What actually happens during the car ride home? Video analysis of verbal and nonverbal sport-related communication between parents and children


Parent behaviours have important implications for the sport experiences of young athletes, and researchers have begun to examine parental communication with youth athletes. However, there is a lack of information about the range of behaviours in parent-child interactions, much of the existing research has focused primarily on parental verbal comments. Thus, there is a need to better understand the quality, quantity, and types of sport-related communication between parents and athletes that occurs before and after sport events. The purpose of this study was to examine the nature of parent-child communication during the car ride to and from sport practices and games. Video recordings (N = 98 videos) of interactions during the car ride to and from sporting events were collected from 28 parent-child dyads (30 hours of video in total). Sport-related conversations were analyzed to identify verbal and nonverbal behaviours and patterns of responses between parents and athletes. The amount of time spent talking about sport-related topics was minimal (12.9%) compared to non-sport-related conversations (28.5%) or periods of silence (59.0%). Parents provided more performance praise than athletes did themselves, and parental praise and criticism typically consisted of general or task-oriented comments. Parents asked closed/descriptive questions most frequently, while open/reflective questions were asked least often. In several instances parents interjected before athletes could respond to parental comments. The patterns of interactions and responses identified in this study provide a starting point for further research to understand parent-athlete communication patterns and their contribution to the sport experiences of young athletes.

Acknowledgments: This study was supported by an Early Researcher Award from the Province of Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and funding from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund/Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI).