Enjoyment of Evaluative Physical Activity among Young Participants: The Role of Self-Handicapping and Intrinsic Motivation

By Ryska, Todd A. | Child Study Journal, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Enjoyment of Evaluative Physical Activity among Young Participants: The Role of Self-Handicapping and Intrinsic Motivation


Ryska, Todd A., Child Study Journal


Research suggests that the employment of a self-handicapping strategy may change the manner in which an individual experiences a socially comparative activity by reducing one's outcome concerns. Although initial sport studies have addressed the topic of self-handicapping, the motivational consequences of this self-protective strategy have not been investigated within physical activity settings. This study examined the role of situational self-handicapping and intrinsic motivation on the perceived enjoyment of a running activity among physical education students. Results indicated a significant self-handicapping x intrinsic motivation interaction. Self-handicapping predicted greater activity enjoyment among those participants who reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation (i.e., interest/enjoyment and perceived choice), regardless of their perceived success in the activity. This relationship was largely absent among those participants lower in intrinsic motivation. These results provide preliminary evidence that the motivational consequences experienced as a result of self-handicapping are moderated by one's intrinsic interest in a physical activity.

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An estimated 48.7 million American children under 18 years of age participate in competitive youth sport and physical activity programs each year (Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 2001). Given the potential psychosocial and developmental benefits children may derive from participating in these activities, it is understandable that pediatric sport researchers have expressed increasing concern regarding the significant attrition rate observed in organized physical activity among children and adolescents (Gould & Medbery, 2000). An estimated 35% of young participants drop out of organized physical activity programs each year, with the majority citing a "lack of fun and enjoyment" as the main contributing factor (Ewing, Seefeldt, & Brown, 1996). From a social policy standpoint regarding child development, proper physical activity, and its psychological concomitants, is an influential means to help children and adolescents adopt and maintain more healthy lifestyles.

Enjoyment in Physical Activity

The role of intrinsic motivation. In order to explain these participation trends, researchers have attempted to identify the various psychological attachments to sport and physical activity evidenced among young people. Of the myriad psychological factors that influence sport and physical activity behavior, enjoyment of the activity constitutes one of the strongest contributors to both initial and continued participation (Scanlan, Stein, & Ravizza, 1989; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989). In turn, physical education research has shown that motivational orientations impact different affective responses among students, such as satisfaction and enjoyment (Treasure, 1997; Treasure and Roberts, 2001).

Although physical activity enjoyment and intrinsic motivation have been typically viewed as synonymous, sport motivation research clearly distinguishes the two constructs (Scanlan & Lewthwaite, 1986; Scanlan & Simons, 1992). Scanlan and Simons (1992) define the enjoyment of physical activity and sport as "a positive affective response to the sport experience that reflects generalized feelings such as pleasure, liking, and fun" (pp. 202-203). These authors further consider sport enjoyment a more inclusive construct than intrinsic motivation, being derived from both extrinsic sources (e.g., affiliation, social recognition, comparative achievement) and intrinsic sources (e.g., personal goal attainment, kinesthetic experience, autonomous achievement). Notwithstanding this conceptual distinction, intrinsic motivation has been linked to the enjoyment response in sport and physical activity (Brustad, 1988; Deci & Ryan, 1985, Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Conceptualized as an individual's general interest to experience physical activity as an end in itself, high levels of intrinsic motivation not only contribute to greater enjoyment, but other perceptual qualities of physical activity such as perceived competence (Kimiecik, Allison, & Duda, 1986; Roberts & Duda, 1984), self-esteem (Gruber, 1986; Sonstroem, 1984), self-efficacy (Weiss, Weise, & Klint, 1989), and positive mood states (Newcombe & Boyle, 1995).

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