Stellino, Megan B.

Committee Member

Pulos, Steven M.

Committee Member

Brustad, Robert John, 1952-


Sport and Exercise Science


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





309 pages

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Born digital


Basic psychological needs theory (BNT, Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2007) and the self-handicapping self-regulation cycle (SHSRC, Rhodewalt & Vohs, 2005) together provide a theoretical basis for better elucidating the complicated process of selfhandicapping (SH, Jones & Berglas, 1978), often studied in achievement settings. It could be expected that performers may compensate for unsatisfied basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness by engaging in SH. Furthermore, the SHSRC proposes a model for the complex process of SH, which includes a handful of antecedents such as a fixed entity belief of ability, self-presentational concerns, and threat to self-image, as well as consequences such as making self-serving attributions, impaired performance, and protection of self-esteem. This study included two phases of inquiry of these constructs in collegiate athletes. The first phase employed survey methods to test the explanatory value of basic psychological needs satisfaction and one of the key elements of the SHSRC, fixed entity theory of ability (Dweck, 1999, 2006), on SH. The second phase employed collaborative interview methods to explore in more depth the process and lived experience of SH, as well as to test basic psychological needs satisfaction and components of the SHSRC as relevant antecedents and consequences. In Phase I it was hypothesized that unsatisfied basic psychological needs (Deci & Ryan, 2000) of autonomy, competence, and relatedness as well as a fixed entity belief of ability would explain a performer’s self-reported use of situational SH. Male and female Division I collegiate athletes (N = 433) from ten Southwestern United States universities completed measures of basic psychological needs satisfaction, self-theory of ability, SH claims and behaviors, and demographics. A series of hierarchical regressions were conducted for two dependent variables, SH claims and SH behaviors. Demographic variables (particularly gender), unsatisfied basic psychological needs (particularly competence), and self-theory of ability (particularly beliefs that ability is stable and beliefs that ability is defined by hard work and improvement), together explained 9.4% of the variance in SH claims. Basic psychological needs satisfaction, (particularly competence), explained about 3% of the variance in SH behaviors. Measurement issues that may have contributed to the low effect size of the findings are addressed. Overall, Phase I provides a novel investigation of SH that contributes slight evidence for basic psychological needs satisfaction and self-theory of ability as indicators of SH claims and behaviors. The second phase of this study aimed to: 1) test six theoretical antecedents and six theoretical consequences from BNT and the SHSRC and 2) explore SH from the athlete’s perspective in order to better understand and illustrate the “lived experience” of the SH process, including types of SH mechanisms, antecedents, and consequences. Using a modified version of the Scanlan Collaborative Interview Method (SCIM, Scanlan, Russell, Wilson, & Scanlan, 2003) Division I collegiate athletes (N=9) expressed their use of SH, perceived antecedents, and perceived consequences. Secondly, participants (N=8, one interview was incomplete) verified or rejected six theoretical antecedents and six theoretical consequences. Thematic analysis of the athlete-derived constructs revealed seven themes relating to types of SH generated: Physical, Preparation, Mental, Coaching, Academics, and Environmental. Athlete-derived antecedents were categorized into three themes: Social, Psychological, and Situational. Athlete-derived consequences revealed six themes: Performance, Emotions, Attributions, Social Effects, Confidence, and Self- Handicapping. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the athletes’ responses revealed adequate initial support for utilizing BNT and SHSRC together as a basis for explaining SH in collegiate athletes. In particular, all eight participants verified and confirmed Self- Presentational Concerns as a salient antecedent for SH followed by Unsatisfied Competence. The three theoretical consequences of the SHSRC, Impaired Performance, Self-Serving Attributions, and Protection of Self-Esteem, were all verified and confirmed by all eight participants. Unsatisfied basic psychological needs were more relevant as consequences than as antecedents, with Unsatisfied Competence being the most salient of the three as a consequence. This study contributes the first in-depth, qualitative analysis of SH in the sport context and support for advancement towards a model of SH that combines BNT and the SHSRC as well as additional salient themes provided by the athletes themselves. Altogether, this study provides a novel investigation of SH through mixed methods.

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