A predictive model of coach-athlete attachment and emotion regulation on student-athlete aggression, alcohol use, and psychological distress

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Stephen P. Hebard (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Todd Lewis

Abstract: Described as an “at-risk” population, student-athletes are predisposed to mental health distress due to the various demands associated with their athletic status (Pinkerton, Hinz, & Barrow, 1987; Ferrante & Etzel, 2009). The National Athletic Training Association, (Neal et al., 2013) in their plan for referral of student-athletes to psychological services, reported that the stressors associated with balancing academic and athletic responsibilities might trigger or exacerbate psychological concerns. In fact, researchers have reported that 10-15% of student-athletes experience psychological distress that warrants counseling services (Hinkle, 1994), an estimation that has been described as “conservative” (Watson, 2005). Although an area of clinical practice entitled, “sports counseling,” exists in theory, counselors have little clarity about the unique and specific mental health needs of athletes and how they may provide optimal services to this population. Emotion regulation, a construct primarily discussed in sport as a key factor in optimal performance (e.g. Uphill, McCarthy, & Jones, 2009), has yet to be discussed as a significant influence on factors of student-athlete mental health, including the reported high prevalence of alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences (e.g. Nelson & Wechsler, 2001; Rexroat, 2014), aggression (e.g. Boeringer, 1999; Crossett, Benedict, and McDonald, 1995), and psychological distress (e.g. Storch, Storch, Killiany, & Roberti, 2005) among student-athletes. Attachment theorists have determined that one’s conscious and unconscious ability to regulate emotions from infancy to adulthood is heavily influenced by one’s experiences in close relationships (Diamond & Aspinwall, 2003; Cassidy, 1994; Sroufe & Waters, 1977). According to Davis & Jowett (2014; 2013), the coach-athlete relationship is indicative of an attachment bond; however, researchers have yet to determine the influence of the coach-athlete attachment relationship on an athlete’s ability to regulate emotions. The purpose of this study was to: (a) validate and confirm the factor structure of Davis and Jowett’s (2013) Coach-Athlete Attachment Scale (CAAS); (b) test the overall fit of a hypothesized model of student-athlete emotion regulation, and (c) determine the degree to which student-athlete emotion regulation mediates coach-athlete attachment and aggression, alcohol use, and psychological distress. The hypothesized model of student-athlete emotion regulation was founded upon an understanding of Attachment Theory as the developmental pathway to adaptive adult emotion regulation. It was posited that emotion regulation would mediate the relationship between coach-athlete attachment and prevalent, negative factors of mental health distress among student-athlete populations. Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Path Analysis were utilized to confirm the factor structure of the CAAS and test a hypothesized model with a sample of 189 NCAA Division I student-athletes. With a limited sample size, the model provided a marginal fit for the data. Further research involving the CAAS is necessary to establish validity of the avoidance scale specifically. A revised model improved model fit, although the resulting model still only provided a marginal fit for the data. Still, difficulties in emotion regulation fully mediated the relationship between coach-athlete attachment anxiety and aggression and partially mediated coach-athlete attachment anxiety and alcohol use consequences as well as coach-athlete attachment anxiety and psychological distress. Implications for counselors, counselor educators, and future research were discussed after data analysis was completed. The findings of the study provide initial evidence that the coach-athlete relationship and subsequent experiences of emotion regulation may have a direct influence on individual psychological distress. Further, athletics programs should consider utilizing individual counseling that targets difficulties in emotion regulation as a way to support student-athletes struggling with aggression, alcohol use, or psychological distress.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Athletics, Attachment, College Athletes, Emotion Regulation, Mental Health, Sport Counseling
Coach-athlete relationships
College sports $x Psychological aspects
Coaching (Athletics) $x Psychological aspects
College athletes $x Counseling of
College athletes $x Mental health
College athletes $x Alcohol use
Emotions $x Psychological aspects
Attachment behavior

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