Athletes’ Psychological Needs and Coaches’ Interpersonal Behaviours: a Within-Person Latent Profile Analysis

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Basic psychological needs theory is limited by variable-centered studies focused on linear relationships between perceived needs-supportive/controlling coach behaviors. Therefore, latent profile analysis was used to determine if heterogenous profiles emerged from the interactive effects of needs-supportive and -controlling coach behaviors and the subsequent association with sport-specific mental health outcomes (i.e., burnout and subjective vitality). A total of 685 athletes took part (age = 23.39 years, male = 71%), and the latent profile analysis revealed five novel, diverse profiles, labeled as “supportive-developmental,” “needs-indifferent,” “overly critical,” “harsh-controlling,” and “distant-controlling” coaches. The profiles predicted significant mental health variance (adjusted R2 =.15-.24), wherein the “supportive-developmental” profile scored most favorably on 90% of the outcomes. The largest mean differences were observed against the “harsh-controlling” (n = 5), “overly critical” (n = 3), and “distant controlling” (n = 2) profiles. Overall, latent profile analysis revealed substantial nuance in athletes' social contexts, predicting variance in mental health. Needs-supportive interventions are needed for “overly critical,” “harsh controlling,” and “distant controlling” athlete profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Burnout
  • Mental health
  • Need frustration
  • Need satisfaction
  • Self-determination theory
  • Well-being


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