External and Internal Factors Influencing Happiness in Elite Collegiate Athletes


When under conditions of high demand and allostatic load, are happiness and satisfaction in four domains (family, friends, academics, recreation) influenced more by external or internal factors? Do student-athletes who lead exceedingly complicated lives report happiness as a function of athletic achievement or internal disposition? Stanford student-athletes (N = 140) were studied with a standardized questionnaire which examined internal factors ((1) locus of control, (2) mindfulness, (3) self-restraint, and (4) self-esteem) to see whether they better account for happiness than external factors (playing time, scholarship). As predicted, internal factors were more powerful correlates of happiness when holding constant demographics. Regression models differed for different aspects of happiness, but the main postulated result of internal versus external was maintained throughout. These findings have implications for how well athletes cope with adversity which, in turn, could shed light on the development of traits that may provide a buffer against adversity and build resilience.

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Correspondence to Katherine G. Denny.

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Denny, K.G., Steiner, H. External and Internal Factors Influencing Happiness in Elite Collegiate Athletes. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 40, 55 (2009) doi:10.1007/s10578-008-0111-z

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  • Happiness
  • Collegiate athletes
  • Personality
  • Success