Relations among basic psychological needs, PE-motivation and fundamental movement skills in 9–12-year-old boys and girls in Physical Education

Ingrid van Aart, E. Hartman, Marije Elferink-Gemser, Remo Mombarg, Chris Visscher

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Many children aged 9–12 appear to have low levels of fundamental movement skills (FMS). Physical education (PE) is important because PE-teachers can teach children a variety of FMS and can influence PE-motivation. However, declined levels of PE-motivation are reported in the final grades of elementary school. Therefore, more insight in the relations between PE-motivation and FMS is needed.

Purposes: In the first phase, instruments to measure the satisfaction of basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, classmate relatedness and teacher relatedness) and PE-motivation (autonomous and controlled) in 9–12-year-old children were developed and validated. The purpose of the second phase was to examine the influence of basic psychological needs on PE-motivation, the influence of PE-motivation on locomotor skills, object control skills and balance skills, and the direct influence of basic psychological needs on FMS for boys and girls aged 9–12.

Participants and data collection: In the first phase, 172 children (82 boys, 90 girls, M = 10.72 years ± 0.77) filled out questionnaires assessing the satisfaction of their basic psychological needs and motivation for PE. Forty-eight children completed the questionnaires again 4 weeks later. In the second phase, a total of 138 children (66 boys, 72 girls, 10.8 years ± .79) (three schools from phase 1 and one new school) participated. Children from the new school also completed the questionnaires and all children conducted the subtest for speed and agility, upper limb coordination and balance of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency 2.

Data analysis: In phase 1, linear weighted Kappa's and the Mokken Scale Program for polychotomous items were used to test reliability and validity. In phase 2, Pearson's correlations and multiple linear regression analyses were performed to examine the relations.

Findings: Regarding phase 1, all subscales were reliable and the validity was considered moderate to strong except for the autonomy subscale, which was not reliable and valid. With respect to phase 2, all basic psychological needs, except autonomy among girls, had moderate to strong correlations with autonomous PE-motivation. Teacher relatedness was the most important predictor for boys and girls, while the second predictor was classmate relatedness for boys and competence for girls. No positive significant relations between basic psychological needs and FMS and between PE-motivation and FMS were found. In contrary, moderate but negative relations between teacher relatedness and balance skills and between autonomous PE-motivation and balance skills were found for boys.

Conclusions: The results confirmed the importance of the basic psychological needs in the prediction of autonomous PE-motivation in 9–12-year-old children. Although all needs should be supported by the PE-teacher, it is important to be aware of the different impact of the needs on autonomous PE-motivation for boys and girls. Despite the missing relations with FMS, PE-teachers seem to be able to autonomously motivate children for PE regardless of their FMS proficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-34
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • physical education
  • motivation
  • self-determination
  • fundamental movement


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