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John W. Mahoney, Daniel F. Gucciardi, Clifford J. Mallett, and Nikos Ntoumanis

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.

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John W. Mahoney, Daniel F. Gucciardi, Nikos Ntoumanis, and Cliff J. Mallet

We argue that basic psychological needs theory (BPNT) offers impetus to the value of mental toughness as a mechanism for optimizing human functioning. We hypothesized that psychological needs satisfaction (thwarting) would be associated with higher (lower) levels of mental toughness, positive affect, and performance and lower (higher) levels of negative affect. We also expected that mental toughness would be associated with higher levels of positive affect and performance and lower levels of negative affect. Further, we predicted that coaching environments would be related to mental toughness indirectly through psychological needs and that psychological needs would indirectly relate with performance and affect through mental toughness. Adolescent cross-country runners (136 male and 85 female, M age = 14.36) completed questionnaires pertaining to BPNT variables, mental toughness, and affect. Race times were also collected. Our findings supported our hypotheses. We concluded that BPNT is generative in understanding some of the antecedents and consequences of mental toughness and is a novel framework useful for understanding mental toughness.