Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors and Weight Concerns of Gymnasts
Baker, Jaclyn K.
Weight concerns are highly prevalent for adolescent female aesthetic sport athletes, particularly gymnasts, and these concerns can have detrimental effects on overall health and well-being. Though the cause of these weight concerns is unknown, they may be associated with performance-related pressures associated with the competitive nature of gymnastics. Therefore, it is important for research to examine factors that may potentially contribute to these potential performance-related (drive for thinness and performance) and non-sport (maternal anti-fat attitudes and behaviors) risk factors. Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine mothers' and daughters' body mass index (BMI), non-sport and performance-related maternal attitudes and behaviors, and autonomy support with weight concerns and athlete engagement of gymnasts. Methods: 30 mother-daughter dyads were recruited to participate in the research study. Mothers completed a demographic survey, the Implicit Anti-Fat Attitudes Test, the Anti-Fat Attitudes questionnaire, the Comprehensive Feeding Practices questionnaire, and Drive for Thinness questionnaires. Daughters completed a sport-specific Drive for Thinness questionnaire, the Perceived Parental Autonomy Support scale, the Perceived Autonomy Support Scale for Exercise Settings, and the Athlete Engagement questionnaire. Pearson r correlations were conducted to determine associations between BMI, non-sport and performance-related maternal attitudes and behaviors, and autonomy support with daughters' weight concerns and engagement. Results: Mothers in this study had an average age of 44.4 [plus-or-minus] 4.6 years, and the average age of daughters was 12.77 [plus-or-minus] 0.97 years. All of the mothers reported having a college degree or higher, and 67% reported that they were former athletes. The average BMI for mothers was 25.41 [plus-or-minus] 4.94 kg/m2. The average BMI for daughters, 18.84 [plus-or-minus] 2.59 kg/m2, was classified as normal weight for adolescents. Scores from the questionnaires displayed that the mothers had moderate explicit (fear of fat: M=4.97 [plus-or-minus] 2.05, willpower: M=5.82 [plus-or-minus] 0.99) and implicit anti-fat attitudes (d=0.44 [plus-or-minus] 0.40), personal drive for thinness (M=2.38 [plus-or-minus] 0.79), and restrictive feeding practices for health purposes (M=3.2 [plus-or-minus] 1.25). Mothers reported a low drive for thinness for their daughter (M=1.48 [plus-or-minus] 0.57). Daughters in this sample reported moderate weight concerns (M=2.26 [plus-or-minus] 0.72), high perceptions of autonomy in (M=6.18 [plus-or-minus] 0.61) and out of sport (M=5.60 [plus-or-minus] 0.79), and high levels of sport-specific well-being (M=4.71 [plus-or-minus] 0.28). There were no significant relationships between BMI and non-sport and performance-related maternal attitudes and behaviors with daughters' weight concerns and well-being. However, there was a strong significant positive association between maternal autonomy support within-sport and daughters' sport-specific well-being (r=.61, p=.01). Conclusions: Weight concerns are prevalent within the aesthetic sport culture, and findings from this study suggest that BMI and certain maternal attitudes and behaviors were not associated with gymnasts' weight concerns and athlete engagement in this sample. Gymnasts in this sample reported moderate weight concerns, and it may take future research with a more representative sample to help determine where these concerns stem from. Optimistically, gymnasts in this study reported high levels of maternal autonomy support in and out of sport, which is a notable finding. Within a sport culture that has high levels of control and authority, it seems that mothers in this sample may practice autonomy-supportive behaviors to enhance their daughters' psychological need for autonomy. Ultimately, future research needs to be conducted to identify additional variables that are associated with gymnasts' weight concerns and engagement. Future research will not only help prevent the development of weight concerns, but also aid in the education of gymnasts, coaches, and families regarding potential risk factors.
Baker, Jaclyn K.. (July 2017). Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors and Weight Concerns of Gymnasts (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6350.)
Baker, Jaclyn K.. Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors and Weight Concerns of Gymnasts. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, July 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6350. April 24, 2019.
Baker, Jaclyn K., “Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors and Weight Concerns of Gymnasts” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, July 2017).
Baker, Jaclyn K.. Maternal Attitudes and Behaviors and Weight Concerns of Gymnasts [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; July 2017.
East Carolina University