Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Dr. David Day

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Self-determination theory states that people need autonomy, competence, and relatedness in an area to facilitate intrinsic motivation and growth. Parents play a major role in the development of these three psychological needs. The current study examines whether there is a relationship between parental behavior and whether this relationship is mediated by autonomy, competence and relatedness in their sport. Undergraduate participants (n=189) were recruited from varsity athletic teams and asked to complete surveys about perceived parental control and the three psychological needs. Results showed the parental behavior can predict satisfaction of psychological needs, but only one partial mediation was found, between perceived parental autonomy support and leadership role occupancy through competence. A subset (n=8) participated in semi-structured interviews delved deeper into parental influence. Common responses showed that athletes felt that they benefitted from autonomy support, were hurt by psychological control, and that satisfaction of the needs of relatedness and competence contributed to deciding to play and keep playing their sport in college. The results provide examples of positive parental behaviors, and show that these behaviors can predict the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs needed for intrinsic motivation.

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