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Title: Fear of failure among young elite athletes
Authors: Sagar, Sam S.
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: © S.S.Sagar
Abstract: Fear of failure has negative psychological and physiological effects on children in achievement settings. Perceiving the consequences of failure to be aversive provides the basis for fear of failure, and the anticipation of threatening outcome elicits fear. This thesis focuses on investigating fear of failure in the sport domain, specifically among young elite athletes. The first study (chapter 4) examined young athletes' (n=9; ages 14-17 years) perceptions of the consequences of failure, the effects of fear of failure on them, and their coping responses to the effects of fear of failure. Data analysis revealed that the most commonly perceived aversive consequences of failure were diminished perception of self, no sense of achievement, and the emotional cost of failure. Fear of failure affected the athletes' well-being, interpersonal relationships, schoolwork, and sporting performance. They employed a combination of problem-focused, emotion-focused, and avoidance focused coping strategies, the latter being the most frequently reported strategy. Study 2 (chapter 5) aimed to examine the developmental origins of fear of failure among young elite athletes. Three intact families of young elite athletes (ages 13-14 years) volunteered to participate in this study. Data analysis revealed three mechanisms of fear of failure transmission: parental punitive behaviour, parental controlling behaviour, and parental expectations. The athletes and their parents reported common fears of failure, such as fears of negative judgment, of not attaining aspirations, of losing ranking, and of nonselection to future competitions. The study provided evidence to support an intergenerational transmission of fear of failure from parents to young elite athletes through recurrent patterns of parent-child interaction. The third and final study (chapter 6) designed an intervention programme whose primary aim was to reduce young elite athletes' (n=6, ages 13-15 years) fear of failure levels through parental training, and its secondary aim was to reduce their parents' fears of their child's failure. The intervention comprised two separate educational programmes. The first programme offered the parents (6 couples) a one-off educational seminar (Study 3a) and the second programme offered a young elite athlete and her parents ten weekly one-to one intervention sessions (Study 3b). Both programmes aimed to teach parents about fear of failure and about their role in the development of their child's FF, specifically addressing issues of parent-child communication and interaction. Cognitive-behavioural therapy provided the framework for the intervention. Findings from both programmes showed that the parents reduced their punitive behaviours and adopted more favourable ways of reacting to their child's failures. Both programmes showed that the athletes' and parents' fear of failure levels had decreased post-intervention. Avoidance motivation goals also decreased for most of the athletes. This research extends our knowledge on the FF phenomenon in the youth sport context, where research on FF has been greatly neglected. It provides the first scientific documentation of young elite athletes' perceptions of the consequences of failure, the effects of fear of failure on them, and their coping responses to these effects. It also provides the first evidence to support intergenerational transmission of fear of failure from parents to young elite athletes; thus, implicating parents in the developmental origins of fear of failure in young elite athletes. The intervention programme offers the first documented scientific programme designed to reduce fear of failure levels of young elite athletes and their parents, thus, enhancing our knowledge about the treatment ofFF. The findings of this research can be used to inform assessment, diagnosis, and treatment off ear of failure in sport. A better understanding of the fear of failure phenomenon in sport will enable sport psychologists to enhance young athletes' performances, well-being, and social development.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/19049
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)

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