Active Play: perceived and actual motor performance among Ghanaian children

Master Thesis


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Background: There is limited data on active play both in terms of perceived competence and actual motor performance in children living in low- and middle-income countries. Promotion of active play in children is crucial for enhancing participation in physical activity and reducing the burden of obesity. Regular engagement in active play is important for promoting optimal development and increasing physical activity levels in children. Despite the increased interest in active play and physical fitness worldwide, many children in low-resource settings are thought to be physically inactive due to the lack of physical activity-promoting resources and programmes. The 2018 Ghana Report Card on physical activity reports that a high proportion of Ghanaian children do not achieve recommended physical activity levels and a high percentage of these children have poor motor skills. To date, no published study has examined active play among school-aged children in Ghana. Investigating the nature of active play by assessing perceived and actual motor performance among Ghanaian children can serve to increase our understanding of activity deficits, movement difficulties and associated factors in this population. Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the nature of active play in children aged 6-12 years in Ghana. Specific Objectives: 1. To determine children and caregivers' perceptions of children's motor performance in active play using the Motor Coordination Questionnaire (MCQ). 2. To determine children and caregivers' perceptions of the importance of active play. 3. To identify additional forms of active play and games (which are not listed on the MCQ) that children and caregivers perceive to be important and meaningful. 4. To determine the relationship between MCQ ratings by caregivers and children. 5. To determine the relationship between children's MCQ and actual motor performance. 6. To determine the relationship between caregivers' MCQ and actual motor performance. Methodology: A cross-sectional descriptive and analytical design was used. Three primary schools were purposively selected for this study. The study recruited 406 children and their caregivers for this study. Ethical approval was sought from the Ethics Review Committee of the Ghana Health Service (GHS-ERC 052/05/19) and the University of Cape Town Faculty of Health Sciences Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC REF: 112/2020). Data was collected from both caregivers and children (aged 6-12 years) using questionnaires and the Performance and Fitness (PERF-FIT) test battery. The MCQ-caregivers and MCQ-children were used to assess perceived motor performance, and the PERF-FIT test was used to measure children's actual motor performance. In using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 24.0 (SPSS Inc, IBM Company, Armonk, NY), Pearson or Spearman's correlation coefficient was calculated to determine the relationship between children and caregivers' perceptions as well as the relationship between the perceptions and the actual motor performance of the children. Results: Both children (75.6%-94.2%) and their caregivers (69.3%-95.4%) perceived good motor performance of the children during active play. Children (82.8%-96%) and their caregivers (83.2%-94.4%) also regarded active play as very important. Twenty-four additional games were found to be of importance to Ghanaian children and their caregivers. Weak negative, weak positive and sometimes moderate positive correlation between MCQ items and the PERF-FIT items were found. Conclusions: This study shows that we can't rely solely on perceptions, but need actual motor performance, to accurately measure motor performance during active play. We found that parents and children do not accurately estimate the actual level of motor performance. Further studies should be done to understand confounding variables that may have caused poor relationship between perceived and actual motor performance. There is a need for a valid tool like the PERF-FIT to help in accurate measurement of motor performance.