Adolescent Performers’ Perspectives on Mental Toughness and Its Development: The Utility of the Bioecological Model

in The Sport Psychologist

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John W. MahoneyThe University of Queensland

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Daniel F. GucciardiCurtin University

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Clifford J. MallettThe University of Queensland

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Nikos NtoumanisCurtin University

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In light of the extant literature, the aim of the current study was to compare adolescents’ perspectives on mental toughness and its development across performance contexts, and to explore if such perspectives align with Bronfenbrenner’s (2001) bioecological model. Eighteen mentally tough adolescents (9 boys, 9 girls, Mage = 15.6 years) from three performance contexts (i.e., sport, academia, and music) participated in focus groups, 7 of whom also participated in follow-up one-to-one interviews. Inductive analyses revealed that mental toughness was conceptualized by 9 personal characteristics, and that while similar across performance contexts, some difference between previous mental toughness conceptualization and the current study existed. Analyses also revealed that mental toughness development was predicated on significant others, supportive social processes, critical incidents, and curiosity. These findings resonated with the properties of the bioecological model. Future research into how bioecological factors combine to facilitate mental toughness development during critical stages of life was suggested.

Mahoney and Mallett are with the School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Gucciardi are with the School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia. Ntoumanis is with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

Address author correspondence to John Mahoney at j.mahoney@psy.uq.edu.au.
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