Parents' Attitude May Be Key to Pre-Game Jitters in Kids

Parents' Attitude May Be Key to Pre-Game Jitters in Kids

Parents' Attitude May Be Key to Pre-Game Jitters in Kids

Anxieties over performance transmit easily from parent to child, study suggests

SOURCE: Ithaca College, news release, March 6, 2015

FRIDAY, March 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Want your child to relax and perform well at that next school swim meet? Try not to raise the bar too high in terms of your own expectations, a new study suggests.

"You might think that's a really positive thing for the child, but that's creating a lot of worry [for the kid] as well," study author Miranda Kaye, a professor in the exercise and sport sciences department at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., said in a college news release.

"I don't think parents are necessarily thinking about that kind of thing," she said.

The study focused on athletes aged 6 to 18 involved in several types of individual events: gymnastics, tennis, wrestling, swimming, cross-country and indoor track.

The athletes and their parents were surveyed a day before a meet to determine how they were feeling about the upcoming contest, how the youngsters wanted to perform, and how parents expected their children to perform. For example, the researchers looked at whether the parents wanted their child to outperform other kids in the competition.

Kaye's team measured anxiety in three different ways -- by amounts of worry, disturbed concentration, and by physical symptoms such as a tensed-up body.

Higher levels of expectation were associated with higher levels of anxiety, with the highest levels of anxiety in athletes whose parents had the highest expectations.

"I think people intuitively know that what parents do matters, but it's never been looked at," Kaye said.

Conversely, the researchers also found that young athletes' expectations before a competition can affect their parents' anxiety levels, too.

Kaye said that she hopes to extend the research to see how parental and child anxiety affects team sports such as soccer or baseball, tracking atheletes over a season.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines ways to keep children active.
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