Loughborough University
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The application of attachment theory in the examination of the coach-athlete relationship

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posted on 2012-07-27, 11:29 authored by Louise Davis
This thesis is written as a collection of four research papers through which the application of attachment theory was examined within the context of the coach-athlete relationship. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the thesis. Chapter 2 reviews specific research literature to establish the research area and to outline the structure of the four studies presented in this thesis. Chapter 3, study 1 is the first of the four empirical research chapters that aimed to explore the utility of attachment theory within the context of the coach-athlete relationship with 309 student athletes . Specifically this study aimed to explore (a) the coach as a potential attachment figure, (b) the associations of athletes attachment styles with such important variables as satisfaction with the relationship and satisfaction with the sport, and (c) the process by which athletes attachment styles and satisfaction with sport are associated. Coaches were viewed as an attachment figure fulfilling all three functions of secure base, safe haven, and proximity maintenance. Athletes avoidant and anxious attachment styles were associated with both relationship satisfaction and sport satisfaction. Further, athletes satisfaction with the coach-athlete relationship was found to be a mechanism that links athletes attachment styles with sport satisfaction. Chapter 4, study 2 expanded study one by examining the dyadic effects of coaches and athletes attachment styles on the perceptions of the quality of the coach-athlete relationship (i.e., closeness, commitment and complementarity) and relationship satisfaction. Coaches and athletes avoidant attachment styles were associated with their own perception of relationship quality and coaches and athletes perception of relationship quality were associated with their own perception of relationship satisfaction. Further, athletes avoidant attachment style were associated with their coaches perceptions of relationship quality and for coaches perceptions of relationship quality on athletes perceptions of relationship satisfaction. The need to develop a sport specific self-report measure of coaches and athletes attachment styles was a key finding of study one and two. Chapter 5, study 3 expanded on study 2 by developing and validating a sport specific self-report measure of athletes and coaches attachment styles, namely the Coach-Athlete Attachment Scale (CAAS). Instruments that measure attachment styles within other contexts were identified and items relevant to the three attachment styles of secure, avoidance, anxiousness were highlighted and slightly modified to represent attachment towards a coach or athlete. The content validity of the selected items was reviewed by an expert panel. Statistical support for the criterion and construct validity of the coach and athlete version of the CAAS was demonstrated using a sample of 405 coaches and 298 athletes. Evidence was also found for the internal consistency/reliability of the CAAS. Chapter 6, Study 4, aimed to examine whether aspects of relationship quality (i.e., support, depth and conflict) can explain the links between athletes attachment styles and well-being (i.e., positive and negative affect) while employing and cross-validating the psychometric properties of the newly developed Coach-Athlete Attachment Scale (CASS). The findings provided evidence that interpersonal conflict is a potential mechanism that transfers the effects of athletes attachment styles on positive and negative affect respectively. Interpersonal conflict emerged as a process that transfers the effects of athletes attachment styles onto athletes feelings of happiness or unhappiness. Chapter 7 discusses the general findings arising from the research chapters, presents the central theoretical and applied implications, identifies the limitations of the research programme, and provides suggestions for future research.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Louise Davis

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en