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Title: An investigation into the nature of psychological resilience in junior athletes
Author: Fountain, Hollie Elizabeth
Awarding Body: Edinburgh Napier University
Current Institution: Edinburgh Napier University
Date of Award: 2017
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Psychological resilience has been described as a multidimensional, context specific concept, and has been defined in numerous ways that attempt to encapsulate the process by which individuals positively adapt following stress or significant adversity. Research within competitive sport has highlighted several components that influence this process, which include; meta-cognitions and challenge appraisals, coping strategies, personal risk and protective factors, and sociocultural influences (Brown et al., 2015; Galli & Vealey, 2008; Fletcher & Sarkar, 2012; Sarkar & Fletcher, 2014a). Significantly, resilience is described as a dynamic process that is developed through exposure to challenge within the competitive environment (Galli & Vealey, 2008); however, little is known about the nature of psychological resilience at a junior level. The understanding of how resilience is conceptualised at this level is important as this knowledge can help to foster the appropriate protective and promotive factors required to thrive in a competitive junior environment, and best equip athletes for future periods of unrest. The aims of the current research program were to investigate the nature of psychological resilience within a junior sport context, and to explore appropriate measures or methodological approaches by which to achieve this. To achieve these, eight research objectives are presented. To address these objectives, five research investigations were proposed: Study 1. This study aimed to explore the psychometric qualities of the original 25-item CD-RISC (Connor & Davidson, 2003) amongst a sample of junior athletes. Three hundred and forty seven athletes (M age=15.42, SD=1.72) completed the original CD-RISC questionnaire. Participants represented a range of individual and team sports. Internal consistency and factor structure were analysed using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and exploratory factor analyses (EFA). CFAs did not support the original 5-factor or unitary factor structure of the 25-item CD-RISC, but did support a unidimensional shortened 10-item measure (Cambell-Sills & Stein, 2007). Subsequently, an EFA and CFA also supported a valid and reliable 2-factor sport specific version of the CD-RISC, which was favoured based on stronger conceptual and theoretical support. This study supports the contention that resilience is not consistent across all populations and context specific measures may be required e.g., sport specific. The emergent 2-factor measurement model suggests an underlying structure of resilience in sport that represents an individual's control through adversity and growth mindset. Study 2. The aim of this study was to explore the nature of resilience within junior sport, with a specific focus on sport type, gender and age differences, and the association between resilience and sensation seeking characteristics. Participants completed the modified version of the CD-RISC, which emerged in the previous study and the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale (BSSS; Hoyle at al., 2002), which measures dispositional risk taking behaviours. The results suggested that male and team athletes have significantly higher resilience scores than their female and individual sport counterparts. In general, protective factors associated with resilience positively relate to sensation seeking characteristics. Specifically, feelings relating to ‘control through adversity' more broadly relate to tendencies leading to greater risk exposure. These findings may suggest that those with a greater perception of control take more calculated risks and set goals that are more challenging. This may offer the opportunity to increase personal mastery through developed interpersonal relations, emotional expression, problem solving skills and coping resources. Nevertheless, our understanding of resilience seems limited by the capacity of a psychometric questionnaire to encapsulate such a complex construct. Study 3. This study aimed to provide a review of the literature concerning resilience in athletes, with a specific focus on identifying the differing methodological approaches to examine the nature of the construct in sport. Fourteen research articles that attempted to directly measure psychological resilience with an athlete sample were identified using both quantitative (n=8) and qualitative (n=6) approaches. Quantitative research has increased conceptual understanding of resilience in sport, relating to its positive associations with similar constructs (e.g., mental toughness), and its moderation qualities. This approach permits statistical analyses to track development, however is unlikely to offer sufficient depth to understanding given the complexities surrounding both the construct of psychological resilience and the nature of an elite sporting environment. Qualitative studies have helped to develop theoretical understanding of psychological resilience amongst athletes through adopting phenomenological methodologies, however, the application of knowledge relies on user generalisability alone and does not offer an objective measure of the construct. The review proposes an exploration of novel methodological approaches that consider the positive elements of both qualitative and quantitative research, but does not consolidate their pitfalls. Study 4. The purpose of this study was to develop a novel tool to measure psychological resilience using a Q-method approach. Specifically, this study aimed to construct a Q-set, by identifying the subjective viewpoints of junior rugby league players, associated with how they would respond to stress or adversity and their perceptions of the resilience process. Twenty-nine junior rugby league players (aged 13-14) were recruited to take part in one of two focus groups designed to generate statements relating to responses to adversity. Thirty statements emerged following inductive thematic analysis, and were retained for the Q-set. There are commonalities between these statements and characteristics of theoretical models and previous research concerning psychological resilience in sport. Study 5. The purpose of this study was to use the Q-set developed in the previous study to explore the nature of psychological resilience in the context of junior Rugby League, using a novel Q-sort method. Sixty junior rugby league players (aged 13-14) completed a standard Q-sort protocol, ranking the previously developed 30-item Q-set using a fixed quasi normal distribution, with anchors of +5 (most like me) to -5 (least like me). PQ Method statistical analysis software was used to analyse the data. Principle component analysis with varimax rotation identified four distinct subgroups that explained 72% of the total variance. These groups were distinguished through patterns relating to: social support, emotional control, unpleasant emotions, personal resources, and cognitive strategies. Shared qualities across the four subgroups were also identified, and included low ratings for evasion strategies, and seeking support, whilst generally high ratings for perseverance. The results from this study showed that junior rugby league players display a range of psychological responses when experiencing adversity and four subgroups with both defining and shared characteristics emerged. This study provides preliminary evidence for the potential usefulness of a Q-method approach for understanding the process of resilience in junior sport. Q-methodology provides an alternative to previous research designs attempting to understand the nature of resilience, and offers an engaging activity to participants, encouraging analytical reflections of their experiences. In summary, the data collected within the current research program has presented an original contribution to knowledge concerning the nature of psychological resilience in junior sport. The thesis has delivered the first study of its kind, by employing Q-methodology to understand psychological resilience, revealing previously untapped complexities associated with the construct. This approach offers future researchers and practitioners the depth of insight and level of objectivity associated with qualitative and quantitative measures respectively, and recommends this as a viable alternative to psychometric measures of resilience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Edinburgh Napier University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Meta-cognitions ; challenge appraisals ; coping strategies ; personal risk ; protective factors ; sociocultural influences