• "Even if you don't care ... you do care afer all"

      Røset, Linda; Green, Ken; Thurston, Miranda; Inland University of Applied SCience, Norway; University of Chester, UK; Inland University of Applied Sciences, Norway
      In the past decade or more, improving young people’s mental health has been identified as a priority for policy-makers in many countries, including Norway. Physical education (PE), as a setting for physical activity, is increasingly viewed as having a potentially significant role to play in addressing mental health among the young. This paper reports the findings from a study of 148 Norwegian youngsters (68 girls and 80 boys) from the 10th grade (15-16 year olds) in eight secondary schools in Norway in 2017. It explores Norwegian youngsters’ experiences of PE in relation to aspects of their mental health – specifically, being judged and, by extension, ‘othered’. The findings suggest that PE may undoubtedly serve to generate positive feelings associated with physical activity and games and, in doing so, bolster some youngsters’ self-esteem and self-identities. On the other hand, however, for those less competent in sporting terms, and whose bodily self-image is not particularly positive, the public nature of PE and the nature of the activities that constitute the subject can give rise to unplanned and unintended harm to some youngsters’ mental health – especially in countries, such as Norway, where sport is a significant aspect of the group habitus and collective ‘we-group’ identity.
    • Norwegian youngsters’ perceptions of physical education: Exploring the implications for mental health

      Røset, Linda; Green, Ken; Thurston, Miranda; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-06-24)
      Improving young people’s mental health has become a priority for policy-makers in Norway as elsewhere. Although the evidence is limited, physical activity has been identified as having a role in mental health promotion with school physical education (PE) typically being presented as a suitable setting. Few studies, however, have explored young people’s perceptions and experiences of PE and the possible consequences for their mental health – the departure point for this paper. We approach this issue sociologically by focusing on the processes through which PE is enacted. Qualitative data were generated by 31 focus groups involving 148 youngsters from the 10th grade (15–16-year-olds) in eight secondary schools in Norway. The overarching theme to emerge was that PE was valued by the students for what it was not as much as what it was. The appeal of PE often lay in being different and a break from ‘normal’ school lessons and, at the same time, an opportunity for informal social interaction and strengthening social bonds. Enjoyment of PE – even among those with limited sporting competence – was understood as giving rise to cathartic benefits and an antidote to their increasingly academic, routinized and performance-oriented school lives. However, processes relating to the organization, delivery and assessment of lessons meant that these benefits were sometimes compromised for some young people. We conclude that as far as the mental health of young people is concerned, the best justificatory defence for PE becomes physical recreation as a solution to (academic) schooling rather than PE as education.