“That’s What Friends Are For”: Children’s and Teenagers’ Perceptions of Peer Relationships in the Sport Domain

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Oregon
  • 2 University of Brussels, Belgium
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The influence of peer groups on children’s psychosocial development is highlighted in the sport psychology literature in areas such as motivation, self-perceptions, and affect. However, scant research has been devoted to examining children’s and teenagers’ conceptions of friendships within the physical domain. Current and former sport program participants (N = 38) took part in an in-depth interview that concerned their best friend in sports. An inductive content analysis revealed the existence of 12 positive friendship dimensions: companionship, pleasant play/association, self-esteem enhancement, help and guidance, prosocial behavior, intimacy, loyalty, things in common, attractive personal qualities, emotional support, absence of conflicts, and conflict resolution. Four negative friendship dimensions were extracted: conflict, unattractive personal qualities, betrayal, and inaccessible. These conceptions of friendship were both similar and unique to friendship conceptions found in mainstream developmental research. Future research directions include measurement efforts, relationships among important constructs, and intervention techniques in the sport setting.

Maureen R. Weiss and Alan L. Smith are with the Department of Exercise and Movement Science at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1240. Marc Theboom is with the Faculty of Human Movement and Sport Sciences at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium.

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