Representational Models Associated With Fear of Failure in Adolescents and Young Adults


  • David E. Conroy, Department of Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University.
    Thanks to Steve Portenga, Sumiyo Shiina, and Traci Sommer for their assistance with data collection/entry. Special thanks to Lorna Smith Benjamin, Keith Henschen, Hal Lawson, Ted Packard, and Barry Shultz for their feedback on an earlier draft of this article.

concerning this article may be sent to David E. Conroy, 267 Rec Hall, Department of Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to


As a descriptive trait, fear of failure (FF) has been associated with serious problems in achievement and health. Psychodynamic theories emphasizing interpersonal processes and early object relations are often used to explain the etiology of FF despite little comprehensive research on such theories in the FF domain. The present study employed the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior to study associations between FF and representational models of self and others among 211 high school and college-aged students and athletes. FF was strongly associated with hostile representational models of self while failing (large effect size). This hostility paralleled the manner in which high FF participants reported being treated by their parents and most significant instructors (all moderate effect sizes). Overall, results supported the complementary nature of these theoretical perspectives and provided further evidence for interpersonal theories of FF.