Family systems interventions in sport

Authored by: Michael Zito

Routledge Handbook of Applied Sport Psychology

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415484633
eBook ISBN: 9780203851043
Adobe ISBN: 9781136966675


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Some of the most powerful influences shaping an athlete’s life experiences, especially in the younger years, are the primary relationships provided by the family. Although the influence of specific parental behaviors on athlete performance have been reported (Horn & Horn, 2007), there is a paucity of documented investigations examining the more complex influence of reciprocal family interaction patterns on athletic performance. The purpose of this chapter is to present a comprehensive assessment and intervention model for sport psychologists that is broader than traditional individual and/or dyadic models, by incorporating the influence of the complex reciprocal family interactions on an athlete’s functioning. Family systems theory can guide us to this broader level of assessment and intervention while simultaneously embracing the influence of individual factors. An individual athlete’s personality and behaviors are viewed as reciprocally interacting within a broader context. This broader context of multiple interacting factors may include an athlete’s: family history, team relationships, coach–coach interactions (as they influence team functioning), social support system, communication patterns, culture, and ethnic background. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to cover all family systems theories. For a comprehensive review of family systems theory and therapies see Goldenberg and Goldenberg (2008). This chapter will address the core tenets of family systems theory, assessment, and interventions as applied to sport psychology service delivery.

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