Psychological need thwarting in the sport context: Assessing the darker side of athletic experience

Kimberley J. Bartholomew, Nikos Ntoumanis, Richard M. Ryan, Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

522 Scopus citations


Research in self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2002) has shown that satisfaction of autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs in sport contexts is associated with enhanced engagement, performance, and well-being. This article outlines the initial development of a multidimensional measure designed to assess psychological need thwarting, an under-studied area of conceptual and practical importance. Study 1 generated a pool of items designed to tap the negative experiential state that occurs when athletes perceive their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness to be actively undermined. Study 2 tested the factorial structure of the questionnaire using confirmatory factor analysis. The supported model comprised 3 factors, which represented the hypothesized interrelated dimensions of need thwarting. The model was refined and cross-validated using an independent sample in Study 3. Overall, the psychological need thwarting scale (PNTS) demonstrated good content, factorial, and predictive validity, as well as internal consistency and invariance across gender, sport type, competitive level, and competitive experience. The conceptualization of psychological need thwarting is discussed, and suggestions are made regarding the use of the PNTS in research pertaining to the darker side of sport participation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-102
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness
  • Scale development
  • Self-determination theory


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