Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Social Support and Career Thoughts in College Athletes and Non-Athletes

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Social Support and Career Thoughts in College Athletes and Non-Athletes

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Social support and career thoughts were examined in 118 college student-athletes and 154 non-athletes from a large public university in the southeastern United States. Social support was found to have a significant relationship with career thoughts. In addition, several significant differences were found between the study's subpopulations.

Career planning is a process in a college student's life that can cause a considerable amount of stress, and social support can have a positive effect on this stress. In the sport psychology research, social support has been found to be an important factor in reducing the effects of stress in athletes' lives (Bianco & Eklund, 2001; Taylor & Ogilvie, 2001). Athletes not only experience stress related to academics and athletics, but also related to what they will do after college. Some are talented enough to play professionally, but many must face the reality of having a career outside of the realm of sports. As a result, career planning is an important process for college athletes because it prepares them for life after sport. Social support can be an important factor during his process by alleviating the stress associated with career planning.

In research examining the general college student population, career thoughts have been found to have an important effect on the career planning process (Peterson, Sampson, & Reardon, 1991; Peterson, Sampson, Reardon, & Lenz, 1996; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996b; Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2009). If career thoughts are negative, the individual is unable to clearly evaluate self and occupational knowledge that is necessary to make a career decision. Decreasing negative thoughts is the first and most important step in the career decision-making process. In conclusion, it is important for those who are influential in college students' lives to know what types of social support have the strongest relationship with the thoughts related to a career after college.

Social Support

Social support refers to the "social interaction aimed at inducing positive outcomes" (Bianco & Eklund, 2001, p.85). The terms "provider" and "recipient" are often used when discussing social support. A provider is an individual who gives the social support, and a recipient is an individual who receives the social support. A theory that targets social support and recipient satisfaction is the person-environment fit theory (Brown, 2002). This theory posits that the interaction between the person and environment is both active and reactive. The person-environment fit model of satisfaction is a part of person-environment theory. It defines satisfaction as "a pleasant affective state that is produced by the degree of fit between a person's needs, personality characteristics, abilities, and the commensurate supplies provided by, and abilities requirements of, the environment" (Brown, Brady, Lent, Wolfert, & Hall, 1987, p. 338). Conversely, dissatisfaction is defined as "an unpleasant affective state resulting from a misfit between relevant person and environment characteristics" (Brownetal., 1987, p. 338).

In many cases, person-environment fit is considered subjective because it focuses on the perceptions of the person. Within the context of subjective person-environment fit, satisfaction with social support is defined as, "a positive affective state resulting from one's appraisal or his or her social environment in terms of its success in meeting his or her interpersonal needs" (Brown et al., 1987, p. 338). Conversely, dissatisfaction with social support is defined as, "an unpleasant affective state resulting from a perception that the interpersonal environment is failing to satisfy important interpersonal needs" (Brown et al., 1987, p. 338).

Using person-environment fit as a theoretical basis, Brown, Alpert, Lent, Hunt, and Brady (1988) defined five broad factors of social support: (a) acceptance and belonging, (b) appraisal and coping assistance, (c) behavioral and cognitive guidance, (d) tangible assistance and material aid, and (e) modeling. …

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