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Posted 12.14.04

Hockey-Crazed Parents Don't Make Rink Rats Violent, Researcher Finds

COLUMBIA, Mo. The intensity and unpredictable violence of youth ice hockey can be an exhilarating and dangerous experience, not only on the ice, but in the stands. Players use verbal and physical intimidation to attempt to dominate other players and, like their counterparts in professional hockey, may be inclined to bend the rules to achieve success. A new study by a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher found that parents, contrary to popular opinion, do not encourage their children to be these aggressive athletes.

"You might expect youth hockey to emphasize winning over skill development, but many parents and youth report an emphasis on skill development," said David Bergin, associate professor of educational psychology.

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The Journal of Genetic Psychology

Bergin and co-author Steven Habusta surveyed 123 youth hockey players and the parent most involved in their sports participation to measure task and ego orientations. When people are task-oriented, they focus on thoughts and behaviors that will improve their competence. Those that are ego-oriented tend to focus on thoughts and behaviors that will protect their ego and make them feel better than others. The researchers found that ratings of boys and parents were higher for task goals than for ego goals. Mothers and fathers did not differ in their goal orientations for their sons, and parents' goals were similar to their sons'. In addition, boys on highly competitive travel teams were no more ego-oriented than boys who were on non-travel, skill development teams.

"Parents often assume the role of motivator, and this involvement may influence whether a child performs with a task orientation or with an ego orientation," Bergin said. "Because of the stereotype in the media of crazed hockey fathers, one might expect fathers of players to be highly ego-oriented, more so than their sons or the mothers. We did not find this pattern in the families we surveyed."

Bergin believes that even though hockey has a stereotype of competitive aggression, the parents and sons who were surveyed agree that they are more interested in learning and mastering hockey skills than they are in appearing to be better than other players.

Bergin and Habusta's research will be published in The Journal of Genetic Psychology.



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