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Gender, perceived competence and the enjoyment of physical education in children: a longitudinal examination

John Cairney124*, Matthew YW Kwan1, Scott Velduizen2, John Hay3, Steven R Bray4 and Brent E Faught3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, 175 Longwood Road South, Suite 201A, Hamilton, ON L8P 0A1, Canada

2 Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, 33 Russell St, Toronto, ON M5S 2S1, Canada

3 Department of Community Health Sciences, Brock University, 500 Glenridge Ave, St., Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, Canada

4 Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S4L8, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:26  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-26

Published: 6 March 2012



The current study examined associations between gender, perceived athletic competence, and enjoyment of physical education (PE) class over time in a cohort of children enrolled in grade four (ages 9 or 10) at baseline (n = 2262).


We assessed each student 5 times over a period of 2 years. We used mixed effects modeling to examine change over time in enjoyment of PE.


Enjoyment of PE declined among girls but remained constant among boys. Higher levels of perceived competence were associated with higher PE enjoyment. A 3-way interaction between gender, competence, and time revealed that PE enjoyment was lowest and declined most markedly among girls with low perceived athletic competence. Among boys with low competence, enjoyment remained at a consistently low level.


Our results indicate that lower perceived athletic competence is associated with low enjoyment of PE, and, among girls, with declining enjoyment. Findings suggest that interventions in a PE context that target perceived competence should be considered in future work.

Prospective cohort study; Athletic competence; Physical education