Term of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport Psychology

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

A. Barry Joyner

Committee Member 1

Kevin L. Burke

Committee Member 2

Drew Zwald


Fear of failure is becoming a topic of concern among athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists. The Performance Failure Appraisal Inventory (PFAI), measuring five factors (fear of shame and embarrassment (FSE), fear of devaluing one's self estimate (FDSE), fear ofuncertain future (FUF), fear of important others losing interest (FIOLI), and fear of upsetting important others (FUIO), and a general fear of failure score (Conroy, Poczwardowski, and Henschen, 2001) has been recently developed to measure this fear. McClelland (1953) identified that fear of failure develops between the ages of five and nine years. Fear of failure has also been associated with high attention seeking behaviors (Singh, 1991), burnout in athletes (Rainey, 1995a, 1995b; Taylor, Daniel, Leith, & Burke, 1990), and high dropout from sport (Orlick, 1972). The purpose of this study was to identify whether fear of failure is a concern for children and adolescents (ages 9 to 18 years) in the highly competitive sport of competitive swimming. The second purpose was to identify which factors of competitive swimming affect the five fear of failure factors for the youth who participate. Participants (N = 138) included boys (N = 41) and girls (N = 97) competitive swimmers from USA Swimming teams (N = 9) from across the United States. The PFAI was used to measure the five fear of failure factors and a general fear of failure score, a demographics questionnaire was used to identify information concerning the participants, and a supplemental questionnaire was used to identify which aspects of competitive swimming caused the most anxiety and fear for the participants. The mean general fear of failure score was low (x = -.569 ± .675) compared to college-aged norms as were the rest ofthe five factors: FSE (x = -.393 ± 1.01), FDSE (x = -.708 ± .964), FUF (x = -.580 ± .966), FIOLI (x = -.629 ± .750), and FUIO (x = -.532 ± .632). Two way ANOVA's (sex x age) were conducted for all six PFAI factors. The general fear of failure ANOVA indicated no interaction or main effect for sex, but a main effect for age, indicating 14 year olds had a higher general fear of failure score than participants 10 years of age and younger, 11 year olds, 12 year olds, and 13 year olds, and 16 year olds had a higher score than 10 year olds. The ANOVA for FDSE indicated a significant interaction for all age groups, except 11 year olds, indicating boys had a significantly lower FDSE score than girls. For 11 year olds, girls were significantly higher than boys. The ANOVA for FIOLI indicated no interaction or sex main effect, but a main effect for age, indicating 14 year olds had a significantly higher score than both 10 year olds and 13 year olds. The ANOVA for FUIO indicated a significant interaction for all age groups; boys had a significantly lower score than girls for the 10 and younger age group, 15 year olds andl6 year olds. Girls had significantly lower scores for 11, 12, 13, and 17 years and older age groups. Independent T-tests indicated those participants in the second year of an age group had a significantly higher FIOLI score than those in the first year of an age group. Results from the supplemental questionnaire revealed expected results with swim meets, losing, and performing worse than previous times as causes of fear and anxiety and parents, winning, and improving on performances created positive affect. Results revealed generally low scores for age group swimmers compared to college aged participants, except for the 14- year-old age group for the general fear, FDSE, FIOLI, and FUIO factors.


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