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Alison Smith, Nikos Ntoumanis and Joan Duda

Grounded in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and the self-concordance model (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999), this study examined the motivational processes underlying goal striving in sport as well as the role of perceived coach autonomy support in the goal process. Structural equation modeling with a sample of 210 British athletes showed that autonomous goal motives positively predicted effort, which, in turn, predicted goal attainment. Goal attainment was positively linked to need satisfaction, which, in turn, predicted psychological well-being. Effort and need satisfaction were found to mediate the associations between autonomous motives and goal attainment and between attainment and well-being, respectively. Controlled motives negatively predicted well-being, and coach autonomy support positively predicted both autonomous motives and need satisfaction. Associations of autonomous motives with effort were not reducible to goal difficulty, goal specificity, or goal efficacy. These findings support the self-concordance model as a framework for further research on goal setting in sport.

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Lauren K. Banting, James A. Dimmock and J. Robert Grove

This study examined the effect of motivational primes on participants (N = 171) during a cycling task. Relative to participants primed with a controlled motivational orientation, it was hypothesized that participants primed for autonomous motivation would report greater feelings of enjoyment, effort, and choice in relation to the cycling activity and report greater exercise intentions. Members of the autonomous prime group were expected to exercise for longer, at a greater percentage of their heart rate maximum, and report lower levels of perceived exertion than those in the controlled prime condition. It was found that, relative to participants in the controlled prime group, those who received the autonomous prime enjoyed the exercise more, exercised at a greater percentage of heart rate maximum, and reported a lower rating of perceived exertion. Furthermore, participants experiencing the controlled prime exercised for less time and had lower intentions to exercise than did other participants. Results highlight the importance of automatic processes in activating motivation for exercise.

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Ashley A. Fenner, Erin K. Howie, Leon M. Straker and Martin S. Hagger

The current study explored whether a multidisciplinary family-based intervention underpinned by self-determination theory could enhance perceptions of parent need support, autonomous motivation, and quality of life in overweight and obese adolescents. Using a staggered-entry waitlist-period control design, adolescents (n = 56) were assessed at baseline and preintervention (within-participant control), immediately following intervention, and at 3, 6, and 12 month follow-ups. Parents were trained in need-supportive behaviors within the broader context of an 8-week multidisciplinary intervention attended jointly with adolescents. Following intervention, significant improvements were demonstrated in adolescent perceptions of parent need support, autonomous motivation, and quality of life, and changes were maintained at the 1-year follow-up. Mediation analyses revealed changes in perceptions of parent need support predicted changes in quality of life indirectly via changes in autonomous motivation. Findings suggest overweight and obese adolescents are likely to benefit from multidisciplinary family-based interventions that aim to train parents in need-supportive behaviors.

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Daniel J. Madigan, Joachim Stoeber and Louis Passfield

Perfectionism in sports has been shown to predict longitudinal changes in athlete burnout. What mediates these changes over time, however, is still unclear. Adopting a self-determination theory perspective and using a three-wave longitudinal design, the current study examined perfectionistic strivings, perfectionistic concerns, autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and athlete burnout in 141 junior athletes (mean age = 17.3 years) over 6 months of active training. When multilevel structural equation modeling was employed to test a mediational model, a differential pattern of between- and within-person relationships emerged. Whereas autonomous motivation mediated the negative relationship that perfectionistic strivings had with burnout at the between- and within-person level, controlled motivation mediated the positive relationship that perfectionistic concerns had with burnout at the between-persons level only. The present findings suggest that differences in autonomous and controlled motivation explain why perfectionism predicts changes in athlete burnout over time.

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Nathalie Aelterman, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Hilde Van Keer, Lynn Van den Berghe, Jotie De Meyer and Leen Haerens

Despite evidence for the utility of self-determination theory in physical education, few studies used objective indicators of physical activity and mapped out between-class, relative to between-student, differences in physical activity. This study investigated whether moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and rated collective engagement in physical education were associated with autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and amotivation at the between-class and between-student levels. Participants were 739 pupils (46.3% boys, M age = 14.36 ± 1.94) from 46 secondary school classes in Flanders (Belgium). Multilevel analyses indicated that 37% and 63% of the variance in MVPA was explained by between-student and between-class differences, respectively. Students’ personal autonomous motivation related positively to MVPA. Average autonomous class motivation was positively related to between-class variation in MVPA and collective engagement. Average controlled class motivation and average class amotivation were negatively associated with collective engagement. The findings are discussed in light of self-determination theory’s emphasis on quality of motivation.

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Laura C. Healy, Nikos Ntoumanis, Jet J.C.S. Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Nicola Paine

This investigation sought to clarify mixed results in the literature exploring coach behaviors, basic psychological needs, goal motivation, and well- and ill-being. Regional-level team sport athletes (N = 241) completed questionnaires on the aforementioned variables at the beginning of the season. A subsample (n = 70) provided saliva samples to assess physical ill-being. At the end of the season, athletes (n = 98) reported their goal motivation and attainment. Structural equation modeling demonstrated that coach behaviors were related to needs satisfaction and thwarting, which were related to autonomous and controlled goal motives respectively. Autonomous motives were related to well- and ill-being; controlled motives were only related to ill-being. Over time, only end-of-season autonomous goal motives were related to goal attainment. The findings provide an insight into how coaches can facilitate optimum goal striving and well-being in their athletes.

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Martyn Standage, Fiona B. Gillison, Nikos Ntoumanis and Darren C. Treasure

A three-wave prospective design was used to assess a model of motivation guided by self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2008) spanning the contexts of school physical education (PE) and exercise. The outcome variables examined were health-related quality of life (HRQoL), physical self-concept (PSC), and 4 days of objectively assessed estimates of activity. Secondary school students (n = 494) completed questionnaires at three separate time points and were familiarized with how to use a sealed pedometer. Results of structural equation modeling supported a model in which perceptions of autonomy support from a PE teacher positively predicted PE-related need satisfaction (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). Competence predicted PSC, whereas relatedness predicted HRQoL. Autonomy and competence positively predicted autonomous motivation toward PE, which in turn positively predicted autonomous motivation toward exercise (i.e., 4-day pedometer step count). Autonomous motivation toward exercise positively predicted step count, HRQoL, and PSC. Results of multisample structural equation modeling supported gender invariance. Suggestions for future work are discussed.

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Ken Hodge, Elaine A. Hargreaves, David Gerrard and Chris Lonsdale

We examined whether constructs outlined in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002), namely, autonomy-supportive and controlling motivational climates and autonomous and controlled motivation, were related to attitudes toward performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sport and drug-taking susceptibility. We also investigated moral disengagement as a potential mediator. We surveyed a sample of 224 competitive athletes (59% female; M age = 20.3 years; M = 10.2 years of experience participating in their sport), including 81 elite athletes. Using structural equation modeling analyses, our hypothesis proposing positive relationships with controlling climates, controlled motivation, and PEDs attitudes and susceptibility was largely supported, whereas our hypothesis proposing negative relationships among autonomous climate, autonomous motivation, and PEDs attitudes and susceptibility was not supported. Moral disengagement was a strong predictor of positive attitudes toward PEDs, which, in turn, was a strong predictor of PEDs susceptibility. These findings are discussed from both motivational and moral disengagement viewpoints.

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An De Meester, Greet Cardon, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij and Leen Haerens


The goals were to investigate whether extracurricular school-based sports reach students not engaging in community sports and whether extracurricular school-based sports participants are more physically active and/or autonomously motivated toward sports than nonparticipants.


1526 students (48.0% boys; 85.9% Belgian natives; age = 15.34 ± 1.83y) completed validated questionnaires to assess sports participation, physical activity (PA) and sports-motivation. Multilevel regression analyses were conducted.


Only 28.7% of all students (n = 438), and 19.7% of students not engaging in community sports (n = 123), participated in extracurricular school-based sports. Participants were significantly more physically active [β=44.19, S.E.=17.34, χ2(1)=6.50, p = .01] and autonomously motivated [β=.18, S.E.=.04, χ2(1)=25.62, p < .001] than nonparticipants, even after controlling for community sports participation. Boys were more physically active and autonomously motivated than girls (p < .001).


As participation is linked to higher PA-levels and autonomous motivation, increasing overall participation rates may contribute to children developing a more physically active lifestyle and achieving the PA guidelines.

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Alison L. Smith, Nikos Ntoumanis, Joan L. Duda and Maarten Vansteenkiste

Developing upon cross-sectional research (Smith, Ntoumanis, & Duda, 2007) supporting the self-concordance model (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999) as a framework for contextual goal striving, the current study investigated the assumptions of the model in relation to season-long goal striving in sport. The study additionally examined the role of coping strategies in the persistence of goal-directed effort. Structural equation modeling analysis with a sample of 97 British athletes indicated that start-of-season autonomous goal motives were linked to midseason effort, which subsequently predicted end-of-season goal attainment. Attainment was positively related to changes in psychological need satisfaction, which, in turn, predicted changes in emotional well-being. In a second model, autonomous and controlled motives positively predicted task- and disengagement-oriented coping strategies, respectively. In turn, these strategies were differentially associated with effort. The findings provide support for contextual adaptations of the self-concordance model and demonstrate the role of coping strategies in the goal striving process.