Date of Submission


Degree Type




Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Virginia Salzer, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Dr Susan Panichelli Mindel

Third Advisor

Lisa Hain, PsyD


The present study was designed to examine the thinking and attitudes that may be associated with elementary and middle school students participating in youth sports. Girls benefit physically, socially, and educationally from ongoing participation in sports. However, compared to boys, girls tend to start later, quit sooner, and participate less often in sports, despite the numerous advantages that athletics provides. The external barriers that contribute to girls’ decreased involvement in sports as they increase in age and grade are well researched. However, there is a lack of information about the possible cognitive variables related to a girls’ decision to play sports. Therefore, the present study investigated how self-perceptions and dysfunctional attitudes were associated with students’ enjoyment and degree of participation in sports. It was hypothesized that girls’ self-perceived competency would be related to their likelihood to enjoy and continue playing sports. The aim of the study was to increase understanding about how thinking and attitudes may be related to young students’ playing sports, particularly among girls, and provide insight into how to effectively sustain athletic participation. The present study focused on English-speaking students enrolled in elementary and middle schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The study included girls and boys in second through eighth grades and used standardized questionnaires. This survey research required students to complete the Self-Perception Profile for Children, Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale for Children, and questionnaires inquiring about sports participation and demographic information.