Parental support in youth sport
: its conceptualisation and measurement

  • Shannon Burke

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The concept of parental support has been well studied within the context of youth sport and has been linked with favourable athlete outcomes. However, previous research has raised concerns over the absence of theory-grounded psychometric instruments to assess parental support in youth sport (Knight, 2019). Within the present thesis, four research studies are reported. Each study contributed to the conceptualisation and measurement of parental support in youth sport. Study one was a systematic review of parent-education programs in youth sport. Results from study one confirmed there was a current paucity of valid and reliable psychometric instruments to assess parental involvement and support in youth sport. As a result, the remaining three studies sought to develop and validate a theoretically grounded measure of parental support in youth sport, which encompassed a three-phase approach that is common practice in the scale development process. That is, study two was a qualitative investigation of female youth athletes’ perceptions of parental support in youth sport, utilising participants as ‘active agents’ in expressing the meaning of the construct. Adopting a grounded theory methodology, data were collected through online focus groups, with an international sample of female youth athletes in the specialising (n = 27) and investment (n = 34) stages of development. Study two findings revealed that parents provided instrumental, informational, emotional, and autonomy support in youth sport. However, athletes’ individual perceptions of these categories of support were influenced by a host of athlete, parent, and contextual characteristics. Following this, the aim of study three was to investigate youth athletes’ perceptions of unsupportive parenting practices, within the competitive youth sport environment. Fourteen online focus groups were completed with youth athletes in the specialising (n = 27) and investment (n = 34) stages of athlete development, recruited from seven countries. Thematic analysis revealed three higher-order categories of unsupportive parenting practices: emotional ill-treatment; physical ill-treatment; and pressurizing behaviour. The results from study three, in addition to the advanced grounded theory (study two) were subsequently used to inform the development and validation of the Youth Sport Parental Support-Questionnaire (YSPS-Q; study four). Study four was built on the results from study two and three, to generate scale items (n = 70) which reflected parental support. Generated items were subsequently assessed for content validity by a panel of experts (n = 5) and members of the target population (n = 7). Following, retained items (n = 33) were administered to a sample of youth athletes (n = 318) for further item reduction and to explore the factor structure of the instrument, utilising exploratory factor analysis (EFA). In the final phase, a 19-item measure was administered to a second independent sample of youth athletes (n = 319), to confirm the factor structure of the instrument utilising confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Following minor ad-hoc modifications (i.e., removal of one item), the final 18-item, four dimensional YSPS-Q demonstrated excellent model fit (CFI = .949; TLI = .939; RMSEA = .064; SRMR = .0602) and acceptable reliability and validity. To conclude, this PhD programme of research presented within the current thesis has developed the first valid and reliable measure of parental support in youth sport and has also provided quantitative support for the grounded theory of parental support advanced in study two. The development and validation of the YSPS-Q will allow future researchers and practitioners to examine athletes’ perceptions of parental support across both individual and team sport settings, while also providing researchers with opportunities to advance theory and support interventions pertaining to youth sport parenting.
Date of AwardJun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsVice Chancellor's Research Scholarship (VCRS)
SupervisorKyle Paradis (Supervisor), L.A. Sharp (Supervisor) & David Woods (Supervisor)


  • Youth sport
  • Parental support
  • Grounded theory
  • Parental involvement
  • Scale development

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