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Individual differences in stress reactivity: implications for adolescent athletes’ performance and well-being.

Britton, D., 2018. Individual differences in stress reactivity: implications for adolescent athletes’ performance and well-being. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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BRITTON, Darren_Ph.D._2018.pdf



Individual differences play a significant role in the outcomes experienced by adolescent athletes, in what is a highly stressful period of their development. Stress reactivity is a stable individual difference underlying the broad variability in responses to stress, which has received very little attention within sporting contexts. Therefore, this PhD aims to establish stress reactivity as a critical individual difference influencing the outcomes experienced by adolescent athletes. A systematic review of the literature was firstly conducted in order to assess how individual differences in stress reactivity are measured in adolescents, and the long-term outcomes associated with stress reactivity. Hyper-reactivity was associated with internalising symptoms, negative emotionality, depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal during adolescence and in later life. However, what was lacking in the literature were ecologically valid measures of stress reactivity that capture responses to multiple real-world stressors. This was of importance for the aim of assessing stress reactivity specifically within sporting contexts. Therefore, study one adapted the Perceived Stress Reactivity Scale (Schlotz, Yim, Zoccola, Jansen, & Schulz, 2011) to measure individual differences in perceived stress reactivity in adolescent athletes, testing model fit, internal consistency, criterion validity, and test re-test reliability. 243 adolescent athletes completed the adapted scale, plus measures of the Big 5 personality traits, perceived stress, and life satisfaction. The Perceived Stress Reactivity Scale for Adolescent Athletes (PSRS-AA) produced adequate model fit from a confirmatory factor analysis, and good internal consistency and test re-test reliability for the scale’s aggregate score of total reactivity. Perceived stress reactivity was associated with higher neuroticism and introversion, less openness, greater perceived stress, and lower life satisfaction. In study 2, a path analysis was conducted to investigate the direct and indirect effects of perceived stress reactivity on the stress and coping process. 229 adolescent athletes completed the PSRS-AA and a measure of stress appraisal prior to competition, followed by measures of emotion, coping, and performance satisfaction after competing. Perceived stress reactivity had direct effects on the appraisal of stress intensity, perceived control, and threat prior to competition, and on negative emotions reported post-competition. Indirect effects were also observed on perceived challenge, and disengagement and distraction-orientated coping. However, no effects were observed on subsequent performance satisfaction. Study 3 (a two-part study) tested the validity of the scale further, and its relationships with measures of emotion regulation. Firstly, 216 adolescent athletes completed the PSRS-AA and measures of trait reinvestment and trait emotion regulation. Confirmatory factor analysis again provided adequate model fit, while perceived stress reactivity was associated with trait movement self-consciousness, and partially associated with trait emotional suppression and cognitive re-appraisal. Thirty student athletes and thirty one student non-athletes then completed either the PSRS-AA or the original PSRS and took part in a socially evaluated cold pressor test while their heart rate variability (HRV; a psychophysiological measure of emotion regulation) was recorded. Controlling for gender and athleticism, the PSRS-AA showed no associations with tonic or phasic levels of HRV. However, the perceived stress reactivity did predict levels of perceived stress and pain experienced during the cold pressor test. This thesis makes a number of novel contributions to both theory, methodology, and applied practice. The PSRS-AA provides a valid and reliable measure of adolescent athletes’ individual differences in perceived stress reactivity and is associated with a number of adverse psychological processes and outcomes. The PSRS-AA could be used as a screening tool to identify adolescent athletes with high levels of stress reactivity, and thus those who may be at the greatest risk of the adverse outcomes identified in this thesis. However, further research is required to confirm the scale’s association with physiological processes and measures of stress reactivity. Further research is also required to establish the relationship between stress reactivity and emotion regulation in adolescent athletes. Future research should also look to examine the factors which contribute to the development of stress reactivity before and during adolescence in athletes, given the large number of stressors they experience, in order to understand how such individual differences may lead to talented athletes failing to fulfil their potential.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:sport psychology; stress; youth sport; performance; well-being; personality
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:31444
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:09 Nov 2018 10:31
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:04


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