Primary School Pupils’ Self-Concept In The Context Of Their Body Mass Index


The level of school maturity is a deciding factor in the child’s qualification for the start of

Keywords: Childrenself-conceptcompulsory school attendanceoverweight and obesity


Children’s education related to a healthy life-style is an important part of education, which serves

as prevention against diseases, which arise as result of excess weight or obesity. The decrease in natural

and vigorous physical activity and increase in inappropriate diet are mentioned in several studies

(Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive, 2008; Kodat, Sobota, Kebza,

Biganovský & Amortová, 2006; WHO, 2011) as causes for the subsequent increase in many diseases like

juvenile diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Research in this area have postulated other determinants in

connection with children’s weight increase and decrease of physical activity, which include parents’ level

of education and job, type and locality of child’s home, safety of environment, actual health status and

level of physical fitness (Arredondo, Elder, Avala, Campbell, Baquero, & Duerksen, 2006; Kuo,

Voorhees, Haythornthwaite, & Young, 2007; Resnick, Bishop, O´Connel, Hugo, Timm, Ozonoff, &

Geller, 2009).

The problems of increased weight and obesity on children’s psychosocial health has been gaining

importance in the last few years. Specialists have highlighted the connection between excess weight and

obesity, low physical fitness and consequent problems with social acceptance among peers (Zeller,

Reiter-Purtill, & Ramey, 2008; Biddle & Asare, 2011). Interaction with peers is an important factor

related to the adoption of important social skills (cooperation, positive rivalry, understanding social rules

of social-group). There is research that indicates that the level of motor skills correlate with the ability of

adaptation and social competencies (Arbesman, Bazyk, Nochajski, 2013; Diamont, 2007; Cho, Ji, Chung,

Kim, & Joung, 2014). Obese children have been found to have low levels of mastered motor skills, and

are, hence, rejected by peers (Brown, Pearson, Braithwaite, et al., 2013; Matějček, 2004).

The inability to successfully participate on common physical tasks consequently negatively affects

the process of adaptation in school-class competencies (Schulz & Northridge, 2004; Pica, 2004). The

deficit in this area can cause the gradual decrease of the child’s activity and further retard social and

emotional development. All this is consequently affects the child’s level of peer acceptance in

school/class (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Smith et al., 2013; American Occupational Therapy Association,

2014). Problems of social acceptancehave a negative impact on the child’s self-confidence, level of

working capacity, ability to make friends and so on. Problems mentioned in literature include increased

risk of depression, social rejection by peers, lower social participation or psychosomatic troubles

(Griffiths, Parsons, & Hill, 2010; Barnett, O’Loughlin, Gauvin, Paradis & Hanley, 2006; Oliver,

Schofield, & Kolt, 2007; Kornilaki, 2014). Researchers have identified found relationships between the

child’s cognitive skills, academic achievements and physical activity (Efrat, 2011; Smith, Hoza, Linnea,

McQuade, Tom, & Vaughn, 2013).

The process of individual adaptation and adaptive behaviour is connected to some personal

characteristics of individuals such as self-concept, anxiety level of frustration and emotional stability. The

child’s communicative skills, intellect and autoregulation are also mentioned as relating to the child’s

adaptation processes(Altermatt, Pomerantz, Ruble, Frey & Greulich, 2002; Homer & Tamis-LeMonda,

2005; Wild & Möller, 2009; Jenni, Chaouc, Caflisch & Rousson, 2013).

Problem Statement

Increased body weight (excess weight or obesity) of children can have a detrimental effect on their

social development resulting in problems in interpersonal relationships, inclusion in social groups and so

on. Among the negative effects as identified by specialists in this area are low self-confidence and self-

concept. This research is therefore aimed at analysing the relationship between the child’s weight and

self-concept. It is assumed that over-weight and obese pupils will displaya lower level of self-concept

than pupils with normal weight status. Another purpose of this study is to examine the relationship

between girls’ and boys’ self-concept. An examination of the effect of increased weight on children’s

self-concept and adaptability in school-classes could help to explain some documented behavioural

changes in population (Efrat, 2011; Smith, Hoza, Linnea, McQuade, Tom, & Vaughn, 2013).

Research Questions

In line with the discussion, the research questions will attempt to identify:

3.1 a relationship between the level of self-concept and increased weight in children from lower

levels of primary schools.

3.2 any differences in level of self-concept between genders.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to identify differences in self-concept between children with normal

weight status and children classified as over-weight or obese from the paediatric perspective. Another aim

is identifypossible differences in self-concept in the context of gender.

Research Methods

Research group

The research sample comprised 300 pupils from lower levels of primary schools (151 girls, 149

boys) from one region in the Czech Republic. The average age of the sample was 9.90±1.03 years (girls

9.67±1.00, boys 9.71±1.05). The height, weight and body mass index (BMI) of the sample was assessed

according to international norms (Cole, Belilizzi, Flegal, Dietz, 2000), and the age and gender was taken

into account. Based on this data, 3 sub-sets were created: 1st sub-set with low weight status, 2nd sub-set

was normal weight status and 3rd sub-set was over-weight and obese (see Table 01 .). No child in this

sample was physically or mentally handicapped. The table below shows that only 6% of children were

classified as obese or over-weight. Low weight status was found only in 16% of children.

Table 1 -
See Full Size >

The level of self-concept was measured using the Piers-Harris Children´s Self-Concept Scale 2

questionnaire (Piers, Harris, & Herzberg, 2009). The scores converted according to T-scores. Based on

T-scores, the sample was classified into categories: Category I = above average range (≥56T), Category II

= average range (40–55T) and Category III = low range (≤39T). If very poor scores (≤29T) were detected,

it was presumed that the child has a diagnosable psychic disorder (Table 02 .) andexamination by a

specialist/doctor was recommended. This group was categorised as Category IV.

Table 2 -
See Full Size >

Table 02 above shows frequency of children in Self-concept categories.

This research was conducted between May to June 2017 in primary schools in one region in the

Czech Republic. Before the research commenced, the agreement of Ethical Committee of Pedagogical

Faculty, Palacky University in Olomouc (N 03/17) was obtained. As the children were very young,

written agreement of children’s legal representatives was necessary. All persons connected with the

research were introduced to the research aims before the research started. All queries were answered.

Anonymity of collected data was declared in written form according to Czech Republic legislation. The

participation in the research was voluntary, without reward and no benefits for participants. The

participants could leave or stop their participation in the research. Data were collected as a part of the

IGA_PdF_2017_002 project.

Basic statistical data about research sample as in number of girls and boys; average age; categories

of BMI) were expressed by average number, standard derivation number and frequency of persons in

each category.

The relationship between self-concept and sample’s BMI category was found by χ2. For gender

differences in self-concept according to BMI category, the Mann Whitney test was used. The level of

significant importance was established as p<0.05. The data were processed using STATISTICA, version

12.0 software (StatSoft).


The excess weight (over-weight and obesity) group did not display a high level of self-concept.

The majority of the sample 78.95% (36.84% girls; 42.11% boys)were found in the high T-score self-

concept category. Only 15.79% of the excess weight children (15.79% girls; 0% boys)werein the low

self-concept range. There was only 5.26 % boys (no girls)withlow self-concept score from this sub-set.

The majority of children in this sample (68.97%) who were in Category II = high self-concept (30.60%

girls; 38.36% boys)were of the normal weight category. 21.98% of the children (14.22% girls; 7.76%

boys) were in the lowself-concept range. Only 3.45% (0.86 % girls, 2.59 % boys) displayed a high level

of self-concept. There was a fairly high representation of children (5.60%) with normal weight in

Category IV. = very poor level of self-concept (3.02% girls; 2.59% boys). However,the children with

low self-concept were not found in the low weight group. Those children showed an above average range

(77.55 %), and the results were the same for boys and girls (38.78 %). Low self-concept was found in this

group in 20.41 % of children, also with the same results for boys and girls (10.20 %). Only one girl from

the low weight category had a high level of self-concept (2%) (see Table 03 .).

Table 3 -
See Full Size >

In terms of gender, the Mann Whitney U test confirmed the premise that BMI of girls

(Mdn=151) and boys (Mdn=149) in early school age is similar (U=10590.50; p=0.63). Gender differences

were, however, found in the level of self-concept (U=9492.50; p=0.02). Based on statistics, there was no

relationship between children’s weight and self-concept (χ2 = 5.87 df = 3 p = 0.12). In early school age,

research has shown that overweight or obese children could have similar results as their normal weight

peers and they can also have better cognitive skills (Li, Dai, Jackson a Zhang, 2008; Wake et al., 2013;

Pearce, Scalzia, Lynchac & Smithers, 2016). Similar results in this age category were also found by

Strauss (2000), who however, highlights evidence of decreasing self-concept in obese children as they

grow older. Those children more often smoke and drink alcohol excessively. Other research confirms that

this problem increases with age. Serassuelo, Cavazzotto, Paludo, Zambrin and Simões (2014) used the

same research tool (Piers-Harris Children´s Self-Concept Scale 2) to examine children’s self-concept and

obesity and they confirmed the relationship between obesity and self-concept in monitored persons. Some

authors (Griffiths, Parsons, & Hill, 2010; Ahn & Fedewa, 2011) found a higher probability of

misbehaviour in interpersonal relationships with peers in five-year-old obese boys. Based on this, authors

propose that negative effects of higher body weight in socio-emotional areas should be examined

separately in overweight and obese children and those who are not.


The negative effects of excess weight and obesity are serious in children’s psychosocial

development. Although such negative effects are not apparent in young children, they are certainly shown

in older age categories (Gest, 1997; Pichler, 2008; WHO, 2011). Compulsory school attendance can play

a vital role in the development of children’s self-concept. WHO (2011) recommends 60 minutes of

physical activity per day for children, covered in physical education classes, active transportation to

school, supplementary organized physical activities, and so on. The positive effect of quality physical

education has been confirmed in many studies (Jansen, Raat, van Zwanenburg, Reuvers, van Walsem &

Brug, 2008; Kubesch, Walk, Spitzer, Kammer, Lainburg, Heim, R. et al., 2009; Kriemler et al., 2010;

Guinhouya, Lemdani, Vilhelm, Hubert, Apete, & Durocher, 2009; Physical Activity and Physical

Education in California Schools, 2009). This research was limited by a low sample number and constraint

in location. Hence a low number of pupils were monitored in terms of pediatric overweight and obesity.

Early recognition of and response to this problem should be the aim of prevention realized in institutions

like schools and/or health facilities. Psychosocial risks of increased weight (especially obesity) in children

are high and because of that, it is necessary that to aim further research be conducted on this age group to

and support creation of preventive and intervention programs.


The cooperation of the parents who permitted the participation of their children in the study as

well as the management and teachers of the primary schools are gratefully acknowledged for the

realization of this research.


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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, family psychology, child psychology, developmental psychology

Cite this article as:

Miklánková, L. (2019). Primary School Pupils’ Self-Concept In The Context Of Their Body Mass Index. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2017, October, vol 32. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 68-75). Future Academy.