Cognitive and affective motivation profiles of student-athletes compared to student non-athletes in university

Patti C. Parker*, Raymond P. Perry, Jeremy M. Hamm, Judy G. Chipperfield, Johnson Li, Launa Leboe-McGowan, Pete Coffee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Attribution theory posits that individuals’ explanations for their achievement outcomes trigger cognitive and affective processes that drive motivated behaviour (Weiner, 2018).

Objective: This study examines the relational structure of these processes for individuals who experience simultaneous demands arising from disparate achievement settings (sport and academic) and how they are associated with performance. Study groups: Postsecondary student athletes (n = 207) participating in sport competitively (participating 5x or greater per week) and
students not involved in sport (n = 534) were examined.

Methods: Using latent profile analyses, our study identifies attribution-based motivation profiles for student-athletes and students not involved in sport in a two-semester, online introductory university course.

Results: Student athletes’ cognitions and emotions yielded three motivation profiles: high control-positive emotion (56%), moderate control-emotion (29%), and low control-negative emotion (15%). In contrast, LPA for student non-athletes yielded four profiles: high control-positive emotion (27%), high control-mixed attribution (25%), moderate control-emotion (30%), and low control negative emotion (18%). Of these profiles, theoretically predicted adaptive and maladaptive profiles were associated with better and worse performance, respectively.

Conclusions: Relative to student non-athletes, student-athletes exhibited more homogenous motivation profiles and were at greater risk of achievement setbacks. The implications of the findings are discussed in light of the demands placed on student-athletes entering postsecondary settings and potential approaches are offered to assist those with at-risk motivation profiles.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Athletics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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