Does social identity predict cognitions, intentions, and behaviours in youth athletes?


Identity derived from group membership is termed social identity (SI; Tajfel & Turner, 1979), and is often conceptualized as involving three components: in-group ties (feelings of closeness and belonging), cognitive centrality (importance of membership), and in-group affect (feelings associated with membership; Cameron, 2004). Preliminary research in youth sport has demonstrated that the degree to which adolescents identify with their teams can influence both cognitions (e.g., perceptions of cohesion) and behaviours (e.g., pro- and anti-social behaviour; Bruner et al., 2014). In the current study, we sought to extend this literature by determining its predictability for cognitions (e.g., self-worth), intentions (e.g., commitment), and behaviours (e.g., effort) in youth athletes. In total, 303 athletes (Mage = 14.89, SD ­= 1.77; 133 females) from 26 interdependent sport teams (e.g., football, rugby, basketball, baseball, volleyball) completed questionnaires at two time points (T1 – social identity; T2 – self-worth, commitment, effort) during their athletic season. Multilevel analyses indicated that at level one (i.e., individual level), in-group ties predicted perceived effort (b = 0.14, p = .01) and commitment (b = 0.14, p < .001), whereas in-group affect predicted commitment (b = 0.25, p = .001) and self-worth (b = 0.96, p = .04). At level two (i.e., team level), team means for in-group ties predicted commitment (b = 0.32, p < .001) and self-worth (b = 2.40, p = .03). Social identity accounted for an overall variance of 3% for self-worth, 4% for effort, and 15% for commitment. Results indicate the influential role that identifying with a team can have on individual cognitions, intentions, and behaviours.

Acknowledgments: Funding from the Alberta Centre for Child, Family, and Community Research