Generalization of social anxiety to sporting and athletic situations: Gender, sports involvement, and parental pressure

Peter J. Norton, James A. Burns, Debra A. Hope, Bruce K. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although researchers have documented that social anxiety may occur in a wide range of interpersonal and performance situations, little attention has been paid to the potential influence of social anxiety on participation in athletics or physical activity. The performance demands of sport and potential social evaluative nature of exercise make it likely that social anxiety would generalize to these situations. Given the physical and psychological benefits of engaging in regular physical activity, avoidance of such activities by socially anxious individuals may have profound health consequences. One-hundred and eighty undergraduate university students completed a battery of standardized social anxiety measures, and a series of 5-point Likert-type questions examining fear and avoidance of sporting and athletic situations. Results indicated that social anxiety and fear of negative evaluation were generally related to social-evaluative fears in sporting or athletic situations, particularly for women. Furthermore, social anxiety was positively correlated with avoidance of individual sporting activities, but not with avoidance of team activities. Further analyses revealed social anxiety did not differ by competition level. However, for men, familial pressure to play sports during high school was associated with higher fear of negative evaluation. Implications for the assessment and treatment of social anxiety disorder are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-202
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


  • Assessment
  • Avoidance
  • Physical activity
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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