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Peter Brodkin and Maureen R. Weiss

This study examined developmental differences in motives for participating in competitive swimming across the lifespan. Six age groupings were chosen based on underlying cognitive criteria identified in the literature: younger and older children, high school/college age, and young, middle, and older adults. Swimmers from YMCAs (N= 100) completed the Participation Motivation Questionnaire modified by D. Gould, Feltz, and Weiss (1985). An exploratory factor analysis identified seven factors: characteristics of competitive swimming, health/fitness, social status, affiliation, energy release, significant others, and fan. A MANOVA on the factor scores revealed a significant age group main effect. Follow-up analyses indicated that characteristics of competitive swimming was rated significantly lower by the older adults while social status was rated significantly higher by older children and high school/college-age swimmers. Significant others was rated significantly higher by children, and fen was rated most important by younger children and older adults. Finally, health/fitness motives were rated highest by young and middle adults and lowest by older children and older adults. Implications of the findings for a cognitive-developmental approach to participation motivation are discussed.