Cohesion as a mediator in the social acceptance to commitment and enjoyment relationships in children's sport


As a fundamental component of all groups, cohesion has recently been identified as a crucial element in a variety of relationships within youth (i.e., 13-17 years) and child (i.e., 9-12 years) sport (e.g., Eys et al., 2009; Martin et al., 2013). Although research has demonstrated that children and youth are able to identify and discus the cohesiveness of their sport groups (e.g., Eys, et al., 2009; Martin et al., 2011), the associated benefits derived from that unity should depend on their perceptions of acceptance within that group. Theorists have suggested that humans have an innate desire to ‘belong’ to groups (Baumeister & Leary, 1995), proposing that social motivation is essential for experiencing the benefits associated with cohesive relationships. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to determine whether perceptions of cohesion mediated the relationship between social acceptance and individual commitment and enjoyment in children’s sport. A prospective observational design was employed, where 209 (Mage = 9.87 years; SD = 1.34) recreational child sport participants completed questionnaires at three time (T) points (T1 – social acceptance, T2 – cohesion, T3 – commitment, enjoyment) throughout the course of an athletic season. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to test for mediation (Holmbeck, 1997), with a full mediation model demonstrating good fit (χ2(340) = 490.46 (p = .00), CFI = .940, RMSEA = .046, SRMR = .056). Results indicated that task cohesion mediated the relationship with commitment (SPE = .36, p = .00) and enjoyment (SPE = .40, p = .00), whereas social cohesion did not (commitment, SPE = .09, p = .32; enjoyment, SPE = .12, p = .20). The χ2 difference test yielded a non-significant difference between the partial and full mediation models of Δχ2(2) = .17, thus supporting full mediation. The implications for the presence of cohesion within this younger population are discussed.      

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the University of Lethbridge Research Fund (ULRF) for the funding of this project.