The influence of gender on the relationship between the basic psychological needs and mental health in high school student-athletes


Sport participation and the fulfillment of basic psychological needs (BPN) can positively influence one's mental health. Little is known about how gender influences the relationship between BPN and mental health within sport contexts during adolescence, a critical developmental period. This study investigated the moderating role of gender on the relationship between the frustration and satisfaction of the three BPN (i.e., competence, autonomy, and relatedness) using the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale (BPNSFS), and mental health using the Mental Health Continuum – Short Form (MHC-SF). Participants included 925 (54% female) Canadian high school student-athletes in grade 11/secondaire 5 (n= 427; 46%) and grade 12 (n= 368; 54%). Satisfaction of the three BPN was found to increase positive mental health, but these relationships did not differ by gender. Frustration of the three BPN was found to decrease mental health; the relationships between autonomy and relatedness thwarting and mental health were moderated by gender, with a stronger relationship observed for female student-athletes. A similar trend was observed for competence, but the moderation effect was slightly above the established level of significance (p= 0.056). Results endorse the importance of training coaches to facilitate the satisfaction and forestall the frustration of their athletes' BPN to positively impact their mental health. Further, the findings suggest special attention should be paid to the notion that while the BPN are deemed universal, how they are experienced across different demographics (i.e., gender) may be different.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this study was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).