Fear of failure and student athletes’ interpersonal antisocial behaviour in education and sport


Sam S. Sagar, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds LS1 3HE, UK (e-mail: S.Sagar@leedsmet.ac.uk).


Background. The link between fear of failure and students’ antisocial behaviour has received scant research attention despite associations between fear of failure, hostility, and aggression. Also, the effect of sport experience on antisocial behaviour has not been considered outside of the sport context in adult populations. Further, to date, sex differences have not been considered in fear of failure research.

Aims. To examine whether (a) fear of failure and sport experience predict antisocial behaviour in the university and sport contexts in student athletes, and whether this prediction is the same in males and females; and (b) sex differences exist in antisocial behaviour and fear of failure.

Sample. British university student athletes (n= 176 male; n= 155 female; Mage= 20.11 years).

Method. Participants completed questionnaires assessing fear of failure, sport experience, and antisocial behaviour in both contexts.

Results. (a) Fear of failure and sport experience positively predicted antisocial behaviour in university and sport and the strength of these predictions did not differ between males and females; (b) females reported higher levels of fear of devaluing one's self-estimate than males whereas males reported higher levels of fear of important others losing interest than females. Males engaged more frequently than females in antisocial behaviour in both contexts.

Conclusions. Fear of failure and sport experience may be important considerations when trying to understand antisocial behaviour in student athletes in education and sport; moreover, the potential effect of overall fear of failure and of sport experience on this frequency does not differ by sex. The findings make an important contribution to the fear of failure and morality literatures.