The relationships among sport self-perceptions and social well-being in athletes with physical disabilities

Parts of this paper have been presented at the 2010 NAFAP conference.

Deborah R. Shapiro, Ph.D., Jeffery J. Martin, Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal, Vol. 7, Issue 1, p42–48
Published online: July 24, 2013


Peer relationships account for a significant motivational influence on sport participation among youth athletes with and without disabilities.


The primary purpose of this study was to determine if the quality of friendships, physical self-perceptions and general self-worth predicted close friendship, loneliness and social acceptance among 46 athletes with physical disabilities (males = 35, female = 11) between the ages of 12 and 21 (M age = 15.37, SD = 2.45). Second, this study examined descriptive information on the quality of friendships inside and outside of an adapted sport setting, feelings of loneliness, social acceptance, close friendships, athletic competence, physical appearance, and self-worth among youth athletes with physical disabilities.


Participants completed the Sport Friendship Quality Scale (SFQS), a Loneliness Rating Scale and the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (SPPA).


Three regression analyses used positive and negative aspects of non-sport friendship quality, positive aspects of sport friendship quality, physical appearance, athletic competence, and self-worth as predictors and accounted for 57%, 41%, and 31% of the variance in loneliness, close friendships, and social acceptance, respectively. Athletic competence and self-worth were the most important predictors of loneliness and close friendships with significant (p < .10) beta weights. No single predictor had a significant beta weight in predicting social acceptance. Negative and positive elements of friendship quality were not important predictors.


These findings highlight the importance of global psychological (i.e., self-worth) and sport specific psychological (i.e., athletic competence) constructs in predicting important social well-being indices (i.e., close friendships & loneliness).