Self-Perceived and Actual Motor Competence in Young British Children

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Children’s perception of their own motor competence is an important correlate of their actual motor competence. The current study is the first to examine this association in British children and the first to use both product and process measures of actual motor competence. A total of 258 children (139 boys and 119 girls; aged 4 to 7 years, Mean = 5.6, SD = .96) completed measures of self-perceived motor competence using the Pictorial Scale for Perceived Movement Competence in Young Children. Children were classified as “Low,” “Medium,” or “High” perceived competence based on tertile analysis. Actual motor competence was assessed with the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 (a process measure) and a composite of 10-m sprint run time, standing long jump distance, and 1-kg seated medicine ball throw (collectively, a product measure). Data for process and product measures were analyzed using a 2 (sex) × 3 (high, medium, low perceived competence) analysis of covariance, with body mass index, calculated from height and mass, and age controlled. Boys obtained significantly higher scores than girls for both the process (p = .044) and product (p = .001) measures of actual motor competence. Boys had significantly (p = .04) higher scores for perceived competence compared to girls. Compared to children classified as medium and high self-perceived competence, children classified as low self-perceived competence had lower process (p = .001) and product scores (i.e., medium, p = .009 and high, p = .0001) of actual motor competence. Age (p = .0001) and body mass index (p = .0001) were significantly associated with product motor competence. Strategies to enhance actual motor competence may benefit children’s self-perceived motor competence.

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