Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Health Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Professor Beth Hands

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Fleur McIntyre


Our sense of identity is an emergent concept that develops over the lifespan in response to many factors, however the adolescent phase is the most critical. During adolescence, some factors that influence identity are level of parent and peer support, environmental stresses and the ability to form personal interests and goals. These factors influence the health of one’s identity in both positive and negative ways, which may differ between males and females. Therefore, identity health refers to an individual’s capacity to develop a positive sense of self and to integrate their self within a number of valuable social settings. One factor that has not previously been examined in relation to the health of identity is the influence of an individual’s motor competence. During adolescence, the associated social-emotional challenges of low motor competence (LMC) such as reduced peer support, social immaturity, or limited peer interaction may be more harmful than the initial difficulties associated with LMC experienced during childhood. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, was to examine whether levels of motor competence, parent’s awareness of motor competence and selfperceptions influenced the health of an adolescent’s identity.

LMC during adolescence is often under recognised as a cause for concern as many parents, teachers and clinicians are unaware of the significance of this condition. Furthermore, few assessments of motor competence have been specifically developed for this age range. To address this need, the first paper of this thesis describes the development and evaluation of the Adolescent Motor Competence Questionnaire (AMCQ) with a small sample of 38 adolescents. Evidence of reliability and concurrent validity with the McCarron

Assessment of Neuromuscular Development (MAND; McCarron, 1997) was established. In the second paper, a Principle Component Analysis (PCA) of the AMCQ data for 160 adolescents (64.4% males, Mage = 14.44 years, SD = 0.75) was undertaken. Four factors representing Physical Activities and Sports, Activities of Daily Living, Public Performance and Peer Comparison were identified. A second order analysis yielded just one factor with contributions from all first order factors which provided evidence of construct validity of the AMCQ (Chapter 3).

To examine the complex construct of identity health, a cultural adaptation of the Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents (AIDA, Goth et al., 2012) questionnaire, developed simultaneously in Germany and Switzerland, was completed and reported in the third paper (Chapter 4). The main test results with a sample of 126 (67.5% boys, M = 14.6 years, SD = 0.9) indicated that the 58-item version was suitable for use among Australian adolescents.

Motor competence (AMCQ scores) and its relationship to the health of an adolescent’s identity (AIDA scores) was examined in the fourth paper using a sequential mixed method design (Chapter 5). The quantitative (N = 160) results revealed males had higher motor competence scores, while females had less healthy identity scores compared to males. The LMC adolescents had less healthy identity scores compared to the high motor competence (HMC) adolescents. Interviews with 17 adolescents were used to interpret these quantitative results. Five main themes emerged; Peer Support , School Experiences, Personal Changes, Future Planning and Communication. Overall, the HMC males had the healthiest identities, LMC males and HMC females experienced similar identity challenges, while the LMC females experienced the greatest difficulties regarding the health of their identity. The LMC females felt greater pressure to reach their future goals and experienced more fragmented friendships.

A parent’s awareness of their child’s motor competence may also influence other areas of their adolescent’s life. Therefore, the level of agreement between a parent report questionnaire [Developmental Coordination Disorder Questionnaire, 2007 (DCDQ-07; Wilson et al., 2009)] and the adolescent self-report questionnaire (AMCQ) was examined in the fifth paper (Chapter 6). The results from 133 parent and adolescent dyads (66.2 % males, Mage = 14.49 years, SD = 0.79) revealed a high proportion of agreement, primarily due to the number of HMC case-agreements. Parents identified more males (11) than females (9) with LMC, whereas more female adolescents (22) self-reported LMC compared to males (18). These findings suggest self-report assessments during adolescence may be a more sensitive measure of motor competence, especially for females compared to a parent report measure.

In the sixth and final paper, adolescent self-perceptions (N = 160) across a range of domains (Self-Perception Profile for Adolescence [SPPA], Harter 2012b) were examined to determine if they mediated the relationship between motor competence and adolescent identity health (Chapter 7). For the total sample regardless of motor competence or gender, self-perceptions of social competence, physical appearance, close friendships and global self-worth mediated this relationship. For the HMC group (n = 108), self-perceptions of physical appearance and global self-worth played a mediating role, and although not significant, social competence, and behavioural conduct positively influenced this relationship. When the sample was separated by motor competence (high and low) and gender (male and female) no significant relationships among any of the self-perception domains were seen. However perceptions of close friendships were important for the LMC group (n = 52) and for males (n = 103). In addition, for the males, perceptions of global selfworth were important for their identity health. No self-perceptions mediated this relationship for the females (n = 57). Overall, the results from these six papers indicate that the health of an adolescent’s identity differs depending on their level of motor competence and gender.

To conclude, a multi-dimensional framework of four factors was designed to examine the relationships between an adolescent’s level of motor competence, identity health, individual self-perceptions, and parental support. This framework was used to consider the relationship between any two variables (such as motor competence and parent support) to see if one component changed as a result of another. It was found that all variables were higher for those with HMC (males and females). A male’s identity health was stronger with an increasing level of motor competence, however this relationship was not evident among females. Greater perceived close friendships improved identity health among adolescents with LMC, both males and females. Finally, level of motor competence influenced identity health among the LMC males but not the LMC females. Overall the LMC group experienced greater setbacks towards their identity health such as finding appropriate social support which was due to their level of motor competence and ability to participate in age appropriate activities such as sports.

Together these results highlight that the health of identity during adolescence is influenced by gender, motor competence and parental support. The negative impact of LMC on identity health during adolescence suggests that greater support and understanding from parents, teachers and peers is needed for this group, especially for the LMC females.

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