Value Transmission in Athletic Families

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CHAPTER II: Literature Review

Over 8 million high school and collegiate students participated in varsity sports from 2010-2011( Brown, 2011; Koebler, 2011).  Many of these athletes may be from families in which their parents and grandparents also played varsity sports, continuing athletic involvement for another generation. With the increase of athletes participating in sports, there is also an increase of parents who are contributing to the development and performance of the athlete, becoming more involved and invested in their children’s athletic career (Farrey 2008). These parents often transmit the values and beliefs they learned as well as values they hope their children will have to further develop their children’s athletic career.

This study will attempt to fill a deficit in the literature: This study will analyze value transmission in athletic families, specifically the interaction of  parent personal values, perceived normative values, and socialization values of the child, and as well as the impact of parental communication and quality of the parent/child relationship in value transmission..  In order to understand the importance of this study, several components of the literature need to be discussed.  First, the research on value socialization and transmission will be presented to help understand value acquisition. Next it will help to understand the current literature and research on athletic families and parental involvement, pressure, and support. Finally, it will address athletic values and parental roles. ..

Values & Value Transmission

Definition of Values

Given the importance of values for families, exploring the definition of values and the processes in which they are believed to be transmitted is important..  While the study of values is not new, the definition of values, what types of values are important, and how many values should be considered which are important has been controversial (Rounds & Armstrong, 2005).   For the purpose of this study values are defined as abstract desirable goals that become the guiding principles in developing personal attitudes and behaviors (Schwartz, 1992).  They are used to select and justify and help to guide people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

According to Shalom Schwartz, who is viewed as having the most active research concerning values, values serve as guiding principles in the life of a person that are relatively stable over time (Schwartz, 1992; Rounds & Armstrong, 2005; Walker, 2010). Schwartz composed a survey of 56 values which were administered to schoolteachers and university students to develop a conceptual model on values.  The values were clustered into ten categories: Self-direction (independence of thought and action), stimulation (excitement, challenge, and novelty), hedonism (pleasure or sensuous gratification), achievement (personal success according to social standards), power (social status, dominance over people and resources), conformity (restraint of actions that may harm others or violate social expectations), tradition (respect and commitment to cultural or religious customs and ideas), benevolence (preserving and enhancing the welfare of people to whom one is close), universalism (understanding, tolerance, and concern for the welfare of all people and nature), and security (safety and stability of society, relationships, and self) (Schwartz, 1992)  This structure has been universally replicated, and the 10 categories were organized along two bipolar dimensions, each contrasting two higher-order domains (Schwartz, 1992; Schwartz & Bardi, 2001): (1) Conservatism (security, conformity, tradition) vs. openness to change (self-direction, stimulation); and (2) Self- enhancement (power, achievement) vs. self-transcendence (universalism, benevolence). Hedonism values share elements of openness and self-enhancement.

Value Transmission

Value transmission is generally seen as the process by which parents’ communicate their values to their children, and in turn the child adopts these values in some form (Wright 2012).   Parents are considered one of the central agents in passing on both their own and societies values to their children (Whitebeck & Gecas, 1988). Research on value transmission, particularly on the transmission of values in the family, typically has focused on congruence between parents and their children (Rohan & Zanna, 1996; Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988; Gunrusec & Kuczynski, 1997)..

Schonpfulg (2001a) found that parent’s transmission to a child serves a greater function than peer to peer relationships. Transmission is a dynamic process that never leads to a full replication of values from one generation to the next. Rather, transmission results in varying degrees of replication and adaptation in a changing environment (Boyd & Richardson, 1985). A young child learns customs, norms and values mainly through social modelling, observation and participation. This process is complemented by parents socialization of the values, norms and behaviors of the culture the family is in (Berry, Poortinga, Segall & Dasen, 2002).

According to Gadsen and Hall (1996) “children learn their parents’ beliefs, values, and attitudes through both direct teaching and indirect observation. They actively seek out this information or passively accept it as a function of social conditioning.” Children are likely to imitate the parenting behaviors and beliefs to which they were exposed during their childhood, which generally are from parents, but can also include grandparents or other adults in a child’s life (Burton and Dilworth-Anderson, 1991; Pearson, Hunter, Ensminger, & Kellam, 1990). Parents influence children’s attitudes and beliefs at different levels throughout the course of their lives, and the impact of these influences change over the course of the child development as the child begins to accept or change their values based on interactions outside their parents (Barnett, Kibria, Baruch, & Pleck, 1991).

A two stage process was proposed by Joan Grusec & Jacqeuline Goodnow (1994). They proposed that children first need to perceive the message of their parents, and then decide to the extent they accept or reject a perceived value. From transmission to internalization, this process flows from one generation to the next.  Parents are thought to influence value transmission via parenting style, relationships, or the family environment, with both adolescent and parent characteristics influencing transmission. ..

Value transmission has the potential to succeed or fail at each step of this process based on the accuracy or misinterpretation of the child (Schonpflug, 2001b).  Because only modest congruence between children and parent’s actual values has been found, researchers believe that there will be greater similarity between children’s perceptions of their parents’ values and their own values than between children’s perceptions of their parents’ values and their parents’ actual values (Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988). Understanding the variables within the family that increase the likelihood of accurate perception by the adolescent and increase their acceptance is important to understand the process of value transmission.  One limitation to this view however is that it assumes that all values being presented by the parent are “ good” and does not consider parent values that may be viewed as “negative”. Despite this limitation, this view is frequently used as a theoretical model for value transmission, having been empirically tested and supported in the research. (Albert & Tromsdorff, 2003; Knafo & Schwartz, 2009; Schonpflug, 2001).

Value similarity will be high if children perceive their parents’ values accurately and accept rather than reject them. Similarity will be low if children perceive their parents’ values as unsuitable for their personal social context, such as a shift in sporting values/culture.   Intergenerational similarity has been found to be high when children perceive parental values accurately and decide to accept them. Researchers have also found that the children’s degree of motivation to accept parental values was positively related to the belief that their independence would be subjected to some punishment (Cashmore & Goodnow, 1985; Whitebeck & Gecas, 1988; Okagi & Bevis, 1999).

While parents may prefer to transmit values that they endorse, they often will use their understanding of society to transmit values they perceive to be important in society to their children (Tam, Lee, Kim, Li, & Chao 2012; Whitbeck & Gecas 1988). Socialization of children into a system of values and beliefs about society is one of the more important tasks and responsibilities associated with families (Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988).  Families are biological and social structures, providing the first intersection between individual and society (Gadsen & Hall, 1996).).  Socialization refers to the process in which an individual’s acquires the knowledge, skills, and characteristics that enable them to become effective members of groups and society (Berns, 2007). The value socialization process is ongoing and adaptive,  as adolescents learn to apply their values systems across different situations, and to take into account  other influences such as peers and culture that may aid in constructing a value system in absence of parental monitoring.

Literature on value socialization has looked at congruence of values between parents and children in order to determine how socialization values are being received. Parents want their children to value what they themselves personally value and children in turn want to value what their parent’s value (Tam & Lee 2010)  Parents’ socialization values (values they want their child to support)  have been found to be correlated with the parents personal values (Knafo & Schwartz 2001; Tam &Lee 2010; Whitbeck & Gecas 1998). Despite the stability of values, their importance might change by context(Schwartz, 1992). For example, parents may realize that certain values they hold dear are not always applicable to their children (Tam & Lee, 2010). Parents must learn to differentiate their own values from their socialization values.  Parents may rely on these different value expectations when they think about what they would like their children to have. As noted by Knafo & Galansky (2008), adolescent’s values may be a source for the difference that parents make between their personal values and their socialization values. For example, a parent who initially did not value athletics may push their child to be physically active.

A child’s accuracy of perception of parent’s socialization values has been shown to be a good indicator of the strength of value transmission (Cashmore & Goodnow, 1985; Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988; Knafo & Schwartz 2003.)  Knafo and Schwartz (2003) investigated 547 adolescents and their parents using the Portrait Values Questionnaire. Participants were asked “How much like you is this person?” to measure their own values, and asked “How would your father/mother want you to respond to each item?” to signify perceived parent values.  Parents were asked how they wanted their children to respond to each of the items.   Finally, to measure socialization values, parents indicated “How would you want your son/daughter to respond to each item?.” Accuracy in perceiving parents’ values was positively correlated with parents’ actual and socialization values as well as parental warmth and responsiveness (2003) Whitbeck and Gecas (1988) also found  a strong correlation between the mothers’ and the fathers’ personal values and their socialization values, indicating that parents may attempt to socialize their personal values in their children.

However, parents may need to differentiate from their personal values and the socialization values they want for their children (Kuczynski et al., 1997). Parents may have an understanding that the values and interests of their children’s society and culture are different from the one in which they were socialized (1997)  Therefore, parental personal values cannot completely account for the socialization values parents transmitted towards their children.

Rather than a unidirectional process from parents to children, socialization influences may be the result of the interaction between parents and children.  Benish-Wesiman, Levy & Knafo (2013) focused on the distinction between a parents personal values and their socialization values. They found that while parents differentiated between their personal and socialization values, children’s personal values were able to predict parent’s socialization values more than the parent’s personal values. The researchers theorized that parents may acknowledge the self-development of their children and may be willing to adapt their socialization values in a way that fits their children’s values (2013)

Additionally, parents often consider what values they believe to be dominant in the surrounding society and help their children to adapt (perceived normative values).  This is to not only socialize their children with their own values, but to refer to society’s values in order to maximize their children’s future social adaptation (Youniss, 1994).  Tam and Lee (2010) found that parents’ personal values and perceived normative values each have an impact on predicting parent’s socialization values with their children.  The researchers believed that parents should refer to both personal as well as perceived normative values when socializing their children. Researchers computed a correlation between personal values and socialization values as well as between perceived normative values and socialization values.  Both personal and perceived normative values were correlated with socialization values and the researcher found a correlation between personal, perceived normative, and socialization values..  An interesting point in the study was that there were some values that parents did not endorse themselves, yet regarded as normatively important and that needed to be transmitted to their child. However, there was no examination of how parents were transmitting those values onto their children in the research.  Additionally, a major limitation of the study was that the study included only mother’s values and examined the socialization values for daughters.  While mother’s care can be higher than a father’s care, couples have been shown to show similar values and both parents should be included in studies examining the transmission of values to children (Geary 1998; Rohan & Zanna 1996). Finally, the study in no way examined children’s personal values and if there was a correlation between children’s personal values and parents socialization.

Tam et al (2012) followed up the previous study and found that once again parents referred to both their personal values and their perceived normative values when constructing their socialization values for their children.  They proposed the Intersubjective Model of Value Transmission, which stated that parents want to transmit both their personal values and perceived normative values.  The model is derived from two views, the first of which is a socialization view in parents have a perception of the socialization values in a culture and understand they need to prepare a child for social encounters. (Tam et al 2012).    The second part of the model is perceived normative values, or what is expected out of individuals in a society. Perceived social norms can be different than actual norms.

In four studies of the model, Tam et al tested whether or not the parent referred to personal values & perceived normative values when socializing their children.  In the first study, mothers were given a 28 item version of Schwartz’s Value Questionnaire. They reported personal values, perception of normative importance, and how much they wanted children to endorse values. Mothers referred to both their personal values and perceived normative values for socialization values. Perceived normative values were found to be stronger for socialization values, although more educated parents referred more to personal values. The second study was similar to the first but incorporated fathers, although it did not look at couple units. As with the first study, perceived normative values were stronger determinates of socialization values for conforming parents

The third and fourth study used parent-child dyads. Parental groups were given the Schwartz value questionnaire while children were asked to report personal values and the perception of socialization values.  Both studies found that parent’s perceived normative vales predicted children’s personal values and were mediated by socialization values.

Across the four studies, the basic premise of the model was found to be valid.  Parents used both personal values and perceived normative values to construct the socialization values they transmitted to their children.  According to the researchers, the intersubjective model of transmission fills gaps in value transmission research by bringing into consideration societal factors and parents interpretations of society. Going beyond the fax model of transmission, the intersubjective model presents the implications of parental influence on values based on sociiets values expectations and does not consider the level of parental/child value similarity as proof a successful or unsuccessful transmission.  Parents may just be indoctrinating their children into the prevailing views of society that they will need to succeed.  The more a parent is able to perceive cultural norms and transmits those values, the less culturally estranged the child will be. (Tam et al, 2012)

Family variables affecting value transmission

Different variables within the family are thought to affect the accuracy and acceptance of parental values (Grusec & Goodnow, 1994; Knafo & Schwartz, 2009).  Based on findings in the empirical literature, family variables that encourage value transmission in adolescents appear to be communication in the family, family activities that convey values, and the importance of the value to the parents, perception of the values, and age of the child. (Day, Borkowski, Dietmeyer, Howsepian, & Saenz, 1992; Pinquart & Silbereisen, 2004; Grusec & Goodnow, 1994).

When support and communication are high in families, there is greater value transmission. Day-to-day family functioning communicates values both verbally and nonverbally and is implicated in value transmission. Children should be able to identify the values important to their parents, which may also lead to greater acceptance of these values.  Additionally,  Knafo and Schwartz (2009) found that family demographics such as membership in social organizations can also lead to higher accuracy and perception of values because it reinforces the message of the values and parent’s legitimacy. Adolescents are also more likely to accept values when they see their parents as having legitimacy or authority in some area (Smetana 2000)

Schonpflug (2001a) suggests that more positive emotional interactions between parents and children contributes to value transmission, whereas rigid, authoritarian parenting style decreases probability for value transmission because it creates distance between parent and child. Structure or consistency in rule enforcement is not negative but may need to be coupled with emotional warmth and responsiveness to promote value transmission.  Through these reasons the authoritative style of parenting is believed to be most effective for the transmission and internalization of values as it provides high levels of support and communication (Grusec, Goodnow, & Kuczynski, 2000).Authoritative parenting has been described as “warm and involved, but firm and consistent in establishing and enforcing guidelines, limits, and developmentally appropriate expectations” (Steinberg, 2001).

Grusec, Goodnow, and Kuczynski (2000) believe the qualities of warmth, consistency, and responsiveness are key elements that make the authoritative parenting style conducive to the transmission of values.  When the parent is more responsive to the needs of the child, the child will be more likely to comply with parental demands and rules. Parents’ responsiveness may also strengthen their image as a relevant role model to the adolescent, and therefore, the adolescent will act in ways similar to the parent.  When parents foster an environment where their most important values are communicated and attuned by the child, there may be a greater chance of accurately perceiving and understanding the family value system and incorporating it into their own. (Schwartz, 2010).

Barni, Ranieri, Scabini, & Rosnati (2011) focused on adolescent acceptance of the values in which the parents were trying to transmit based on the relationships with their parents.  Their results found that adolescents were moderately willing to accept perceived parental socialization values, and indicated that the quality of the parent-child relationship can be a significant predictor of acceptance of values.  A close and supportive family may increase an adolescent’s enthusiasm to accept parental values because it supports the adolescents’ compliance with the parents’ wishes (Barni et al, 2011). Additionally, close family climate could be characterized by shared family interests, behaviors, and values amongst family members, and divergence from the collective family views may lead to unwanted family disputes (Scabini, Marta, &Lanz 2006).

Whitbeck and Gecas (1988) hypothesized that parent support and discipline via open discussion would increase value congruence, and that more authoritarian discipline would decrease congruence. Participants included 82 mostly Caucasian middle-class families, with children ages 9-11 or 13-15. The researchers found that congruence between parents’ and children’s actual values was low (median correlation .05 for father and .14 for mother). Parents’ personal values were highly correlated with their socialization values (median correlation .72 for father and .75 for mother. When children’s perceptions of parents’ socialization values were considered, relationships were higher (median correlation .46 for father and .45 for mother).). Congruence was measured using absolute differences of rankings of values with a condensed form of Rokeach’s Value Survey. .

The study also investigated family variables that contributed to congruence. Parental behaviors such as support and discussion about values were predictive of congruence, most clearly for fathers and daughters. This implies that family support and open discussion, or communication, contribute to accurate perception and to the child’s acceptance of perceived parental values perhaps most for fathers and daughters. It is interesting to note that both parents and children assume there is a greater congruence between their own values and those of the other, showing that there is some divergence in parent-child communication.

A study by Knafo and Schwartz in 2003 investigated family variables that may contribute to accuracy, hypothesizing that accuracy of perception is a “basic condition” for value transmission.  In the study the researchers hypothesized parental agreement about socialization values and consistency in parental messages and behaviors would be associated with greater accuracy in perceiving parental values. They also hypothesized that parental warmth/responsiveness would increase communication and adolescents’ motivation to attend to parent values, and therefore these variables would be associated with accuracy.

Participants included 547 Israeli adolescents (ages 16-18) and their parents who answered questions about their own values, and adolescents rated how their parents would want them to respond. Within dyad correlations assessed congruence, and showed wide variation (.99 to -.75 for fathers; .96 to -.64 for mothers) which shows the discrepancy between adolescent and actual parent values. The variable of value discussion was measured by asking adolescents about frequency of discussions values with their parents, and conflict expressed with their parents concerning values. Parenting characteristics of warmth and responsiveness were measured through self-reports. The researchers hypothesized that the consistency of parents’ socialization values, verbal messages, and behavior would be associated with greater accuracy in perceiving parental values. They also hypothesized that parental warmth/responsiveness would increase communication and adolescents’ motivation to attend to parent values, whereas conflict about values would decrease motivation.

All of these variables were significant predictors of accuracy (R2 = .22), although the importance of variables varied in the different parent-adolescent dyads. In particular, warmth, responsiveness and authoritative parenting were more predictive of accuracy in mother-daughter dyad, though there is a there is a relationship of parental warmth and responsiveness particularly for fathers and sons. The findings support the importance of not only verbal communication but also parental activities that convey values to increase accurate perception.

Value transmission in the literature also has examined values transmitted from parents to children across stages of development. As children transition into adolescents and adulthood, they are exposed to new beliefs and situations that may move their values in and out of alignment with their parents. Cunningham (2001) suggested that values transmitted by parents to children at an early age will often activate after the child has entered a specific life stage, realigning the child’s values with their parents. Similarly, entering a socioeconomic status equal to that of one’s parent could create a situation where that had been transmitted about social position will reemerge (Acock 1984).  A longitudinal study done examining value transmission over a life course found that values were transmitted by parents at an early point in their children’s lives and remained constant, meaning that values acquired were still upheld and maintained into middle age (Min, Silverstein, and Lendon 2012).


Athletic Families

Athletics are a culture of their own, with more and more children and families investing, money, and family resources, and most importantly  time to participation in sports (Fredrick & Eccles, 2004) This time investment can include travelling to and from events, watching the events, coaching, volunteering, and fundraising , practices, meetings, and camps (Mazer & Anderson, Hoefer et al, 2003)  This time investment can impact family life, Some parents have reported devoting up to 20 hours per week to their child’s sport programs, with sports impacting what would be considered a typical family pattern (Dorsch, Smith, McDonough, 2009)  For example, the schedule of the household may be dictated by a child’s sports schedule.  Holidays and vacations must be scheduled around competitive schedules and training, cancelled, or negated (Kay, 2010).  Parents’ employment patterns can also be affected, with sports holding such a high importance in families that parents allow it to dictate the hours they work and the time they take away from work (2010) .

Regardless of the commitment, families choose to involve themselves within sports for the perceived benefits that sports provide. Participating in sports has been associated with a range  outcomes,  and there are both positive and potentially negative reasons that parents have for putting their kids into sports.  Youth sports participation has the ability to provide children with sports experience while initiating leadership skills, academic achievement, develop initiative, and goal-setting skills (Gould & Carson, 2008). Other positive outcomes included: reduced body fat, increased physical fitness, and evidence of higher intrinsic motivation, effort, and concentration exist when children participate in youth organized sports compared with children who socialize with friends and watch television (Alfano, Kleges, Murray, Beech, and McClananhan, 2002; Larson 1994; Lowe Vandell et al., 2005) For parents, positive reasons for including children in sports  may include  bonding with the child, providing structure for free time, adding meaning and excitement to life,  promoting health and physical well-being,  teaching the child self-control and values, development of talent and skills, and the promotion of social development (Gould & Carson, 2008). Bhalla 2009; Phillip, 2009,).

However, positive development does not automatically emerge from the participation in sports, as poor sportsmanship, decline in moral reasoning, discrimination, racism, aggression, and a desire to win attitude can also be associated with sports participation (Koh & Camire,2015).  Sports can also be highly competitive, which adds potential threats such as anxiety, stress, and tension on participants and families.  While parents may want the proper message communicated in regards to values in sports, there is always present danger that they may step over a line from healthy support to a more destructive behavior.  Parents may develop several potentially destructive behaviors such as projection of unrealistic expectations for success on the child, view of sports as an investment to future college scholarships or career for the child,  reliving their past sports career through the child and exert pressure, or use child involvement as a competition with other parents. Parent-induced stress is a main environmental stressors that challenge the well-being and enjoyment of the sport experience for children (Smoll and Smith 1996).   Acts of physical violence, verbal abuse, poor sportsmanship, and win-at-all-costs attitudes perpetrated by adults appear to be increasingly pervasive in youth sports settings (Collins, 2010). These parental actions generally do not communicate positive values to their children.

It is important to recognize that while sports can provide an environment for value development and learning they do not provide the lessons (Arthur-Banning, Wells, Baker, & Hegreness,2009). It is the responsibility of parents and adults to insure that the proper messages and values of sports are being communicated to players.  While there is evidence to suggest that parents play an important role in value acquisition and transmission in adolescents, little research has investigated the transmission of such values in athletics.  Current research on athletic families tends to focus on parental involvement, pressure and support more so than value transmission. Nevertheless, evaluation of this literature can provide information on the role parents play in regards to athletics and the connection to the previous value transmission research discussed.


Parental Behaviors Involvement, Pressure, & Support

With an understanding of athletic families there also needs to be an understanding of the different relationship dynamics that have an impact on these families.  Parenting behaviors can have both positive and negative influences on children’s experiences in organized sports, and may also have an impact on sports value transmission.   Children who perceive more supportive, positive, and encouraging interactions and less pressure from parents, experience more sports enjoyment, and show more motivation to complete in sports activity.  (Brustad, 1992, Brustad & Weigand, 1989; Scanlan & Lewthwaite, 1986).   Fraser-Thomas et al. (2005), Understanding parental involvement, pressure, and support  is important to examine the relationships in families based on different parent behaviors.

Parental Involvement

Researchers have examined enjoyment vs nonenjoyment in sports based on the level of parental involvement. Parental involvement can be viewed by two constructs within involvement: (1) the level of involvement (time, energy, and money that parents invest in a child’s sport participation) and (2) the degree of involvement (amount of involvement desired by the athlete) which can range from too little to too much ((Stein, Raedeke, & Glenn, 1999; Bremer, 2012).  Hellstedt (1987) created a conceptual model to describe the three different levels of parental involvement: overinvolved, moderately involved, and underinvolved. Parents varied in the amount of emotional attachment and interest each style gave to their child’s athletic experiences.

.   Overinvolved parents were emotionally attached to their child’s athletic experience and had a tendency to live vicariously through their child’s accomplishments in an attempt to recreate their unaccomplished athletic success (Hellstedt, 1987). These types of parents focused more on winning and what they believed was important for their child more than their child’s happiness and development.  Parental over involvement was described as a common experience for child athletes, and as a result, the child athlete’s enjoyment for sports diminished (McCarthy & Jones, 2007). Moderately involved parents balanced parental guidance while allowing the child autonomy to make their own goals and levels of commitment.  Finally, underinvolved parents showed little interest in their child’s athletic experience, lacking any investment to give guidance and support. (Hellstedt, 1987).

Research findings on the impact of parental involvement on athletes vary considerably. Some studies, such as Woolger & Power (2000), found that there was a positive linear relationship between parental involvement and positive sports experiences for children.  Hoyle and Leff (1997) found that parental involvement was positively related to adolescents’ activity enjoyment and the value they placed on sports success.  However, other studies have found that there was a curvilinear relationship between athlete enjoyment and parental involvement.  Athletes reported the most enjoyment when their parents where moderately involved compared to the most stress when the parent’s involvement was either insufficient or extreme (Stein, Raedeke, & Glenn,1999). Child athletes also have reported the most enjoyment in their sport when their fathers were moderately involved, but more stress when the mother was under or overinvolved. (Stein et al., 1999).

Level of parental involvement can lead to athlete’s experience of parental pressure. Pressure is defined as parental behaviors that symbolize high or even unattainable expectations in the minds of the child athletes (Leff & Hoyle, 1995).   Parental pressure can be seen as overt behaviors such as shouting during competition, pushing them towards practices, or verbal criticism of performance and  can minimize athletic performance and induce fear of failure. Parental pressure can also be covert, such as a disappointed look after a poor performance (Wolfenden & Holt, 2005)

The effect of parental pressure is dependent on the athlete’s perception of the parent’s expectations. For example, Brustad (1988) found that basketball players with lower perceptions of parental pressure correlated with longer enjoyment of the season than those with higher perceptions of parental pressure. Child athletes have reported perceiving more pressure from their fathers than their mothers, and male athletes perceive more pressure from their parents in comparison to female athletes (Leff & Hoyle, 1995). Similarly, other studies have found that pressure from parents on athletes stem from lectures before competition (Scanlan, Stein, & Ravizza, 1991), lectures after competition (Gould, Wilson, Tuffey, & Lochbaum, 1993), and general parental criticism (Scanlan et al, 1991).

Perception of pressure can also connect to the level of parent support a child is receiving from their parents. Two definitions of parental support are provided in the literature: (1) unconditional warmth toward and acceptance of a child athlete by their parents and (2) parental behaviors that child athletes perceive as assisting both their sports participation and their sports performance (Hoyle & Leff, 1997;  Power & Woolger,1994; Holt et al., 2008). What is important about parental support is that the child’s perception is key; athletes who perceived more support from their parents were happier and more motivated than those who perceived less support (Babkes & Weiss, 1999).

There is a correlation between parents who display supportive behaviors such as encouragement and put little pressure on their child athlete and player enjoyment and enthusiasm  versus unsupportive behaviors. (2005).  Parental pressure and support were examined in a pair of studies by Leff & Hoyle (1995); child athletes reported that they perceived more pressure from their fathers than their mothers, and male athletes perceived more pressure from parents than did female athletes (Leff & Hoyle, 1995). With a smaller sample, however, girls reported more parental pressure than boys (Hoyle & Leff, 1997). Negative and derogatory comments were found both in observations at tournaments and in audio diaries of participants, and considered potentially damaging to the child athlete and adding to their feeling of low support.(Holt, Tamminen, Black, Sehnet al., 2008).

Holt and Wall (2005) looked at parent’s who were not involved in  players’ sporting involvement and instead  focused on  parental support and parental control. The authors analyzed types of parental support by considering comments that conveyed attachment, nurturance, cohesion, acceptance, love, encouragement, and physical affection. In order to analyze types of parental control, they also considered comments that reflected punishment, supervision, discipline, and monitoring (Holt & Wall, 2005). . The parents were categorized into six themes: encouragement, instruction, negative comments, derogatory comments, performance contingent feedback, and striking a balance.  The author suggested that verbal reactions of support or control  may constitute parental involvement.  Parents who engage in more supportive behaviors during competitive youth sports events may help to produce more positive experiences for their children.  (Holt & Wall, 2005,).

It is important to take note that value acquisition in athletic families may be influenced by parent involvement, pressure, and support. Parents who are overinvolved in comparison to moderately or underinvolved may transmit values differently to their children. Additionally, the amount of pressure a parent puts on a child or the amount of perceived support a child feels from the parent may impact how values are transmitted in athletic families.  Understanding the current literature on athletic families and parental behaviors is beneficial for understanding value transmission in these families.  It is also important to understand the literature on value in sports, which will be examined in the following section

Values In sports

While some parents see sports as a frivolous activity, other parents see sporting activities (whether participating or observing/listening) as a way of socializing their children to important values and skills (Kremer-Sadlik & Kim, 2007). Sports have the  potential to teach and promote values, develop leadership skills, build lasting relationships, and to just have fun playing (Stoll, Beller, VanMullem, Brunner, & Barnes, 2009)  However, it is important to make the distinction that sport provide only an environment for development and learning and do not provide the actual lessons (Arthur-Banning, Wells, Baker, & Hegreness, 2009; Eitzen, 2003). It is the responsibility of the adults involved in the programs  to ensure that a proper atmosphere is established and that proper messages are communicated in order to encourage strong positive development among the youth participants (Arthur-Banning et al., 2009; Smith & Smoll, 1997; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989)

Parent’s in athletic families would  typically be a child’s first socializer into sports, and are likely to spend most of their time with their parents in some sports context. Ideally, parents socialization of values in sports aims at developing an individual who is a competent member of a society and the culture, including identity, rituals, and language,. For that reason, studies on athletic families would be missing a large piece of the puzzle if issues of sports culture are not in place. Studies have identified parents as the initial support for shaping young children’s perceptions of attitudes, beliefs, and values related to sports, and a child’s socialization into sport is heavily constructed by parents’ values and beliefs (Bhalla & Weiss, 2010; Kay, 2006; Brustad, Babkes, & Smith,  2001; Greendorfer 2002)

In the literature there has been a difference in how individuals conceptualize the values that are inherent in sports.  Researchers usually approach the idea that sport builds character from an morally idealistic perspective of fair play, respect, honesty, justice, and compassion, while practitioners of sports (athletes, coaches, parents) define values from a social perspective. (Arndt et al., 2000; Beller & Stoll, 1995; Gould, 2002; Rudd, 2005; Shields & Bredemeier, 2005). Those who argue and believe in sports values from a social perspective believe in the development of an athlete who displays values like hard work, perseverance, loyalty, teamwork, and self-sacrifice (Rudd, 2005). As Sage, (1998) pointed out, team slogans will often emphasis the holistic nature of the team rather than the individual and will exude social values, with popular slogans such as “There is no I in team,” and “Give 110”

Within athletics, both moral and social values are important, but there is a difference in what is emphasized. In athletics, maintaining moral values such as honesty, fairness, and respect are vital to a fair and safe competition between opponents, and should be developed in athletes (Arnold, 1999; Rudd, 2005).  Moral values have been found to be deemed critical to human relationships and as they uphold morality (Lumpkin et al., 1999).  Breaking moral values can put a strain on interpersonal relationship and lead to moral ramifications.  For example, if a player continues to be dishonest to his coach, the relationship may become unhealthy and dysfunctional, leading to a separation or removal from the program.

Like moral values, the social values of teamwork, loyalty, and self-sacrifice also play

an important role in athletics and relationships.  Social values tend to be associate more with an individual in sports rather than moral values and have been deemed as being vital to reaching a desired state. (Rudd, 2005).  In American culture, there is a reliance on maintain capitalistic values the strength of business, and it is believed that the ability to win in sport is developed from the contribution of these same values (Rudd, 2005; Shields & Bredemeier, 1995) Self-sacrifice, hard work, loyalty, and teamwork are important for the continuation may be emphasized in sports because sports are seen as a vehicle to instill these values among sport participants that will allow them to go out into society and contribute to corporate America (Berlage, 1982; Coakley, 1998; O’Hanlon, 1980; Sage, 1998)  In contrast,  athletes learn that winning takes precedent over anything, and the application of honesty, fairness, and responsibility may be vital to human relationships, but not for a desired goal of a championship.  An athletes self-worth becomes emeshed in performance and defined by wins and losses,  and the integrity of moral values deteriorates.   Yet, when a social value like self-sacrifice is

not upheld there are usually no ‘moral ramifications.  For example, it would be difficult to label an athlete as immoral because they are unwilling to continue working  more than is required outside of practice.  However an athlete is going above and beyond what is required at practice may be seem as displaying self sacrifice and commitment for the betterment of the team.  In contrast,  when social values are not upheld,  there are usually no punishments.  Feigning an injury, which occurs in sports, has not violated the rules in any immoral way or harmed teammates or opponents. On the contrary, the teammates of this player would consider their actions to purposely risk getting hit, as a display of self-sacrifice (Rudd, 2005).

Beller & Stoll (1995) suggested that today’s athletic environment does not support the teaching of moral values. Parents and society recognize athletes more for their success of winning than their moral values and development.  Using the Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory, (HBVCI), Beller & Stoll found that athletes do not uphold moral values. However, Rudd (1998) believed that sports does build values, but the social values of hard work, dedication, loyalty, and sacrifice.  These values have been identified as important not only in athletics but in the American society.  Media outlets that focus on a player’s sacrifice for a team or commitment to a task are praising the social values that individual holds rather than the moral values. For example, if an athlete is unwilling to play while injured vs an athlete that is willing to play for the benefit of the team, the second has demonstrated great social values by sacrificing themselves for the team goals (Rudd 2002).

Bredemeier and Shields (1984) found that moral reasoning was lower for sports than for daily life dilemma, and several studies have shown an inverse relationship between moral reasoning and approval of sport aggression (Bredemeier, 1985; Bredemeier, Weiss, Shields, & Cooper, 1986, Rudd, 2005). Individuals with lower levels of moral reasoning are more likely to believe committing an aggressive act in sport is justified, and individuals may be more likely to condone certain behaviors in sport as legitimate than they do in non-sport contexts  Taking this into consideration, understanding the roles that parents as value socializers is extremely important.

Parental Roles

Parents are the ones who typically first sign the child up for participation and take on the  extensive roles and actions to make sport participation possible.  They are also usually the deciding factor on whether or not a family will devote large amounts of resources in support of the sporting experience for the children.  Parents who take an involvement in their children sports serve as external resources and have the potential to pass on their personal values onto their children.  However, parents must take on different roles to cope with problems the face if they are to support their children’s sports activities (Wiersma & Fifer, 2008; Dorsch et al., 2009). Parent choose what programs children participate in, transport them, pat for instruction or sports camps, purchase equipment, and may devote time to watching their children play. (Green & Chalip, 1998; Howard & Madrigal, 1990; Wiersma & Sherman, 2005).   Many even help running different programs through volunteer positions or may coach a team, usually for free. (Gould & Martens, 1979)   Parent’s  encouragement and support impacts children’s may provide a template for what the parents view as important to the child,

Fredricks and Eccles (2004) offered three reasons why it is so important to understand parental roles in the context of sports:  (a) parents can be highly involved and visible in children’s sport, (b) it is this context where they can provide immediate and specific feedback to their children, and (c) such feedback can influence the children both positively and negatively. Parents tend to fall into different roles in how they support their children’s sport activities. The literature provides three roles of influence that are parents maintain- that of the provider, interpreter, and role model. Parents have been found to influence psychosocial and behavioral outcomes in youth through the execution of these roles( Eccles, 1993; Eccles et al., 1998; Fredricks & Eccles, 2005; Fredricks et al., 2005)


As providers, parents give their children the opportunities to participate in a variety of activities.  This may mean signing the child up for a team, transporting to practices and games, and providing financial support (Green & Chalip, 1998; Howard & Madrigal, 1990). Parents may also do the laundry, volunteer, or help manage the league or coach the teams (Côté, 1999; Gould & Martens, 1979). The role of provider allows parents to give opportunities for participation in activities that conveys information to the child about the parents’ values. This may influence children’s own views and behaviors. For example, Fredricks & Eccles (2004) found that parents who viewed sports as important were likely to encourage their children to be active and shape their physical fitness perceptions and provide more opportunities for them to be active.

As providers, parents offer support to their child, both physical and mental.  Highly involved parents who are ample providers can be a strong influence on children and the support they feel from their parent.  That support, or lack of support, may impact the reception the child feels towards value socialization by the parent and the equality of the relationship and communication between the child and parent,


Parents can also be in a role to help interpret children’s sport experience. As an interpreter, parents assess performance and give feedback and reinforcement to behaviors they consider important. Parents’ beliefs and values are an underlying factor that triggers such behaviors, and research has corroborated the connection between parent and children’s beliefs and behaviors (Dempsey et al., 1993; Eccles & Harold, 1991; Kimiecik et al.,1996;  Brustad, 1993).  Brustad  (1993) found that parents who enjoyed physical activity encouraged their child to be physically active, and children reported higher interest toward physical activity.   Additionally, Babkes and Weiss (1999) showed that if children perceived their parents to hold positive beliefs about their competence, they reported higher perceptions of physical competence and intrinsic motivation. Children adopt a belief system similar to that of their parents, and the parent’s feedback as an interpreter facilitates the transmission between generations.  By focusing on parents as an interpreter, it allows researchers to attempt to understand how parents’ beliefs and values affect children’s socialization.

Parents also teach and reinforce appropriate attitudes and actions to help develop social values within the physical activity context (Weiss et al., 2008).  Stuart & Ebbeck (1995) showed that perceived parent social approval of sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike play was related to participants’ attitudes about aggressive acts and behaviors. Players who believed that parents disapproved of unsportsmanlike play judged such actions as unacceptable and were less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors.

The expectancy-value model provides a suggestion towards how parents’ beliefs and values affect children’s and influence participation in sports. (Eccles, 1993; Wigfield & Eccles, 2002). According to the model, the parents interpreting role is comprised of how good they perceive their children to be how important it is that their children are successful.  The greater parents believe their children to be, the more encouragement and reinforcement they will give, which leads to the children to continue with these interests. Children begin to adopt a belief system similar to that of their parents, with the parents’ positive feedback or encouragement facilitating the transmission of values.



In addition to value transmission through being a provider and interpreter, parents also serve as role models.  By participating in activities and presenting personal attitudes and sports behaviors, parents are impacting their children’s values and perceptions on what is acceptable in sports (Bois, Sarrazin, Brustad, Chanal, et al., 2005; Davison, Cutting, & Birch, 2003) .   Based on the social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), parents are more likely to model behaviors and attitudes that influence children’s self-perceptions of values and participation.  For example, Mungo & Feltz (1985) examined how male football players learned about  illegal aggressive actions and the transmission of those actions into the player’s game. The study found a significant correlation between the number of illegal aggressive acts that players observed and the number of those acts used in their own games for both high school and youth league players.

Children seeing their parents participating in sports may wish to imitate the behavior by future participation in the sport or general physical activity. Moore et al (1991) examined the physical activity levels of children ages 4 to 7 years and the physical activity behavior of their parents. Individuals were classified as either “active” (above median physical activity level) or “inactive” (below median physical activity level), and the researchers found that children of two “active” parents were 5.8 times more likely to be classified as “active” than children of two “inactive” parents.

However, findings of the effects of role modeling on children reveal inconsistent results. For example, while Babkes and Weiss (1999) found that children who rated mothers and fathers as exercise role models reported higher perceptions of competence, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation to play soccer, Dempsey et al. (1993) found a nonsignificant relationship between parent physical activity and their child’s physical activity. This may suggest parent role modeling was not a primary mechanism of parental influence. A problem in some of the literature has been a lack of specification to the parent’s role behaviors differences in measurements of physical activity. Parents are essential socializers who express approval or disapproval of actions in sport and influence moral reasoning, prosocial norms, and sportsmanlike play. Lessons are transmitted through the parent child communication in areas such as explanation of rules, practice, coaching tips, and verbal interactions.  Children observe parent interaction with their coaches and other adults (officials, other parents, supporters) as well as other youth.  With this in mind, more research is needed to understand how relationships with parents contribute to values and behaviors in sport.


This chapter provided theoretical and empirical support from the literature for the current study.  Current research has evaluated value emphasis and transmission in families as well as the impact that parents have on athletes, but no study has provided research on the process of value transmission in athletic families and the differences between moral and social values.  The following chapter will describe the methodology that will be  used to address the research questions including the theoretical perspective of the study, the participant selection criteria, the participant recruitment process, and the methods and procedures for data collection and data analysis.

Research Questions

The research questions guiding the study are as follows

  1. Does value transmission occur between parents and adolescents?
  2. Are adolescents accurate in perceiving the socialization values of their parents?
  3. Do adolescents accept the socialization values their parents are trying to transmit?
  4. Are parents consistent with the values they are transmitting?
  5. Does family communication impact accuracy and acceptance of value transmission?
  6. Does family relationship quality impact accuracy and acceptance of value transmission?
  7. Does the child’s perception of parental values have a greater impact on value transmission than actual parent values?
  8. Is there a difference in the transmission of moral vs social values?

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