Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies



Committee Chair

Steven J. Venette

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Wendy L. Atkins-Sayre

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

Richard L. Conville

Committee Member 3 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 4

Casey M. Maugh Funderburk

Committee Member 4 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 5

John C. Meyer

Committee Member 5 Department

Communication Studies


Mixed methods were utilized to test the communication within a model of self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 1985) in a multi-generational sports framework in order to argue for an update to self-determination theory (SDT) that includes a communication element. Fourteen qualitative research questions were posed to examine how communication functioned to move tennis players, golfers, and runners from the initial family influence in participating, to integrating family values to the extent that participants modeled athletic values to offspring and community members. Three hypotheses correlating the variables of self-efficacy, autonomy-controlling and autonomy-supportive family communication supported the argument that communication functioned to develop self-determined behavior in a sports context.

The Perception of Parents Scale (Grolnick, Ryan, & Deci, 1991), the Revised Family Communication Patterns Scale (Richie & Fitzpatrick, 1990), and the Self-Efficacy Scale (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995) were used quantitatively, and qualitative interviews were conducted with 38 participants in the southern United States. Results indicated that in a family-based sports context, control does not always lead to introjection or rejection as predicted in SDT. In this setting, autonomy-control, when combined with involvement, led to integration of family sports values with autonomy-supportive communication such as support, validation, and rationale mediating SDT expectations of introjection. The conclusions were that 1) communication functioned to move participants between SDT elements supporting the need for SDT to be updated to include communication and a modeling effect; 2) mixed methodology was an effective approach to this case study; and 3) the variables of control and involvement merit further scrutiny beyond a family sports environment.