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An investigation of age and gender differences in physical self-concept among Turkish late adolescents.

During the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in the self that has focused on the study of individual differences as well as developmental change. Much of this work can be subsumed under the rubric of the "self-concept," where there has been a proliferation of theoretical and methodological activity, leading to a growing body of empirical evidence on the self (Harter, 1990).

The degree of interest has been stimulated by the important role of self-concept in the explanation of human well-being, and its initiator and mediator role in human behavior (Fox, 1990; Marsh, 1993). Research has shown that self-concept is associated with many positive achievements and social behaviors including leadership ability, satisfaction, decreased anxiety, and improved academic and physical performance (Fox, 1992).

Despite the theoretical and practical significance of self-concept, like many other personality constructs, reviews of self-concept research typically identify a lack of theoretical models for defining and interpreting it and the poor quality of measurement instruments used to assess the construct (Marsh & Jackson, 1986). In an attempt to remedy this problem, researchers have shifted the focus from the self-concept as a broad global construct to a multifaceted, hierarchical construct (Marsh, 1993, 1994). The multidimensionality of self-concept emphasizes that people have different perceptions of themselves in specific domains of life, such as physical, social, and work (Harter, 1985; Marsh & Shavelson, 1985).

With this recognition of the multidimensionality of self came the opportunity to investigate the physical self as an entity in its own right (Fox, 1997). Perceptions of an individual in the physical domain are considered factors in determining levels of global self-worth (Fox, 1992). The greatest recent advance in the study of this important construct has been the development of multidimensional physical self-concept scales. These instruments have produced much richer profiles that are capable of characterizing groups or individuals, documenting links between the physical self and related behaviors, and mapping self-perception change more precisely (Fox, 1997). Many researchers have begun to conduct different studies on physical self-concept; the effects of athletic participation (Marsh, Perry, Horsely, & Roche, 1995; Welk, Corbin, & Lewis, 1995; Marsh, 1998), age (Marsh, 1998) and gender (Marsh, 1998; Hayes, Crocker, & Kowalski, 1999) on physical self-concept and cultural differences in physical self-perception (Hagger, Ashford, & Stambulova, 1998) are some examples.

Research on physical self-concept has generally found that males score consistently higher than females (Marsh, 1998; Sonstroem, 1998; Hayes et al., 1999). However, age differences have not been clearly shown. Most of the studies on age effects used a multidimensional self-concept scale, reporting that self-concept increased with age during late adolescence and early adulthood; however, during preadolescence self-concept showed a decline with age (Marsh, 1998; Sonstroem, 1998). Marsh (1998) examined the age effects on physical self-concept of Australian students by using multidimensional physical self-concept scales and reported no change in physical self-concept with age during adolescence. As can be seen from the literature, age effects on physical self-concept are not clear, and most of the studies were conducted with subjects from Western cultures. Hence, the present study extends previous self-concept research by focusing specifically on age and gender effects in multiple dimensions of physical self-concept for Turkish late adolescents.



Participants were 477 female (mean age 20.95 [+ or -] 1.75) and 518 male (mean age = 21.52 [+ or -] 2.02) university students enrolled in elective courses from the physical education and sport departments often universities in Turkey.


Physical Self-Perception Profile. The Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP; Fox & Corbin, 1989) assesses self-perceptions in the physical domain. The 30-item inventory consists of four subscales (Perceived Sport Competence, Physical Condition, Body Attractiveness, and Physical Strength) and one general scale (Physical Self-Worth). Each subscale consists of 6 items in which participants are presented with two contrasting descriptions (e.g., those with unattractive bodies and those with attractive bodies) and are asked which description is most like themselves and whether the description they select is "sort of true" or "really true" for them. Item scores can range from 1 to 4; because each scale is composed of 6 items, subscale scores can range from 6 to 24 (Fox, 1990). The reliability and validity of the instrument for Turkish university students were indicated in a recent study carried out by Asc1, Asc1 and Zorba (1999).


Participation was voluntary, with consent obtained from the participants. The PSPP was administered by the physical education teacher to intact university classes. Surveys were completed according to instructions provided by the teacher.

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed by multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) in which physical self-concept scores were dependent variables, while year in school (1-4) and gender were between-group independent variables.


Mean scores for each variable for males and females from different years in school are shown in Table 1. The descriptive results demonstrate that males have higher PSPP subscale scores at each grade level than do females except for body attractiveness.

A 2 x 4 x 5 (Gender X Year in School X PSPP Subscales) MANOVA revealed a significant main effect for gender, Hotelling's [T.sup.2] = 0.133, F(5, 983) = 26.06, p < .01, but no significant main effect for year in school, Hotelling's [T.sup.2] = 0.013, F(15, 985) = 0.84, p > .05. There was no significant year in school by gender interaction, Hotelling's [T.sup.2] = 0.016, F(15, 2945) = 1.06, p > .05. Follow-up univariate analysis indicated significant gender differences in sport competence, F(1, 995) = 91.54, p < .01; physical condition, F(1, 995) = 47.75, p < .01; body attractiveness, F(1, 995) = 8.14, p < .01; and physical strength, F(1, 995) = 20.54, p <.01 (favoring males except for body attractiveness). No significant gender difference was obtained for physical self-worth, F(1, 995) = 0.38, p > .05.


This study examined age and gender differences in physical self-concept of Turkish late adolescents by using specific multidimensional physical self-concept scales of PSPP.

The patterns of mean values for both males and females are very similar to those produced by Hayes et al. (1999), but higher than those reported by Fox and Corbin (1989). Especially for physical self-worth and body attractiveness, both Turkish male and female adolescents had higher subscale scores than did U.S. male and female college students. On the other hand, the mean values in the present study are similar to those found by Page, Ashford, Fox, and Biddle (1993) with British university students, by Marsh, Richards, Johnson, Roche, and Tremayne (1994) with Australian adolescents, and by Sonstroem, Speliotis, and Fava (1992) with middle-aged subjects.

Males consistently scored higher than females on all subscales of physical self-concept except body attractiveness. This finding is partially consistent with previous studies using PSPP among U.S. collegeage and adult populations (Fox & Corbin, 1989; Hayes et al., 1999; Sonstroem et al., 1992). In addition, gender differences in physical self-concept were reported by Marsh (1998) who found differences on nine subscales of the Physical Self-Description Questionnaire in favor of adolescent boys. The studies (Marsh, 1989; Marsh et al., 1995) reporting gender differences in physical self-concept using different multidimensional self-concept scales also support the results of the present study. As Hayes et al. (1999) suggested, in any of the physical self-concept studies, the reason women report lower self-perception levels is not clear. Further work is needed to determine how factors such as cultural expectations and differential opportunities to demonstrate competence influence physical self-perceptions.

This study also showed no change on any of the physical self-concept subscales for Turkish late adolescents with increased age. In other words, physical self-concepts did not vary much as a function of year in school. The same result was obtained by Marsh (1998) with Australian high school athletes and nonathletes. Further, Brettschneider and Brautigam examined physical self-concept of 4118 German adolescents between the ages of 12-21 and reported minor age effects among the 13- to 15-year-olds, but not for older adolescents (cited in Brettschneider & Heim, 1997). This finding also supports results obtained in the present study. Generally, in the literature, age effects on physical self-concept were studied by using multidimensional self-concept scales. For example, Marsh (1989) indicated that during late adolescence and early adulthood, a linear increase was observed across the age ranges for a majority of components of self-concept, including physical and physical appearance self-concepts. In this case, re sults obtained were not in line with the above studies. However, the stability of physical self-concept during this potentially turbulent adolescent period is a substantially important finding. Instead of taking year in school as an indicator of age, cross-sectional comparisons including wide variations in physical maturity within a given age cohort or longitudinal comparison might be very helpful in determining developmental effects.

The results of the present study also indicate that gender differences in physical self-concept do not vary with age. Even though there were gender differences in physcial self-concept favoring males, these differences did not change with age. This finding is supported by Marsh's (1998) study which revealed no significant year in school by gender interaction on subscales of physical self-concept except global physical self-concept. On the other hand, Marsh (1989) reported that during late adolescence and early adulthood, gender differences in subscales of self-concept decreased with age. The differences between the findings of the present study and others in the literature could be attributed to different methodological processes involving use of multidimensional self-concept scales instead of specific physical self-concept scales, and to cultural differences.

It can be concluded that physical self-concept varies with gender but not age, and also that these gender differences do not change with age for Turkish adolescents.
Table 1

Physical Self-Concept by Gender and Year in School

 Year in School
PSPP Year 1 Year 2 Year 3

 Female 14.47 4.01 14.45 3.66 14.42
 Male 16.62 3.16 16.82 2.77 17.03

 Female 14.42 3.57 14.49 3.38 14.47
 Male 15.88 2.99 16.08 3.01 16.30

 Female 15.69 3.90 15.59 3.65 15.92
 Male 14.76 2.81 15.07 2.75 15.19

 Female 14.07 3.63 14.76 3.74 14.90
 Male 15.26 3.43 15.81 3.00 16.05

 Female 15.62 3.75 16.21 3.41 16.05
 Male 15.40 2.93 15.42 2.52 15.92

 Year in School
PSPP Year 3 Year 4

 Female 4.17 14.85 4.16
 Male 3.54 16.78 3.23

 Female 3.76 14.84 3.69
 Male 3.38 16.05 3.04

 Female 3.81 15.89 4.04
 Male 3.00 15.54 3.31

 Female 3.82 14.99 3.71
 Male 3.18 15.73 3.22

 Female 3.50 15.72 3.58
 Male 3.00 16.34 2.89


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Reprint requests to F. Hulya Asci, Baskent University, Sport Sciences Department, Baglica Kampusu, Eskisehir Yolu 20 km, 06530, Ankara, Turkey. Electronic mail may be sent to
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Author:Asci, F. Hulya
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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