The health benefits of exercise participation and physical activity for mental health and psychosocial well-being (PSWB) have been shown in several studies. However, one important background factor, that is, motor skills (MSs), has largely been ignored. In addition, most of the existing research focuses on poor MSs, that is, poor MSs are often connected to poorer PSWB. The mechanism linking MSs and PSWB is unclear. However, a preliminary suggestion has been made that self-worth or self-perceptions might mediate the association between MSs and PSWB.
We investigated whether the self-concepts (SCs) of school-related physical education (SCPE), reading (SCR), and mathematics (SCM) mediate the relationship between MSs and PSWB in adolescence.
The study sample consisted of a second-grade female cohort (N = 327), ranging in age between 12 and 16 (years) in a municipality in Central Finland. PSWB was measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the school-related SCs by the SC of ability scale adapted for use in Finland. MSs was assessed by a self-reported adolescent version of the Developmental Coordination Disorder Questionnaire. Structural mediator modelling was used to test the associations between MSs and PSWB with SC as a mediator.
First, MSs was strongly associated with school-related SCPE and SCM. However, a mediator role was observed only for SCPE, which weakly mediated peer problems. Second, MSs and PSWB, especially conduct problems, showed a very strong direct association.
The study suggests that MSs is connected to PSWB in adolescent girls. Enhancement of MSs could be a preventive strategy for supporting PSWB in adolescent girls.