Insight DCU study identifies factors that drive physical well-being in children

Submitted on Tuesday, 07/02/2023

The motivation to be active, object control skills and confidence are important factors driving the physical well-being of children, according to a new study led by scientists at the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at DCU.

The study led by Dr Una Britton, Professor Mark Roantree  and Dr Stephen Behan aimed to improve the physical literacy of children and was a collaboration with Dublin GAA and the GAA.

“When we say we want to improve physical literacy we really mean we want to improve children’s basic movement skills, as well as their levels of confidence and motivation to be physically active,” says Dr Stephen Behan, DCU School of Health and Human Performance who took part in the study.

“Using a select subset of machine learning techniques, we found that children’s motivation, object control skills and self-efficacy are the important features behind improving their physical literacy, but the findings also show that a one size fits all model doesn’t work” says Professor Roantree.

The research reported in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being involved over 1,000 children varying in age, sex and socio-economic status. The study applied machine learning techniques to  better understand the relationship between physical literacy and well-being.

The research team divided the cohort into different subsets and examined each of the features that makeup physical literacy to determine those most strongly connected with the well-being of the participants in the study.

These findings will underpin a pilot intervention project funded by the Department of Justice set to roll out in socially disadvantaged  areas with the aim of equipping children with the tools to be active for life, and in the hopes of this leading to a decrease in anti-social behaviour.

The study is particularly important right now, says Behan, because of the falloff in levels of physical activity reported among children in Ireland and the mass of research evidence linking physical health and mental well-being.

“The identification of the factors that feed into increased well-being in children, as well as what motivates children to be active, which are highlighted in this study using advanced data analysis techniques will benefit children, parents and society,” says Dr Behan.

Read the full article in Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing

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