescent girls is a public health concern as it is associated with increases in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and risk for adult sedentary lifestyles (35,5). Improved self-esteem is considered a psychological benefit of exercise, while alterations to the body with physical fitness or training may be associated with physical perception and body esteem (40,41).

The association between self-esteem and positive accomplishments, such as leadership ability, satisfaction, low anxiety, and high academic and physical performance, has been documented through research (17). According to Fox (2000), 78% of 36 reviewed studies reported positive changes in physical self-concept or self-esteem following participation in physical activity. “This is a robust and significant finding that gives clear evidence that exercise helps people see themselves more positively” (p. 99).

It is estimated that participation in leisure time physical activity in girls between the ages of 12 and 17 decreases by 45% (6). Longitudinal reports propose the decline of physical activity, during middle and high school years, could be associated with self-efficacy of physical activity challenges and limited support from their families and/or peers (13). Researchers using a longitudinal cohort design measured the physical activity, self-efficacy for overcoming barriers, and perceived social support of 195 female high school aged participants (12). Research results found that self-efficacy weakened the relationship between physical activity and perceived social support. Moreover, females who maintained high levels of self-efficacy (overcoming barriers to physical activity) and perceived social support had a lower declineof physical activity during high school years. Females with high self-efficacy reported a greater decline in physical activity, if lowered perceived social support was evident. In addition, low levels of physical activity were reported in females with low self-efficacy irrespective of change in perceived social support.

Social cognitive theory acknowledges the concepts that the social environment “provides continued personalized guidance, natural incentives, and social support for desired changes” (2, p. 150). Students who major in kinesiology are provided health and physical activity social support through their curriculum education, faculty guidance, and peer interactions. Social cognitive theory also suggest that self-efficacy could regulate the changes in perceived social support and physical activity (2). Thus, understanding the impact of social support, through means of academic major, on physical activity, self-esteem, and body-esteem is limited in the research.

Researchers reported a correlation between physical activity and physical self-concept (20,22,29) and physical fitness and physical ability self-concept (9,30). Evidence that participation in school-based physical activities have a positive impact on self-image in adolescents, especially when participating in team sports is also well documented (3,15). Furthermore, the positive achievements of physical training on self-concept and body-concept are also well documented (1,4,16). Evidence clearly supports the understanding that physically active groups may have advanced motor skills, physical fitness, and elevated self-concept in physical ability (10).

Hayes, Crocker, and Kowalski (1999) assessed gender differences in physical self-perceptions, global self-esteem and physical activity using 94 female and 89 male college students from the college of education, arts, and science, and physical education. Results showed that the men scored higher than the women on each of the physical self-perceptions scales, even though global self-esteem and physical activity levels didn’t differ significantly. “What is not clear in any of the physical self-perception studies is why women are reporting lower self -perception levels,” (p. 10). A difference in the relationship among components of the Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP) and physical activity was found between gender groups. For men, all components of the PSPP were related with leisure time exercise;however, for women only conditioning was related to physical activity. In addition, a strong relationship between conditioning and physical activity has been reported in other similar studies (20,42). Hayes, Crocker, and Kowalski (1999) stated that the similarity in findings imply that physical conditioning is the PSPP component which most imitates physical activity levels.

The purpose of this study was to determine significance of differences between female kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology majors on self-perceptions in sport competence, physical condition, body attractiveness, physical self-worth, and physical strength as measured by the PSPP (18).

METHODS

Participants

Participants in the study consisted of 68 female kinesiology majors and 88 female non-kinesiology majors enrolled in a mid-sized university. A large effect size was expected between the two groups and therefore a smaller sample was acceptable for a power analysis of .7 (21). The mean age for the majors was 20.8 years with a standard deviation of 2.31 and non-majors was 19.7 years with a standard deviation of 3.16.

Measures

The PSPP consists of five subscales: sports competence, physical condition, body attractiveness, physical self-worth, and physical strength. Sports competence refers to perceptions of sport and athletic ability, confidence in the sports environment, and ability to learn sport skills. Physical condition refers to the perceptions of stamina and fitness, level of physical condition, confidence in an exercise and fitness setting, and ability to maintain exercise. Body attractiveness investigates perceived attractiveness of figure or physique, confidence in appearance, and ability to maintain an attractive body. Physical self-worth measures general feelings of pride, satisfaction, happiness, respect, and confidence in the physical self. Physical strength refers to the perceived muscle development, strength, and confidence insituations requiring strength.

Each subscale is measured by six questions and a four-choice structured alternative item format is utilized. Internal consistency reliability of the PSPP was determined to be consistently high by Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient ranges of .81 to .92 for the subscales (18). Test-retest reliability coefficients ranges for 16 days were .74 and .92 and for 23 days .81 and .88, which indicate stable responses over the time periods.

Procedure

The study was conducted at a mid-sized university in the southwest and was approved by the Institutional Review Board. Subjects consisted of students enrolled in the college of education from within the university. The instrument was administered in three random kinesiology major classes and three random non-kinesiology major classes in the college of education by the same investigator. Measures were taken so that the same students did not fill out the survey twice if there were enrolled in more than one of the classes selected.

Analysis

A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was utilized to assess any significant differences in the self-perceptions of kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology majors in the areas of sports competence, physical condition, body attractiveness, physical self-worth and physical strength. A p-value of .01 was set a priori to determine significance.

RESULTS

Basic assumptions of dependence, linearity, homogeneity of variance covariance, and normality were evaluated and upheld for the MANOVA analysis to be performed. There was a statistically significant difference between a person’s major and their self-perception, F(1, 155) = 10.18, p < .01; Wilk’s lambda = .748, partial eta squared = .25. The tests of between-subject effects revealed female majors had statistically significant different means of self-perceptions than non-kinesiology majors in the areas of sports competence (p = .0), physical condition (p = .0), physical self-worth (p = .0), and physical strength (p = .0).

test

DISCUSSION

The overweight and obese population in the United States continues to grow along with the health issues related to these areas. Identifying groups of people with low self-perceptions of their physical abilities and implementing strategies to improve these self-perceptions to increase physical activity levels may help in decreasing this trend. The results of this research indicated that the female non-kinesiology major’s self-perceptions were significantly lower than the kinesiology majors in the areas of sports competence, physical condition, physical strength, and physical self-worth. Therefore, according to Fox’s (1990) definitions of these areas, non-kinesiology majors lack confidence in their athletic ability, level of physical condition, ability to maintain exercise, and physical self.

Physical activity, especially team-building activities, has shown to have a positive effect upon physical self-concepts and self-esteem (30,16,23,14,39,19). Gibbons and Black (1997) state that one explanation for the significant increases in self-perceptions due to team-building activities may be in the holistic nature of team-building activities. Team building does not use one single teaching strategy but is compromised of several strategies that focus on various aspects of self-concept. Team-building activities are comprised of activities with responsibilities, roles, physical challenges, positive interaction, and problem solving. As Gibbons and Black state, “Perhaps it is the feeling of making a meaningful contribution that is the key to self-worth” (p. 58). It may be that the results are not due to thespecific team-building curriculum utilized, but because of the structure of most physical activity classes where students can interact with one another socially and communicate while performing physical activities as compared to a typical classroom setting where there are typically fewer opportunities for communication and social interaction. Also, the general setting of quality physical education classrooms may have the same proposed positive effects upon self-perceptions as specific team-building activities.

The authors of this article suggest that colleges and universities are a prime area to improve the well being of the population. Implementing options for undergraduate college students to participate in a comprehensive wellness/physical activity course may help with several of the health issues facing our society. University student service departments could also implement strategies to identify students with low self-perceptions and then collaborate with the campus recreation or physical education/exercise science department to utilize physical activity (team building) to enhance their self-perception, which may help with depression (40,41). In addition, team-building activities require little or no equipment, providing a viable tool to improve self-perceptions and increase physical activity levels/wellness as found inprevious research.

Higher self-perceptions in the areas investigated in this study may be due to kinesiology major’s previous experiences in team sports or in physical activity settings. Future investigations of participant’s previous physical activity experiences may reveal more information into the intricate development of ones self-perceptions in these areas. As discussed in Dishman, Saunders, Motl, Dowda, and Pate’s research (2009), females who maintained high levels of self-efficacy (overcoming barriers to physical activity) and perceived social support had a lower decline of physical activity during high school years. It is suggested that majoring in kinesiology may develop perceived social support.

This research was limited by the sample size, length of the study, and the truthful responses of the participants; which is inherent in survey research. Participant’s previous experiences in physical activity and sports were not investigated, which may have an effect on physical self-perceptions. Results of this research can only apply to this population and not be generalized to other geographical areas, genders or age groups.

Further research could identify populations with low self-perceptions in the areas of physical self-worth, physical strength, and physical conditioning, in order to implement strategies to effectively improve self-concepts and self-perceptions; therefore, increasing physical activity levels. Investigating the frequencies of participating in physical activity or team-building activities on different age groups may also be conducted to determine effects in various age groups and possibly genders. Determining the optimal frequencies of physical activity or team-building activities to affect physical self-perception may maximize efficiency in presenting such activities. Lastly, comparing the self-perceptions of different gender and age groups may also help determine which groups may benefit more from team-building activities inorder to affect self-perception and improve their physical activity levels.

Future studies could also compare the self-perceptions of different college majors and the effects of physical activity and team-building activities upon these groups of students. Implementing team-building activities in certain groups may improve their self-perceptions and increase their physical activity levels. Having a larger sample group may also increase the strength of future studies. Other suggested areas of investigation would be to compare self-perceptions between groups of students in different universities or geographical regions.

CONCLUSIONS

This study found a significant difference in the self-perceptions of kinesiology majors and non-kinesiology majors in the areas of sports competence, physical condition, body attractiveness, physical self-worth, and physical strength. Utilizing physical activity and team-building activities were suggested to improve self-perceptions and to also increase physical activity levels to combat health issues of obesity and depression. Further research should investigate more variables to determine their interaction with ones self-perception.

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT

Identifying groups of people with low self-perceptions of their physical abilities will impact the prevention of both obesity and eating disorders. This study will aid coaches, teachers, parents, athletic trainers, and health and fitness instructors in assessing individuals who struggle with low self-esteem in relation to their physical abilities and movements. Professionals will be encouraged to provide physical ability support and implement effective strategies to improve self-perceptions in order to increase physical activity levels. The knowledge and action this provides our professionals will help to decrease weight related health issues.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

None

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