The Importance of Social Support in Achievement contexts.
Gwynne, Francesca Louise
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Previous research has implicated social support in a wide range of contexts, yet despite the extensive quantity of research, we are yet to fully understand the underlying mechanisms. Research into these mechanisms will not only have theoretical implications but also applied implications. This thesis examined the mechanisms underpinning social support in an achievement context. It is presented as series of three interrelated chapters, which comprise the four studies conducted. These are preceded by an introduction, and succeeded by a general discussion. The studies focused upon social support: the first examining the effects of a social support intervention within a performance context, the remaining three studies investigating perceived support and performance-related outcome variables within the coach-athlete relationship. The first study examined social support in a performance context assessing the influences of support upon the stress response. A neurocognitive approach found that when compared to participants in a non-support group, individuals who were given support showed less brain activations in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region associated with the initial stress response. However, results displayed that participants did not perceive support in the same way; not all participants who were given the support manipulation reported being supported. Studies two and three used multivariate generalisability theory to examine the relationship between perceived support and various outcome variables at the perceiver, target and relational levels of analysis. A univariate analysis revealed that the relational component was the most influential followed by the perceiver. Social support was positively associated with self-confidence, self-efficacy and positive emotions at the relational level of analysis. The fourth study used qualitative methods in order to delve further into how athletes judge the supportiveness of their coaches and the antecedents of perceived support. The study found that the relationship between a coach and an athlete was the biggest contributing factor in perceived support judgements. This judgement relied heavily on the previous experiences that the athlete had shared with the coach. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that to understand the mechanisms underlying how social support effects various outcome variables, studies need to be conducted investigating how individuals develop their perceptions of support. This thesis has demonstrated that individuals perceived support in different ways. The final three studies showed that the supportiveness of one coach may be viewed differently by different athletes. Thus, coaches will not be viewed as supportive by every athlete that they work with. Consequently, interventions aimed at increasing levels of perceived support may not be successful unless the coach and athlete are optimally matched to create a highly supportive relationship. Theoretical and applied implications, in addition to future research are discussed throughout this thesis.
PhD in Sport and Health Sciences