Examination of associations of physical self-concept of athletes with intellectual disabilities




Pan, Cheng-Chen

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While the field of study in self-descriptions in a physical domain for the general population has been extensively investigated, such research in athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID) is relatively unexplored. The purpose of this study was threefold: (a) to investigate the differences in demographic factors and sports participation; (b) to report the associations among these variables; and (c) to identify the predictors of physical self-concept for athletes with mild to moderate ID.

A secondary analysis was used to analyze physical self-concept, body image, and sport participation in 89 athletes with ID from the Special Olympics. Physical Self-Concept Model (Fox & Corbin, 1989) is a hierarchical framework with six constructs, including global self-worth, physical self-worth, physical appearance, physical strength, sport competence, and physical condition. Body image perception was measured using Figure Rating Scale (Stunkard, Sorensen, & Schulsinger, 1983). Anthropometric measures included height, weight, and waist circumferences. The quantitative analysis was performed through descriptive (ANOVA, Chi-Squared and Spearman correlation), and inferential statistics (step-wise multiple regression), using SPSS version 22.0.

The results confirm several differences in age, gender, weight status, comorbidities of ID, and Unified Sports participation for physical self-concept and/or body image. Other important findings suggest that the constructs of physical appearance and physical condition relate mainly to anthropometrics (except for height). The results of the regression analysis suggest that there was no single predictor across the six physical self-concept constructs in this hierarchical framework. Identified predictors for global self-worth included lower cardiovascular diseases (CVD), Special Olympics participation, and age. Waist circumference and age were predictors for physical appearance. Physical strength and physical condition each had one predictor, gender and waist circumference, respectively. Raw discrepancy of actual-ideal body image ratings and Special Olympics participation were predictors for sport competence. No identified predictor was confirmed for physical self-worth.

This study may serve as a basis of understanding of physical self-concept for athletes with ID and it also allows for a more in-depth explanation of the associations and predictions for such psychological attributes. Recommendations and potential implications are provided in ameliorating psychological well-being in athletes with ID.



Health and environmental sciences, Body image, Intellectual disability, Physical self-concept