Children's Physical Self-Efficacy and Free-Time Physical Activity
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The majority of Canadian youth are not obtaining the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. These low activity levels may be partially explained by students’ physical self-efficacy in that cross-sectional research demonstrates a correlation between physical self-efficacy and children’s physical activity; however, school interventions focused on this relationship show limited success. Grounded in Social Cognitive Theory, the purpose of this two-phase mixed method study was to better understand the relationship between Grade 5/6 students’ physical self-efficacy and physical activity levels. In Phase 1 of the study, 243 students from a rural British Columbia school district completed a questionnaire on their physical self-efficacy and free-time physical activity. Results from this survey were analyzed using ANOVA to examine differences in free-time physical activity between groups based on physical self-efficacy, transport to school, access to facilities, and gender. Physical self-efficacy was found to be the only factor to demonstrate significant differences with high self-efficacious students generally participating in more free-time physical activity than low self-efficacious students. For Phase 2 of this study, 10 participants indicating high physical activity levels, .50 SD above the mean, half demonstrating low physical self-efficacy and half demonstrating high physical self-efficacy, were selected for individual interviews to examine rationales for being active. Analysis of these qualitative data revealed similarities and differences between the high and low physical self-efficacy groups in three motivational themes: sources of self-efficacy; sources of pleasure; and personal priorities and ideologies. These findings highlight the complexity of physical activity participation in youth and provide support for interventions that encourage physical self-efficacy enhancement and outcome-expectancy attainment.