From UBC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Self-efficacy refers to a judgment about one’s capability to successfully perform a task or achieve a goal at a given level (Bandura, 1977). More specifically, children’s self-efficacy for physical activity is defined as child’s rating of how good they are compared with other children of the same age and sex on a number of physical activities (Stuckey-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993).

An example of self-efficacy in the context of movement experiences of young children might be to ride a bike: A child with low self-efficacy who does not believe that he or she will successfully be able to ride the bike, may not be willing to attempt to ride the bike. The individual’s level of self-efficacy may determine his or her willingness to take action and attempt to complete a task.

Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion


 Self-efficacy revolves around judgments and how well an individual can organize and execute actions/skills required for the specific task demand in a specific situation. These situations often contain many ambiguous, unpredictable, and stressful elements (Bandura, 1981). It is possible to have low self-efficacy in one situation, and high self-efficacy in another situation. Self-perceptions of efficacy can affect people’s choice of activities, the level of effort, and how long they will continue in a difficult situation (Bandura, 1977). People acquire information about their efficacy level through self-performances, observations of models (i.e. vicarious experiences), forms of social persuasion, and psychological indexes (i.e. heart rate) (Bandura, 1986). Efficacy appraisal (judgments) is a process that involves weighting the contributions of ability and non-ability, and situational and personal factors to determine level of efficacy in a situation (Bandura, 1977). Students who have low self-efficacy are more likely to avoid tasks; those who have high self-efficacy are more likely to participate, work harder, persist longer, and have fewer adverse emotional reactions when they encounter difficulties than do those who doubt their capabilities (Bandura, 1977, 1986). When facing difficulties students with high efficacy persist longer than those who don’t believe in their abilities (Bandura, 1986). Self-efficacy measures focus on performance capabilities rather than personal qualities (Zimmerman, 2000). Self-efficacy judgments always relate to the future (Zimmerman, 2000). We have to err on the side of caution because efficacy judgments are beliefs about capabilities, but not necessarily accurate assessments of those capabilities (Goddard et. al., 2004) and are something that is not inherently evaluative (Gist & Mitchell, 1992). Self-efficacy is an important correlate of physical activity or exercise participation (Reynolds et. al., 1990, Dishman et. al., 1985, Sallis et. al., 1990, Hovell et. al., 1992).

Theoretical Underpinnings

There are many academic theories, which have been composed to determine how self-efficacy is developed, which variables play a role in developing it, and to what extent. Each of the theories listed below discuss self-efficacy with respect to certain factors (i.e. goals, motivation, behavior, learning, etc.). When we look at a handful of different theories it helps us understand self-efficacy and all it’s components, this way we better our understanding of knowledge and can practically apply it. We can use this information along with the guidelines from the “practical application” section to help improve children’s self-efficacy while simultaneously improving physical activity.

Self-Efficacy Theory (Bandura, 1977, 1986)

This theory suggests that self-efficacy beliefs play a predictive role in one’s thought patterns, behavior, and motivation (Chase, 2001). Self-efficacy involves organizing cognitive, social, and behavioral sub-skills and strategies into action. People make judgments based on what they can do with the skills they have. Bandura (1986) states that self-efficacy influences thought patterns, and emotional reactions in various situations. We determine self-efficacy by assessing its level, generality, and strength across activities and contexts. Level refers to difficulty, generality refers to the transferability across activities, and strength refers to one’s certainty about performing a certain task (Bandura 1977). People will avoid situations that they feel they are not capable of handling. Their efficacy will determine how much and how long they will persist in a difficult situation (Chase, 2001). On the other hand people with high self-efficacy can focus on the task at hand. Bandura stated that self-efficacy judgments determine behavior only when requisite skills are required. This also carries over to individual’s future self-efficacy beliefs. Research has shown that a person with higher self-efficacy will choose to participate, put forth more effort, and persist longer at a task then an individual with low self-efficacy (Chase, 2001). After performance failure, individuals with higher self-efficacy will attribute their failure to lack of effort, whereas individuals with lower self-efficacy will attribute their failure to lack of ability (Chase, 2001; Bandura, 1986). These attributions are important for future self-efficacy and motivation (i.e. if children think they failed because of lack of ability their ability will never change). An approach to understand human cognition, action, motivation, and emotion that assumes people are capable of self-reflection and self-regulation and are active shapers of their environments rather than simply passive reactors to the environments (Maddux, 1993). In a recent study self-efficacy was the primary correlate of moderate and vigorous physical activity in a large sample of adolescent girls and accounted for their intentions to be physically active (Motl et. al., 2002). Judgments of self-efficacy are not simply reflectors of past performance (Bandura, 1977). Rather they reflect an internal process in which the abilities from performances vary, depending on how much weight is placed on personal and situational factors that can affect how well one performs (Bandura, 1977).

Sources of Self-Efficacy (Bandura, 1977)
  • Mastery Experience: past performance success and failures for like behaviors
  • Vicarious Experience: modeled behaviors associated with change in self-efficacy (i.e. watch someone else do activity that has similar ability as you and you now believe you can do it)
  • Social Persuasion: verbal and non-verbal feedback from knowledgeable others (i.e. self-talk, feedback)
  • Physiological and Affective States: physical and physiological cues associated with behavior (i.e. pain and fatigue may lead to doubt, where coping such as deep breathing and meditation can lead to positive states)

Bandura (1977) recognized these as the four main personal and environmental ways to change an individual’s self-efficacy beliefs. Perceived efficacy is the judgment of personal capability to carry out a specific behavior (Garcia et. al., 1995). All efficacy belief constructs are future oriented judgments about capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments in specific situations or contexts (Bandura, 1977). A sense of personal efficacy linked to achieving challenging tasks is linked to greater interest in the activity (Bandura, 1977).

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) (Bandura, 1977)

SCT is used to determine the factors that affect behavior and is based on a dynamic relationship between environment, individual, and behavior (Bandura, 1977). It is believed that individuals are actively engaged in their own development with motivation as the product of personal, behavioral, and environmental influences. How athletes interpret their behavior alters their environment and subsequent behaviors.

The main constructs of SCT
  • Observational Learning: learn behavior by watching the actions and outcomes of others
  • Goals: behavior directed by goals individuals have
  • Outcome Expectations: behavior is a function of the expected positive and negative consequences associated with a particular behavior
  • Outcome Expectancies: expectations that an outcome is valuable for the individual
  • Self-Regulation: behavior is self-directed and in initiated, monitored, and evaluated by the individual in a way that is consistent with goals
  • Behavioral Outcomes: behavior is dependent on the individual’s knowledge and skills for performing that behavior
  • Self-Efficacy: belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments

These cognitive processes are reciprocally interrelated and have direct effect on physical activity (Bandura, 1986, 1977). Some of these cognitive processes (i.e. self-efficacy and outcome-expectations) have been identified as correlates of physical activity among children and adolescents (Sallis et. al, 2000, Motl et. al, 2002). Self-efficacy and satisfaction are the primary cognitive processes from SCT that predict physical activity among adolescent girls (Dishman & Sallis, 1985). Self-efficacy beliefs are the very core of SCT, which serve as the foundation for motivation, well-being, and personal accomplishment (Bandura, 1977).

Theory of Competence Motivation (TCM) (Harter, 1978)

TCM focuses on motivation within a developmental age-related framework specific to children, while looking at the concept of effectance motivation (the internal motivation to be competent in all areas of human achievement, i.e. sports). Harter (1978) suggested that one’s competence and control in a particular activity that is perceived as valuable or important would produce motivation to continue participating in the activity. Individuals may select types of sports (e.g., football versus badminton) and competition levels (i.e. varsity teams versus intramurals) that maintain positive self-perceptions of competence (Jacobs et. al., 2002). There are many different domains that children need to feel accomplishment and these domains increase as children age. Harter (1978) suggested age-related differences would be found amongst children 8-14 years of age. In the position of a coach or parent for children, fostering reinforcement, mastery attempts, perceived competence, and perceived control were important towards motivation and would differ with respect to age of the child. Fostering this type of environment increases the chances of developing self-efficacy and motivation for further sport participation. According to numerous theories children perform better and are more motivated to select increasingly challenging tasks when they believe that they have the ability to accomplish a particular task (e.g., Bandura, 1994; Covington, 1984; Weiner, 1985). Harter’s research (1986, 1990) has shown that even when children perform similarly in a domain, their self-esteem varies depending on how much they value the domain. This theory hypothesizes that children who have high self-efficacy will be more motivated to continue, and children with low self-efficacy are more likely to drop out (Emine, et. al, 2009).

Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) (Nicholls, 1984)

Self-efficacy is the central motive for behavioral change. Self-efficacy can be determined by how individuals define success, which is based on two different types of goal-orientations. Task-goal orientation involves reference to one’s own past performance of knowledge (Nicholls, 1984, 1989), where success is defined in terms of self-improvement and task mastery (Biddle & Goudas, 1996), and ego-goal orientation is based on comparisons with others (Duda & Nicholls, 1992), where success is defined as being superior than others (Biddle & Goudas, 1996). ACT is developmentally based – ability, task difficulty, and effort will vary in meaning for children of different cognitive maturity levels. Nicholls (1989) states that children are not able to fully differentiate between ability and luck or between ability and effort until early adolescence. Children aged 7-9 years who perform tasks of varying difficulty believe that outcome depends on the amount of effort they put forth. Children ages 10-11 years are able to partially differentiate concepts of effort, ability, and task difficulty. They sometimes equate less effort with high ability. Children 11+ years can typically differentiate ability and effort. They understand that ability is a capacity, if you put in less effort and still perform better it is due to higher ability. They are also able to differentiate and display either task or ego-orientations. Children in task-based motivational climates were found to have higher self-efficacy at the end of their sport program than those children in an ego-based climate (Theeboom, De Knop & Weiss, 1995).

Health Promotion Model (HPM)

This model is based on the SCT and proposes three domains of influence on health-promoting behaviors: general background factors (age, gender, and race), health-related factors (health status), and behavior-specific factors (cognitions, prior related behavior, interpersonal variables, and situational variables) (Garcia et. al, 1995). Behavior specific factors have a predominate effect on individuals – cognitions include self-efficacy, self-schema, benefits and barriers, prior related behavior is previous exercise, interpersonal variables include models, norms, and social support, and situation variables include access (Garcia et. al, 1995). The HPM is used to depict influences of exercise among adolescences (Garcia et. al., 1995). Garcia, (1995) states that adolescence with physiological discomfort may be reluctant to participate in-group exercise activities (i.e. low self-efficacy). Garcia et. al., (1995) continues to state self-efficacy has been shown to predict exercise among adolescents.

Social Learning Theory (SLT) (Bandura)

SLT suggests that people are active in shaping their behavior, which is influenced by their inner drives and environments (Crocker, 2011). SLT deals with the concept of observational learning (modeling), which occurs through observing, retaining, and replicating other’s behavior (Crocker, 2011). Individuals are more likely to engage in a behavior if it results in favorable outcomes (Bandura, 1977). The individual and the situation reciprocally influence each other – resulting in the individual having the ability to actively shape their behavior (Bandura, 1977). SLT proximal sub-goals provide immediate incentives and guides for performance – these goals connect to the development of self-perceptions of efficacy (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). Skills have to be selected and matched to the changing task demands (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). Efficacy levels are difficult to measure, which leaves people trying to gauge their efficacy level. Sub-goal attainments provide individuals with indication of their progress and if they are meeting demands of the task (Bandura, 1977). Stuckey-Ropp & DiLorenzo (1993) state that social learning variables are important determinants of physical activity among children and adolescents. They continue to state that these variables change as children age where some become stronger predictors than others (i.e. modeling vs. self-efficacy). Important aspects of setting goals include specificity, difficulty level, and proximity (Schunk, 1984). Goals that include these properties are more likely to activate self-motivation and lead to higher performance Locke, 1968; Locke, et. al, 1981). Proximal goals can also enhance percepts of efficacy (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). It is easy to gauge progress against an immediate goal, and knowledge that one is making progress facilitates development of perceived efficacy (Schunk, 1984). This is especially important for young children whose cognitive limitations may preclude meaningful representation of distant outcomes in thought (Schunk, 1984).

Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

STD supports the fact that enjoyable experiences in sport over time will positively affect individuals’ overall participating motivation. Building a solid foundation through involvement in activities that promote enjoyment is necessary in the development of highly motivated, self-determined individuals (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The involvement of children in numerous enjoyable activities fosters commitment for future sport participation. Weiss and Williams (2004) suggest four guidelines to sustain children in sport: self-perceptions (self-efficacy), positive emotions, task-oriented climate, and social support. These guidelines can be implemented in children’s sport through positive feedback, encouragement, excitement, self-improvement, supportive behavior and attitudes to increase self-competence and motivate children to stay engaged in sport.

Self-Regulated Learning Theories

Self-regulation theories seek to explain students’ differences in motivation and achievement (Zimmerman, 1986, 1989). This theory comprises of three sub-categories: self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction (Bandura, 1986).

  • Self-Observation: Defined as deliberate actions to one’s behavior, informs and motivates. Behavior is assessed on dimensions like quality, rate, quantity, and originality (Schunk, 1990). This information can be used to gauge goal progress, motivate, and change behavior – leading to increased self-efficacy (Schunk, 1990).
  • Self-Judgment: Defined as comparing present performances with one’s goal. Self-judgments are affected by components such as standards, goal properties, importance of goal attainment, and performance attributions (Schunk, 1990). Children’s self-efficacy will play a dominant role in how they determine these components and ultimately their self-judgment if they will succeed. Judgments of one's capabilities can affect rate of skill acquisition, and performance mastery, in turn, can boost self-efficacy in a mutually enhancing process (Bandura, 1977).
  • Self-Reaction: Self-reaction to goal progress motivates behavior (Bandura, 1986). The belief that one is making progress towards their goal enhances self-efficacy and motivation (Schunk, 1990). Self-efficacy is validated as students work at a task and note their progress (Schunk, 1990).

Simply, this is a theory targeting goal setting and self-efficacy. Self-regulated learning occurs when students activate and sustain cognitions and behaviors systematically oriented towards attainment of learning goals, this involves goal-directed activities that students instigate, modify, and sustain (Zimmerman, 1989). Such activities include; attending to instruction, processing and integrating knowledge, rehearsing information to be remembered, and developing and maintaining positive beliefs about learning capabilities and anticipated outcomes of actions (Schunk, 1989). The steps to self regulated learning include goals (what an individual is trying to accomplish), goal setting (establishing a goal and modifying it as necessary) and perceived self-efficacy (beliefs of one’s capability to attain levels of performance (Bandura, 1986, 1988). Students enter a task with a goal and observe and evaluate their performance, eventually leading to goal progress, which enhances feelings of self-efficacy (Schunk, 1990). Self-efficacy for goal attainment is influenced by abilities, prior experience, attitudes, instruction, and social context (Schunk, 1990).

Goal Setting

Goal effectiveness is based on goal properties: specificity, proximity, and difficulty level (Bandura, 1988; Locke et. al., 1981). Specific goals are more likely to enhance learning, boost performance, and promote self-efficacy (Schunk, 1990). Proximal goals result in enhanced motivation, higher performance, ability to gauge progress, and raises self-efficacy (Bandura, 1982). Proximal goals are especially important for young children because children are not focused on the future they are focused on the current task (Schunk, 1990). Providing children with specific, proximal goals, along with social comparative information indicating that the goals represent average attainment by other similar children, creates an effective environment of fostering skill development and perceived efficacy (Schunk). As children observe their progress during training, they develop a heightened sense of efficacy because reaching goals shows attainment, and a sense of efficacy is sustained (Bandura, 1977, Bandura & Schunk, 1981, Schunk & Gaa, 1981). Children who guided and judged their progress of tasks by setting proximal sub-goals were highly accurate in their self-appraisals (Bandura, 1977). Goal difficulty influences the effort expended to reach a goal, individuals expend greater effort for more difficult goals, but working towards them builds self-efficacy (Schunk, 1990). Children who set themselves attainable sub-goals progressed rapidly in self-directed learning, achieved substantial mastery of tasks, and heightened their perceived self-efficacy and interest in activities that had little value previously (Bandura, 1977).

Goals and Rewards

Combining goals with rewards leads to strongest development of self-efficacy in children (Schunk, 1983). Rewarding consequences inform and motivate children, as they work at a task they notice which behaviors lead to desirable outcomes and which don’t; this information guides future behavior (Bandura, 1977). Rewards can enhance self-efficacy when they are tied to accomplishments, because rewards symbolize progress (Schunk, 1983). Telling children they can earn rewards based on their level of achievement can promote task motivation and instill as sense of self-efficacy for performing well. As children work through the task and observe their progress this senses of efficacy is substantiated (Schunk, 1983).

Concepts Related to Self-Efficacy

This section helps us further understand other terms that are related to self-efficacy and the concepts that intertwine and influence it.

Locus of Control (Rotter, 1966)

There is an emphasis placed on perceived control over outcomes. One makes the decision to whether outcomes occur independently of how they behave (external control) or that outcomes are reliant on their behavior (internal control). Behavior is dependent on what type of control an individual perceives (Rotter, 1966). Locus of control is not task or domain specific, but rather a general belief of causality.

Perceived Control

Closely linked to self-efficacy, refers to general expectancies about whether outcomes are controlled by one’s behavior or by external forces. Internal locus of control should support self-directed courses of action (Rotter, 1966).


A child’s perceptions of competence influence whether they will maintain engaged in an activity. Motor competence is a developmental phenomenon that changes across a child’s developmental time (Harter, 1999). If a child does not have actual motor competence, perceptions of competence will drop when that child is better able to evaluate his or her competence level (Goodway & Rudisill, 1977). Hay (1998) also states that motor skills may be related to physical activity self-efficacy. When children are young they show inaccurate perception of their motor competence, generally showing inflated levels relative to their actual level of motor ability (Goodway & Rudisill, 1997; Harter, 1999; Harter & Pike, 1984). This ties into the research on children’s cognitive abilities to differentiate between ability and effort (Nicholls, 1984). This inflated level of perceived motor skill competence may be a valuable factor in the acquisition of further skills because children will continue to persisted and engage in attempts at mastery tasks in which they believe they are skillful (Stodden et. al, 2008). Children who perceived themselves as having low motor skill competence and actually demonstrate low levels will be drawn into a negative spiral of disengagement, whereas children who perceived and exhibit high levels will persist in physical activity (Stodden et. al., 2008). Decreased competence and confidence may lead children with movement difficulties to avoid participating in physical activities as a coping strategy (Bouffard, 1996). Children with inadequate levels of motor competence will not continue to be physically active in middle and later childhood, resulting in no further development of skills and no health benefits of physical activity (Stodden et. al., 2008). On the other hand, there are powerful effects of high levels of perceived competence and efficacy on motivated behaviors (Biddle & Goudas, 1996). Evidence shows that children’s perceptions of competence may be more important than actual ability (Welk, 1999). As influential people in children’s lives it is crucial to build a strong foundation of motor skill competence, because it is foundational to engagement in physical activity (Stodden et. al., 2008).

Social Comparison

Recent developmental evidence suggests that the ability to utilize social comparative information effectively depends upon higher levels of cognitive development and experience in making comparative evaluations (Schunk, 1984). It is not until ages 5 to 6 that children begin to seek comparative information. In the early elementary school years, children show an increasing interest in comparative information (Ruble, Feldman, & Boggiano, 1976), and by the fourth grade children utilize such information to help form self-evaluations of competence (Ruble, Boggiano, Feldman, & Loebl, 1980). There is also some evidence that comparative information influences behavioral and affective outcome. Spear and Armstrong (1978) found that comparative information modified learning and motor performance among children in Grades 4 to 6 but was ineffective with kindergartners and first graders. Ruble, Parsons, and Ross (1976) demonstrated that comparative information influenced affective responses among 5-year-olds but not among 6-year-olds.

Practical Applications

How Can I Improve this? Steps to take:

Older students are more accurate in their self-efficacy appraisals than younger children, however, efficacy interventions with elementary students are still important (Chase, 2001). Level of self-efficacy is a factor to consider when increasing participation rates, and interventions should be aimed at self-beliefs (Chase, 2001). Students’ self-efficacy beliefs are responsive to changes in instructional experiences (Schunk, 1981). Among adolescent self-efficacy is an important correlate of physical activity (Biddle et al., 2008). Evidence suggests that interventions to increase physical activity among youth should target self-efficacy using appropriate strategies. Programs that enhance children’s beliefs in their ability to exercise may actually increase motivation to be physically active (Strauss et. al, 2001).

What should interventions include?

According to Bandura (1977) self-efficacy perceptions are derived from four types of experience: past performances, modeling (vicarious experience), verbal persuasion, and psychological state. Past Performances are the most influential source of efficacy because they are based on the outcomes of personal experiences, modeling depends on self-comparison to someone else, and verbal persuasion has a limited impact because it only involves describing the outcome (Zimmerman, 2000). Self-efficacy is assumed to be responsive to changes in personal context and outcomes through all or any of these experiences (Zimmerman, 2000). To increase physical activity self-efficacy, school and community-based intervention programs should (Bandura, 1986):

  • 1. Provide enjoyable, developmentally appropriate activities that give all children the chance to succeed (i.e. dependent on children’s specific ability and age).
  • 2. Create opportunities for youth to observe and learn from influential others (e.g., teachers, coaches, parents, and peers) perform physical activity.
  • 3. Verbally encourage children to participate in physical activity (i.e., you can do it).
  • 4. Reduce any anxiety associated with participation in physical activity by reducing or eliminating competition from planned activities (i.e. task-goal orientations).

When teaching children skills:

  • Feedback: Give children early feedback on what to improve and leave them with successful feedback. This leads to higher efficacy expectations, and results in children persisting longer than those with lower efficacy expectations (Chase, 2001). Frequency and immediacy of enactive feedback created higher perceptions of personal efficacy (Schunk, 1983). Harter (1999) stated positive feedback nurtured children’s perceptions of competence, control, positive affect, and intrinsic motivation.
  • Parental Supports: (Cote & Hay 2002) Parental support is an important correlate of youth physical activity acting directly or indirectly on self-efficacy (Trost, 2003). Perceived social support was linked to perceived self-efficacy (Motl et. al., 2002).
  • o Emotional Support – providing children with comforting gestures, enhancing competence and level of self-esteem. It is most influential if emotions are positive (Weiss & Williams, 2004).
  • o Informational Support – advice or guidance in problematic situations.
  • o Tangible Support – providing necessary resources to help children cope (i.e. financial assistance, equipment etc.).
  • o Companionship Support – develop special relationships with children that enable them to participate in social and recreational activities.
  • Modeling: Parental modeling and support was enough to boost child’s self-efficacy (Trost, 2003) (i.e. as a parent you can model being regularly physically active). To facilitate improvements in perceived efficacy, researches have trained students with learning and motivational deficiencies by modeling specific self-regulatory techniques, describing their form, and providing enactive feedback regarding their impact (Zimmerman, 2000). Evidence for modeling is shown in the strong relation between parents’ and children’s exercise patterns and general health behaviors (Stuckey-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993). It is also beneficial for children to watch children around the same age and skill level as them, as this helps children believe that they also can accomplish the skill (Bandura, 1977) (i.e. if a child your age can hit a baseball, you are more likely to believe you can too).
  • Task-Oriented Climate: Fostering an environment that defines success in terms of self-improvement. Promoting effort, improvement, cooperation, skill development, and learning. This type of environment is proven to increase children’s self-efficacy (Theeboom, De Knop & Weiss, 2004).
  • Proximal Goals: Asking students to set proximal goals enhanced self-efficacy because it provided evidence of growing capability (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). Verbally encouraging students to set their own goals improved efficacy beliefs, achievement, and commitment to attaining goals (Schunk, 1985). Setting proximal goals rather than distal or no goals results in greater likelihood to continue participation, increases self-efficacy and intrinsic interest (Bandura, 1977).
  • Familiarity: Start with skills that are familiar because self-efficacy measures offer an advantage when the task is familiar (Zimmerman, 2000). Predictiveness of self-efficacy increases as a function of both specificity and correspondence to a skill. Coaches and parents could start with skills that are familiar but also build on these skills to reach new levels with children (i.e. could start with passing a soccer ball while not moving, to introducing moving with passing or could practice stick handling for hockey in a gym before introducing it on the ice).
  • Developmentally Appropriate Activities: This is important to develop positive beliefs about physical activity – having a successful experience will improve perceived competence/self-effiacy (Trost et. al, 1997) (i.e. having the right height of basketball hoop for child).

When children learn a new skill, it often takes time and practice before the skill is acquired. If the child quits immediately after failure occurs without trying hard or persisting, then learning is unlikely. Changing children’s beliefs about their ability to be successful should provide them with the motivation to continue past that learning curve. One of the most important tenets of self-efficacy theory is that efficacy beliefs will sustain effort, persistence, and choice in the face of failure. When individuals are successful, not as much intervention is required. However, when failure occurs, that is when motivational intentions become critical so that, with time, individuals can overcome mistakes, learn new skills, and improve performance (Chase, 2001). As influential leaders in children’s lives we need to take action and implement the above steps to ensure that physical activity experiences for children promote development, positive, and enjoyable. This will help increase children’s self-efficacy leading to adherence in physical activity/movement experiences throughout life.

Results – Movement Experiences - A deeper look into children’s self-efficacy and physical activity

Children who have high self-efficacy may be more likely to take risks and therefore be exposed to more movement experiences, which would have positive effect on their motor development. It is proven that high-self efficacy leads to the belief that skills and goals can be accomplished, and with this children will be more likely to be physically active during their lifetime. Below are results from various studies that looked at children self-efficacy levels and other related concepts (i.e. competence) throughout development.

Age & Gender

Student’s age will have an impact on the relationship of self-efficacy, motivational intentions, and future self-efficacy (Chase, 2001). The relative importance of determinants seems to differ for girls and boys and the pattern of these determinants appears to change over time (Stuckey-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993). Researchers report that self-competence beliefs decline across middle childhood and early adolescence (Alexander & Entwisle, 1988; Eccles, Wigfield, et al., 1993; Marsh, 1989; Nicholls, 1978; Nicholls & Miller, 1984; Wigfield et al., 1997). There is extensive evidence (Benenson & Dweck, 1986; Nichols, 1978; Stipek, 1981) that children's self-perceptions of competence decline from the time they enter school through high school, with the most dramatic drop occurring during junior high. Others researchers (e.g., Marsh, 1989; Marsh, Barnes, Cairns, & Tidman, 1984) have reported age-related declines in self-concept of physical abilities during middle childhood, a decline and then increase during early adolescence, and an increase during later adolescence. Transition from early to middle childhood is an incredibly important developmental time because perceived motor-competence begins to change in the way it affects physical activity (Stodden et. al., 2008). By middle childhood, children’s cognitive development levels have increased to where they can more accurately compare themselves to their peers (Harter, 1999). This causes perceived motor skill competence to accurately represent actual motor skill competence (Harter, 1999). This transition is a vulnerable period for children, because if a child has low perceived motor competence they are less likely to participate in physical activity due to social embarrassment and lack of skill and ability (Stodden et. al., 2008).

In previous research (Eccles, 1987; Eccles et al., 1984), domain-stereotyped gender differences in self- beliefs appear to emerge during early adolescence and grow larger during the adolescent years. These developmental changes were attributed to differential socialization processes between males and females (Eccles, 1987; Maccoby, 1966). More recently, however, researchers have found that gender differences in competence beliefs and values emerge quite early during the elementary school years (Eccles, Wigfield, et al., 1993; Marsh, 1989; Wigfield et al., 1997), and that the gender differences remain in place through the school years.

Competence beliefs were highest in first grade, and decline was clearly the dominant trend for competence beliefs (Jacobs et. al., 2002). Boys had significantly higher competence beliefs in sports at grade 1, and both boys and girls declined in competence beliefs at similar rates (Jacobs et. al., 2002). For boys and girls self-efficacy in overcoming barriers was a significant predictor of both moderate and vigorous physical activity. Other predictors for boys included beliefs about outcome, social influences, and support, whereas girl’s predictors included perception of mother’s activity level, race/ethnicity, and enjoyment (Trost, 1999). Social cognitive constructs such as physical activity self-efficacy, was an important predictor of future physical activity behavior among children (Trost 1997). Across school transition, boys reported decreased efficacy, social support, and expectations to be physically active, while physical activity self-efficacy decreased the most (Garcia et. al., 1995). In 8-9th grade children, self-efficacy for boys became a more important predictor of physical activity than girls (Stuckey-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993). Boys have higher confidence in high school, where 16-18 year old boys attribute performance to effort, and girls to luck (Chase, 2001).

Self-efficacy is said to increase during childhood and young adulthood, to peak during middle age, and to decline after about sixty. It is usually higher among men and related to socioeconomic status (Gecas, 1989). Findings state that 69% of high self-efficacy girls chose to participate in the future activity compared to 31% of low self-efficacy girls. Whereas 76% of high self-efficacy boys chose to participate in the future compared to 24% of the low self-efficacy boys. High efficacy children had higher future self-efficacy and low efficacy children (Chase, 2001). Lack of self-efficacy influences adolescents’ decisions to participate (Chase, 2001). As children increased in age, the strength of their efficacy beliefs decreased (Chase, 2001).

Self-Efficacy As A Predictor of Physical Activity

Self-efficacy proves to be a predominant predictor of physical activity for both boys and girls. Higher physical activity beliefs (physical activity self-efficacy) are associated with more activity (Garcia et. al. 1998). Self-efficacy was a significant predictor for boys and girls in vigorous physical activity and moderate physical activity (Trost, 1999). According to Strauss (2001) increased levels of high activity were primarily associated with increased self-efficacy and social influences. Children with increased levels of self-efficacy were significantly more likely to have increase levels of high activity compared with children with low levels of self-efficacy (Strauss, 2001). Physical activity self-efficacy, enjoyment, parental influences, attitudes or beliefs about physical activity outcomes, access to equipment and programs, and time spent outdoors as significant correlates of physical activity behavior. Self-efficacy was found to mediate changes in physical activity in the LEAP study (Dishman et al., 2004). The LAP intervention conducted by Lubans and Sylva (2006) had a significant effect on self-efficacy and the changes in self-efficacy were related to changes in physical activity. Children with a higher sense of self-efficacy more consistently and effectively applied what they knew about the skill to the situation, and they were more persistent (Goddard et. al., 2004). In most cases, slightly overestimating one’s actual capabilities has the most positive effect on performance (Goddard et. al., 2004). This is vital because self-efficacy bears an important relationship to subsequent achievement (Bandura, 1977, 1981, 1982)


Alexander, L. K. Entwisle, D. R., (1988). Achievment in the first two years of school: patterns and processes. Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development, 53:2, 218.

Bandura, A. (1977a). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.

Bandura, A. (1977b). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice–Hall.

Bandura, A. (1981). Self-referent thought: s developmental analysis of self-efficacy. In J. H. Flavell & L. Ross (Eds.), Social cognitive development: Frontiers and possible futures (pp. 200-239). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bandura, A. (1982). The assessment and predictive generality of self-percepts of efficacy. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 13, 195-199.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Engle- wood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice–Hall.

Bandura, A. (1988). Self-regulation of motivation and action through goal systems. In V. Hamilton, G. H. Bower, & N. H. Frijda (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on emotion and motivation (pp. 37-61). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Bandura, A., Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 586–598.

Benenson, J., Dweck, C. (1986). The development of trait explanations and self-evaluations in the academic and social domains. Child Development, 57, 1179-1187.

Biddle, S., Goudas. M. (1996). Analysis of Children’s Physical Activity and its Association with Adult Encouragement and Social Cognitive Variables. J Sch Health. 66:2, 75-8.

Boggiano, N. D. R., Feldman, K. A., Lobel, J. H, (1980) Developmental analysis of the role of social comparison in self-evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 16, 105-115.

Bouffard M., Watkinson E., Thompson L., Causgrove D. J., Romanow S. (1996). A test of the activity deficit hypothesis with children with movement difficulties. Adapt Phys Act Q.; 13:61–73.

Chase, A. M, (2001). Children's self-efficacy, motivational intentions, and attributions in physical education and sport, Research Quarterly For Exercise and Sport, 72:1, 47-54, DOI: 10.1080/02701367.2001.10608931

Côté, J., & Hay, J. (2002). Children’s involvement in sport: a developmental perspective. In J.M. Silva & D.E. Stevens (Eds.) Psychological foundations of sport (pp. 484-502).

Crocker, R. E. P, (2011). Ch. 4, Motivation and behavioural change, Sport and Exercise Psychology. A Canadian Perspective, second edition.

Deci, E. L., Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

Dishman R, Sallis J, Orenstein D. (1985). The determinants of physical activity and exercise. Public Health Rep 100:158-171.

Duda, J. L., Nicholls, J. (1992). Dimensions of achievement motivation in schoolwork and sport. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 290-299.

Eccles, J. S., (1987). Gender roles and women’s achievement-related decisions. Psychology of Women’s Quarterly. 11, 135-172.

Eccles, J., C. Midgley, T. Adler. (1984). Grade-related changes in the school environment: effects on achievement motivation. In The Development of Achievement Motivation, edited by J. G. Nicholls. Greenwich, Conn.

Eccles, J. S., Wigfield, A., Harold, R., & Blumenfeld, P. B. (1993). Age and gender differences in children’s self- and task perceptions during elementary school. Child Development, 64, 830–847.

Emine, C., Hulya, F.A., Gokhan, D. (2009). Does participation motivation of youth soccer players change with regard to their perceived ability? Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Sci, 9(1), 17-20.

Garcia, W. A, Broda, N. A. M, Frenn, M, Coviak, C, Pender, J. N, Ronis, L. D, (1995). Gender and developmental differences in exercise beliefs among youth and prediction of their exercise behavior. Journal of School Health. 65:6, 213-219.

Garcia, W. A., & Pender, J. N., Anthonakos, L., C & Ronis, L. D. (1998). Changes in physical activity beliefs and behaviors of boys and girls across the transition to junior
high school. Journal of Adolescents Health. 22;5, 394-402.

Gecas, V. (1989). The social psychology of self-efficacy. Annu Rev Sociol 15:291-316.

Gist, M. E., Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: a theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Re- view, 17, 183–211.

Goddard, D. R., Hoy, K. W., Hoy W. (2004). A collective efficacy beliefs: theoretical developments, empirical evidence, and future directions. American Educational Researcher Journal. 33, 3-13.

Goodway, J.D., Rudisill, M.E. (1997). Perceived physical competence and actual motor skill competence of African American preschool children. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 14, 314–326.

Harter, S. (1978). Effectance motivation reconsidered: toward a developmental model. Human Development, 21, 34.

Harter, S. (1986). Processes underlying the construction, maintenance, and enhancement of the self-concept in children. Psychology perspectives on the self . 3, 136-182.

Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford Press.

Harter, S., Pike, R. (1984). The pictorial scale for perceived competence and social acceptance for young children. Child Development, 55, 1969–1982.

Hay J., Missiuna C. (1998). Motor proficiency in children reporting low levels of participation in physical activity. Can J Occupational Therapy, 65:64 –71

Hovell M., Sallis J., Hofstetter C., Spry V., Faucher P., Caspersen C, (1992). Identifying correlates of walking for exercise: An epidemiologic prerequisite for physical activity promotion. Prev Med 18:856-866.

Jacobs, E. J., Lanza, S., Osgood, W. D., Eccles, S. J., Wigfield, A. (2002). Changes in Children’s Self-Competence and Values: Gender and Domain Differences across Grades One through Twelve. Journal of Child Development.73;2, 509-27.

Locke, E. A. (1968) Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3, 157- 189.

Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., Latham, G. P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 125-152

Lubans, R. D., Foster, C., Biddle, J.H. S., (2008) A review of mediators of behavior in interventions to promote physical activity among children and adolescents. Prev Med. 47;5, 463-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.07.011

Lubans DR, Sylva K. (2006). Controlled evaluation of a physical activity intervention for senior school students: Effects of the Lifetime Activity Program. J Sport Exercise Psychology 28:252-268.

Maccoby, E. E., (1966). The development of sex differences. Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 13:1, 72-74. DOI: 10.1002/bs.3830130110

Maddux J. E., (1993) Social cognitive models of health and exercise behavior: An introduction and review of conceptual issues. Journal of Applied Sport Psychol. 5:116-140.

Marsh, H. W. (1989). Age and sex effects in multiple dimensions of self-concept: Preadolescence to early adulthood. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 417–430.

Motl R. W., Dishman R. K., Ward D. S., Saunders R. P., Dowda M., Felton G, (2002). Examining social-cognitive determinants of intention and physical activity among black and white adolescent girls using structural equation modeling. Health Psychology; 21:459–67.

Nicholls, J. G. (1978). The development of the concepts of effort and ability, perceptions of own attainment, and the understanding that difficult tasks require more ability. Child Development, 49, 800- 814.

Nicholls, J. G. (1984). The development of achievement motivation. Greenwhich, CN: JAI Press.

Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nicholls J. G, Miller A. T. (1984). Reasoning about the ability of self and others: A developmental study. Child Development. 55:1990–1999.

Reynolds K., Killen J., Bryson S., Maron D., Taylor C., Maccoby N., Farquhar J., (1990). Psychosocial predictors of physical activity in adolescents. Prev Med 19:541-555.

Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, 148–154.

Ruble, D. N., Boggiano, A. K., Feldman, N. S., Loebl, J. H. (1980). Developmental analysis of the role of social comparison in self-evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 16, 105-115.

Ruble, D. N., Feldman, N. S., Boggiano, A. K., (1976). Social comparison between young children in achievement situations. Developmental Psychology, 12, 192- 197.

Sallis J, & Hovell M, (1990). Determinants of exercise behavior. Exercise Sport Science Rev 18:307-330.

Sallis J., Hovell M., Hofstetter C., Faucher P., Elder J., Blanchard J., Caspersen C., Powell K., Christenson G, (1989). A multivariate study of determinants of vigorous exercise in a community sample. Prev Med 18:20-34.

Sallis J, & Prochaska J, & Taylor W. (2000). A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Med Science Sports Exercise; 32:963–975.

Schunk, D. H. (1981). Modeling and attributional feedback effects on children’s achievement: a self-efficacy analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 93–105.

Schunk, D. H. (1983). Progress self-monitoring: effects on children’s self-efficacy and achievement. Journal of Experimental Education, 51, 89–93.

Schunk, D. H. (1985). Self-efficacy and classroom learning. Psychology in the Schools, 22, 208–223.

Schunk, D. H. (1983). Developing children's self-efficacy and skills: The roles of social comparative information and goal setting. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 8, 76-86.

Schunk, D. H. (1984). Enhancing self-efficacy and achievement through rewards and goals: Motivational and informational effects. Journal of Educational Research. 78, 29-34.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71-86.

Spear, P. S., & Armstrong, S. (1978). Effects of performance expectancies created by peer comparison as related to social reinforcement, task difficulty, and age of child. Journal Of Experimental Child Psychology, 25, 254-266.

Stipek, D. (1981) Children's perceptions of their own and their classmates' ability. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 404- 410.

Stodden, F. D., Goodway, D. J., Langendorfer, D. S., Roberton A. M., Rudisill, E. M., Garcia, C., Garcia, E. L, (2008). A developmental perspective on the role of motor skill competence in physical activity: an emergent relationship, Quest, 60:2, 290-306,

Strauss, S. R., Rodzilsky, D., Burack, G., Colin, M. (2001). Psychosocial correlates of physical activity in healthy children. Arch Paediatric Adolescents Medicine. 155(8):897-902. DOI:10.1001/archpedi.155.8.897

Stuckey-Ropp R, DiLorenzo T. (1993). Determinants of exercise in children. Prev Med. 22:880 – 889.

Theeboom, M., De Knop, P. & Weiss, M.R. (1995). Motivational Climate, Psychological Responses, and Motor Skill Development in Children’s Sport: A Field Based Intervention Study. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 17, 294-311.

Trost, G. S., Pate, R. R., Ward, S, D., Saunders, R., Riner, W., (1999). Correlates of objectively measured physical activity in preadolescent youth. Am J Prev Med. 17;2, 120-6.

Trost S., Pate R., Saunders R., Ward D., Dowda M., Felton G. (1997). A prospective study of the determinants of physical activity in rural fifth-grade children. Prev Med ;26:257–263 

Trost, G. S, & Sallis, F. J, & Pate, R. R, & Freedson, S. P, & Taylor, C. W, & Dowda, M (2003). Evaluating a model of parental influence on youth physical activity. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 25;4, 277-282. DOI:

Weiss, M. R, Williams, L. (2004). The why of youth sport involvement: a developmental perspective on motivational processes. Developmental sport and exercise psychology: a lifespan perspective pp.223-268 Welk, G.J. (1999). The Youth Physical Activity Promotion Model: A conceptual bridge between theory and practice. Quest, 51, 5-23.

Wigfield, A., Eccles, J. S., Yoon, K. S., Harold, R. D., Arbreton, A., Freedman-Doan, K., Blumenfeld, P. C. (1997). Changes in children’s competence beliefs and subjective task values across the elementary school years: a three-year study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 451–469.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1986). Development of self-regulated learning: Which are the key subprocesses? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 16, 307-313.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1989). Models of self-regulated learning and academic achievement. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theory, research, and practice pp.1-25.

Zimmerman, J. B, (2000). Self-Efficacy: An Essential Motive to Learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 82–91.