Life satisfaction, personality characteristics and perceived parental influence among top athletes representing three different pathways of development

Malgorzata Siekanska, University School of Physical Education, Poland

Theme: Developmental/lifespan perspectives

Poster Number: 98

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Research indicates that parents have considerable influence on their children’s sports experiences and involvement (Bloom, 1985; Kanters, Bocarro, Casper, 2008; LaVoi, Babkes-Stellino, 2008), and that pathways of development recognized in sport (smooth, difficult or turbulent) are connected with parent-child relationship (Lauer et.al., 2010). But still there is a need: (a) to understand better the nuances of parental influence (b) to examine how athletes, who represent different pathways of development, asses their life satisfaction and (c) to explore if the type of pathway is connected with specific personality characteristics. In order to accomplish this purpose 128 top athletes (including 40 Olympians) representing 23 different sports disciplines (74 males, 54 females; m=26,98 years) were invited to the study which was retrospective in character. A semi-structured interview and three questionnaires (SWLS, NEO-PI-R and AFEQ – Athletes’ Family Environment Questionnaire) were administered. Qualitative data analysis (Kvale, 2004 & 2011; Gibbs, 2011) revealed turning points (two types) and crisises in sports career development. Cluster analysis (k-means) showed three main pathways of development: ‘smooth’, ‘fluctuated’, and ‘with distractions’. Using one-way ANOVA analyses the Openness to experience and the Depressiveness scores in ‘smooth group’ were found to be the lowest (p < .05). No significant differences were found in life satisfaction score and family environment factors. This study confirms that there are multiple paths to expertise, however athletes who experienced difficulties and crisises are more likely to leave the professional tour. What is more, frustration and sadness seem to be a significant psychological cost they have to pay to continue their career. In order to maintain life satisfaction some of them decided to look for new goals and challenges out of sport. The results obtained in the study provide information for sport practitioners - how to recognize athletes’ crisis symptoms and prevent premature resignation from professional sport.

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