Confirmatory factor analysis of the Thought
Occurrence Questionnaire for Sport (TOQS)
among adolescent athletes
ANDREW M. LANE1, CHRIS HARWOOD2, & ALAN M. NEVILL1
1University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom,2Loughborough University, United Kingdom
(Received 08 December 2003; revised 28 June 2004; accepted 11 October 2004)
There is an inherent link between theory and measurement suggesting that validation of measures
should be the first stage of theory testing. The aim of the present study was to cross-validate the
factorial validity of the Thought Occurrence Questionnaire for Sport for use among adolescent
athletes. National standard young athletes (Individual N? /204; Team N? /360) completed the TOQS
questionnaire. Single-sample and multisample confirmatory factor analysis provided support for the
psychometric integrity of the hypothesized three-factor correlated model. Multisample results
demonstrated invariance for factor loadings and correlations between individual and team athletes.
Internal consistency coefficients were over the .70 criterion for acceptability. Findings lend support to
previous validation studies conducted on samples of adult athletes and suggest that the TOQS
provides an equally valid measure for use among adolescent athletes. It is suggested that the TOQS
can be used to investigate theoretical issues related to cognitive interference during competition.
Keywords: Measurement, sport, structural equations, model testing, psychological skills
Over the past 20 years, research and practice in the field of sport psychology has reinforced
the importance of adopting a cognitive approach to understanding and improving athletic
performance (Hanton & Jones, 1999; Lee-Hill, 2000; Strean & Roberts, 1992; Whelan,
Mahoney, & Meyers, 1991). The emergence of cognitive psychology in the sport domain
owes a great deal to research demonstrating how levels of athletic performance can be
differentiated on the quality of cognitions and subsequent affective responses reported by
athletes prior to and during competition (Gould, Eklund, & Jackson, 1992a, b; Jones &
Hanton, 1996). These studies reveal the debilitative effects of negative, irrelevant or
irregular thought patterns before and during high-level competition, in contrast to the
facilitative role of task-focused thinking and task-specific self-talk strategies (Gould, Finch,
& Jackson, 1993).
During the 1990s, the study of cognitions within sport psychology research was largely
dominated by a multi-dimensional anxiety-based approach (Martens, Vealey, & Burton,
1990). The subsequent focus of research in sport was the measurement, interpretation, and
Correspondence: Andrew M. Lane, School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, University of Wolverhampton,
School of Sport Performing Arts and Leisure, Walsall Campus, Gorway Road, Walsall, WS1 3BD, U.K. Tel: ? /44
(0)1902 322862 Fax: ? /44 (0)1902 323230. E-mail: A.M.Lane2@wlv.ac.uk
ISSN 1061-5806 print/ISSN 1477-2205 online # 2005 Taylor & Francis
Anxiety, Stress, and Coping,
September 2005; 18(3): 245?/254
consequences of cognitive anxiety symptoms (Jones, 1995) as one dimension (alongside
somatic anxiety and self-confidence) of the multi-dimensional anxiety response. However,
whilst this line of research focused on the intensity of pre-competition worries, it did not
address the specific nature and content of cognitions themselves that occur before or during
In an attempt to bridge the link between pre-competition stress and performance,
research turned to affects and cognitions experienced during competition. In recent years, a
growing body of research has examined cognitive interference during competition
(Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 1999, 2001, 2002). Evidence from educational psychology
demonstrates that measures of cognitive interference are linked with poor academic
performance (Sarason, Sarason, & Pierce, 1990; Sarason, Pierce, & Sarason, 1996).
Sarason et al. (1990) characterized into cognitive interference as task-irrelevant, self-
preoccupied thinking, and performance worries that detract attention from the task at hand.
Performance is proposed to be debilitated by the effects of interfering thoughts distracting
attention from task-relevant cues and using up cognitive resources that could be better used
for task-processing (Sarason, 1984).
Studies examining the relationship between anxiety and cognitive interference in sport
have provided mixed results. For example, Schwenkmezger and Laux (1986) found a strong
association between trait anxiety and cognitive interference among a sample of handball
players. Man, Stuchlicova, and Kindlmann (1995) found no significant associations
between stressful situations and cognitive interference. Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999)
argued that inconsistent findings could be attributed to using measures not validated for use
Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999) conducted a confirmatory factor analysis on the
original Thought Occurrence Questionnaire (TOQ) developed by Sarason et al. (1996).
Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999) used confirmatory factor analysis to test the underlying
theory proposed by Sarason et al. (1996). Confirmatory factor analysis is proposed to
provide a rigorous test of factorial validity as it tests the extent which data supports a
theorized structure established a priori by the researcher. Until recently, researchers tended
to use exploratory factor analysis as the technique of choice for demonstrating factorial
validity. Exploratory factor analysis has been criticized for having too many arbitrary
decisions (Biddle, Markland, Gilbourne, Chatzisarantis, & Sparkes, 2001; Schutz, 1994;
Thompson & Daniel, 1996). Exploratory factor analysis is a theory generating technique
rather than a tool for testing theory. Thompson and Daniel (1996) argued that theory
development should be independent of the techniques used to test them.
Confirmatory factor analysis of the original thoughts of occurrence scale among athletes
demonstrated fit indices that failed to reach acceptable levels (Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle,
1999). An analysis of each subscale indicated that items for ‘‘task related worries’’ showed
poor coefficients. If researchers cannot trust the validity of existing measures, it is
incumbent that researchers develop a valid measure before theoretical issues can be tested
(Schutz, 1994). As an attempt to address this issue, and further research on cognitive
interference in sport, Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000) developed a 17-item scale to assess
three related constructs of cognitive interference. The three constructs included; (a)
Performance Worries, characterized by thoughts associated with a perceived failure to attain
performance goals, (b) Task-Irrelevant Thoughts, characterized by thoughts such as day
dreaming, and thoughts not associated with competition, (c) Thoughts of Escape,
characterized by thoughts related to removing oneself from the situation. Hatzigeorgiadis
A. M. Lane et al.
and Biddle (2000) argued that although these are discrete constructs, there should be a
sufficient degree of association to form a single higher-order construct.
Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000) developed the Thought Occurrence Questionnaire for
Sport (TOQS) over three stages. In stage one, an item pool was derived from interviews
with athletes from different sports. In stage two, 15 experts examined the face validity of the
scale. In stage three, factorial validity was tested using confirmatory factor analysis
techniques. Results showed adequate factorial validity for the psychometric properties of
the (TOQS). Cronbach alpha coefficients for estimates of internal consistency were
The need for stringent measures becomes especially important when researchers extend a
line of investigation to a new population. One population of importance to both sport
psychology researchers and practitioners alike are developing adolescent athletes (Gould,
Dieffenbach, & Moffat, 2002; Weiss, 1995). This population is particularly significant given
the combination of placing greater pressure to excel at a young age and the need to develop
psychological skills for use in senior competition. The majority of research in youth sport
has taken a social-cognitive or social-psychological perspective to understanding a variety of
interpersonal and intrapersonal factors such as achievement motivation (Duda, 1987;
Harwood & Swain, 2001), self-perceptions (Weiss, McAuley, Ebbeck, & Weise, 1990), self-
evaluation criteria (Horn & Hasbrook, 1987) and perceptions of significant others (Black &
Weiss, 1992; Duda & Hom, 1993; Swain & Harwood, 1996). All of these areas of study
place cognition as a central component to understanding the young athlete in a competitive
setting. However, limited research to date has investigated the nature of cognitions
occurring in adolescent athletes that may be influenced by some of the individual
differences and contextual factors noted above. A further understanding of the thought
processes experienced by adolescent athletes during competition is also important in the
development of attentional strategies to enhance mental skills (Gould et al., 2002). The
TOQS scale could provide insightful information into the thought processing among young
athletes provided the scale can be shown to be valid and internally reliable.
The purpose of the present study, therefore, was to investigate the factorial validity of
TOQS among a sample of adolescent athletes using confirmatory factor analysis.
Confirmatory factor analysis is proposed to provide a rigorous test of the integrity of a
factor structure, an argument made more compelling when the factor structure is supported
in two samples simultaneously.
Consistent with previous research (Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2000), we hypothesized
that TOQS data collected on adolescent athletes conform to a three-factor interrelated
model. Three other models were tested. These included: (a) a single-factor model; (b) a
three-factor uncorrelated model, and (c) a higher-order model on which subscales load
onto a single second-order factor (see Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2000). As previous
research has found that higher anxiety scores are associated with playing individual sports
(Martens et al., 1990), data were divided into two samples (individual athletes and team
athletes) and multisample confirmatory factor analysis was used to test the factorial
invariance for the best fitting model.
Participants were 564 volunteer young athletes (age: 15?/18 years, male? /266, female? /
298; individual N? /204; team N? /360). They were drawn from national-level training
Factorial validity of the TOQS in adolescent athletes
camps in the UK organized through a joint initiative between Nike, The Institute of Youth
Sport and the Youth Sport Trust. Athletes competed in individual sports including
Badminton, Fencing, Squash and Triathlon and team sports including Hockey, Lacrosse,
Rugby, and Volleyball. It is important to recognize the level of performance at which the
athletes competed. To attend these national training camps, athletes needed to be selected
by their respective National Governing Bodies.
The TOQS is a 17-item questionnaire that comprises three discrete subscales: Performance
Worries, Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts, and Thoughts of Escape. Items are pre-fixed with
the phrase ‘‘During the competition/game I had thoughts ... ’’. The Performance Worries
subscale has six items with examples being ‘‘ ... that we are not going to achieve our goals’’
and ‘‘ ... that the conditions (weather, temperature, pitch, atmosphere) are no good’’. The
subscale Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts has five items with examples being ‘‘ ... about
personal worries’’, and ‘‘ ... about what I am going to be doing later in the day’’. The
Thoughts of Escape subscale has six items with examples being ‘‘ ... about stopping’’, and
‘‘ ... I do not want to take part in this game anymore’’. Items are rated on a 7-point Likert
scale anchored by 1? /never and 7? /very often. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were .90 for
Thoughts of Escape, .85 for Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts, and .78 for Performance
Worries (see Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2000).
The institution of the second author granted ethical approval. Written parental consent for
participation was granted before each training camp through the Youth Sport Trust. The
instructions to participants included a reminder to respond to all items and to answer each
question honestly, and that data would be treated as confidential. Participants completed
the questionnaire during pre-planned break sessions between training under supervision of
a research assistant or coach from the respective sport.
Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using EQS V5 (Bentler & Wu, 1995; Bentler, 1995)
was used to test the four models. Model parameters were estimated using the Maximum
Likelihood method. As psychometric data have a tendency to be not normally distributed,
attention was given to the Mardia coefficient. If Mardia values showed significant deviation
from normality, the Satorra-Bentler Scaled statistics (Robust) would be used as these have
been found to perform adequately under such conditions (Bentler, 1995).
Based on suggestions by Hu and Bentler (1999), a two-index strategy was used. The
Robust Comparative Fit Index (RCFI: Bentler, 1995) was used as an incremental fit index
to test the adequacy of model fit. The RCFI is based on comparisons between the
hypothesized model and a null model (in which there are no relationships among the
observed variables) and are not influenced by sample size. Kline (1998) proposed that
values for the RCFI less than .90 indicate that the hypothesized model could be
substantially improved, whereas Hu and Bentler (1999) suggested that, in most
circumstances, values should approach .95, the criterion for acceptability used in the
A. M. Lane et al.
The second fit index used to assess model fit was the Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA: Steiger, 1990). The RMSEA indicates the mean discrepancy
between the observed covariances and those implied by the model per degree of freedom,
and therefore has the advantage of being sensitive to model complexity. A value of .05 or
lower indicates a good fit and values up to .08 indicate an acceptable fit (Browne & Cudeck,
1993). Hu and Bentler (1999) argued that a good fitting model should show acceptable fit
on both fit indices.
The best fitting model was tested in individual and team samples independently, and then
simultaneously using multisample CFA. Multisample CFA tests the extent to the invariance
of relationships found in two samples, and is proposed to provide a rigorous test of specified
relationships within the measurement model (Bentler, 1995; Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996).
Multisample analysis was conducted in three stages. First, a baseline unconstrained model
was tested. Second, the hypothesis that factor coefficients are invariant across samples was
tested by placing equality constraints on factor loadings. Third, the hypothesis that
relationships between factors will be invariant across groups was tested. In the present
study, it is suggested that factor loadings will not be significantly different across samples,
demonstrated by acceptable incremental fit indices over .95.
Mardia values showed that the data deviated significantly from normality (Mardia? /78.78),
hence the decision was to use the Robust Maximum Likelihood estimation method. CFA
results provided support for the three-factor correlated model (RCFI? /.97; RMSEA? /.05)
and the higher-order model (RCFI? /.96; RMSEA? /.05). No support was found for the
single-factor model (RCFI? /.76; RMSEA? /.13) or the three-factor uncorrelated model
(RCFI? /.85; RMSEA? /.10). Therefore, results indicated that the three-factor correlated
model showed the best fit, albeit marginally.
Confirmatory factor analysis results for individual and team athletes demonstrated that
fit indices were comparable, and importantly, the RCFI fit index was greater than the .95
(Hu & Benter, 1999) fit index criterion and the RMSEA lower than .08 (Browne & Cudeck,
1993) (see Table I). As single sample results showed support for the hypothesized model,
multisample CFA was used to test the invariance of the relationships between individual
and team samples. Multisample results indicated support for the baseline unconstrained
model and the constrained factor loadings model with the RCFI being equal to the .95 for
acceptable fit and the RMSEA results being below the .08 criterion (see Table I). However,
with multisample analysis, the key results derive from the multivariate Lagrange Multiplier
test. Results indicated that factor loading for the items ‘‘ ... about what I’m going to do
Table I. Single Sample and Multisample Confirmatory factor analysis of the Thoughts of Occurrence Questionn-
aire for Sport.
loadings and correlations
Note. RCFI? /Robust Comparative Fit Index; RMSEA? /Root Mean Square Error of Approximation.
Factorial validity of the TOQS in adolescent athletes
later in the day’’ (x2? /5.40, pB /.05) and ‘‘ ... that other competitors are better than me’’
(x2? /4.83, pB /.05) differed significantly between individual and team samples. It could be
argued that these x2values are relatively low given the sample size and the complexity of the
Standardized factor loadings and error variances for TOQS scores showed support for
the notion that items load onto their hypothesized subscale (see Table II). Significant
correlations were evidenced between subscales (Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts and Perfor-
mance Worries, Individual r? /.71, pB /.01; Team r? /.63, p B /.01; Thoughts of Escape and
Performance Worries; Individual r? /.61, pB /.01; Team r? /.68, pB /.01; and Thoughts of
Escape and Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts, individual r? /.61, p B /.01; Team r? /.61,
pB /.01). Alpha coefficients for the TOQS subscales were above the .70 criterion for
acceptable fit suggested by Tabachnick and Fidell (1996) for both samples; Performance
Worries, Individual alpha? /.77, Team alpha? /.79; Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts, Indivi-
dual alpha? /.85, Team alpha? /.86; Thoughts of Escape, Individual alpha? /.86, Team
Descriptive statistics are contained in Table III. Mean scores for TOQS were highly
comparable to data reported by Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000) with Performance
Worries experienced to a moderate degree, but more frequently than Situation-Irrelevant
Thoughts and Thoughts of Escape. A repeated measures analysis of variance of TOQS
Table II. Factor Loadings for Thought Occurrence Questionnaire for Sport among Individual N? /204; Team N? /
‘‘During the competition/game
I had thoughts ... ’’
about previous mistakes I have made
that I’m having a bad day
that the conditions (weather, temperature,
pitch, atmosphere) are no good
that I am not going to achieve my goals today
that I am not going to win this competition
that other competitors are better than me
about other activities (e.g. shopping,
having tea, TV
about what I’m going to do later in the day
about personal worries (e.g. school,
about what I’m going to do when I get home
Thoughts of Escape
that I want to quit
that I do not want to take part in this
competition any more
that I want to get out of here
that I am fed-up with it
that I cannot stand it any more
A. M. Lane et al.
subscale scores indicated significant differences (F2.575? /2106.95, p B /.001, Eta2? /.88)
with post hoc test indicating differences between each subscale. Multivariate analysis of
variance indicated a significant difference in mean scores between individual and team
sports on TOQS scores (Hotelling T3,574? /.03, p B /.001, Eta2? /.03) with individual sport
players reporting higher scores on Performance Worries, Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts,
and Thoughts of Escape (see Table III).
The present study investigated the validity of the TOQS scale for use with young athletes.
Three models were tested. Results indicate a three-factor correlated and a higher-order
model showed acceptable fit indices. Results for the single-factor and uncorrelated three-
factor model showed poor fit. These results suggest that although items are part of the same
conceptual framework as suggested by Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000), examination of
the cognitive interference in sport construct should be conducted by exploring the interplay
between the subscales of Performance Worries, Situation-Irrelevant Thoughts and
Thoughts of Escape. We suggest that researchers and practitioners interpret subscale
scores independently and investigate the interplay between each scale rather using a
composite score of the sum of items.
Results of the present study demonstrate that the TOQS has acceptable factorial validity
and internal consistency among a sample of individual athletes and team athletes
adolescents athletes. Multisample confirmatory factor analysis is proposed to provide a
rigorous test of the psychometric integrity of a questionnaire (Bentler, 1995). These results
indicate that factorial invariance was evidenced for a highly restricted model with equality
constraints being placed on factor loadings and correlations between factors.
Findings of the present study lend further support to those reported by Hatzigeorgiadis
and Biddle (2000) that the TOQS is a valid measure of interfering thoughts in sport. It is
argued that the extension of factorial validity of the TOQS to adolescent athletes represents
an important contribution to developing research in this area. In particular, it addresses a
limitation pertaining to the measurement of psychological constructs in sport and exercise
psychology as suggested by Schutz (1994). In a summary of measurement issues, Schutz
(1994) argued that researchers in the field have developed a plethora of scales, with each
study providing evidence for its validity only for a later study to show its limitations. He
suggested that: ‘‘Premature publication of measurement tools has led to a proliferation of
psychological tests and a considerable amount of research of questionable validity’’ (p. 38).
Schutz (1994) argued that a test should not be developed unless; (a) a clear need can be
demonstrated, and (b) researchers use a rigorous set of criteria for questionnaire
Table III. Descriptive Statistics for Thoughts of Occurrence Sport Questionnaire scores between Individual and
Team Adolescent Athletes.
M SDM SDF1,556
Thoughts of Escape
Note. n? /204 individual athletes and n? /360 team athletes.
Factorial validity of the TOQS in adolescent athletes
development. It is argued that the methods used in the present study and those reported by
Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000) adhered to these principles. Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle
(1999, 2000) based the TOQS on sound theoretical principles developed initially from
educational research and from interviews with athletes, and therefore, it should not be
surprising that factorial validity of the TOQS was supported when applied to a different
Research could question whether Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999, 2000) needed to
develop a new scale when there is already an existing measure of competition anxiety (see
Martens et al., 1990). It should be emphasized that recent research has questioned the
factorial validity (Cox, 2000; Cox, Martens, & Russell, 2003; Lane, Sewell, Terry, Bartram,
& Nesti, 1999) and the predictive validity of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2
(Craft, Magyar, Becker, & Feltz, 2003; Woodman & Hardy, 2003). Both Lane et al. (1999)
and Craft et al. (2003) argued that future research should focus on developing a valid and
appropriate measure. Further, it is suggested that a sport-specific measure of cognitive
interference in sport could: (a) help extend the literature from pre- to during-competition
cognitive activation, and (b) help identify whether different kinds of thoughts have different
Gould et al. (2002) argued that it is important to nurture psychological skills among
emerging athletes. Development and validation of the TOQS can provide a standardized
tool for assessing this process. Findings from the present study suggest that the TOQS can
be used among samples of individual and team athletes, and we suggest that descriptive
statistics (see Table III) could be used for comparative purposes in future research. In this
particular sample of relatively elite adolescent athletes, whilst overall cognitive interference
was low to moderate, the most frequent interfering thoughts were those associated with
performance standards as opposed to those irrelevant to competition or about withdrawal
from the contest. Whilst this profile of cognitions is not surprising given the nature of the
sample, it nevertheless reinforces to practitioners the importance of giving primary
attention to self-efficacy building strategies to help maintain high performance expectations
in the athlete.
Several relevant lines of investigation could be conducted to extend research with the
TOQS in youth sport populations. Firstly, we have limited knowledge of the relationships
between cognitive interference, pre-competitive states and performance in youth sport. A
great deal of research has focused on relationships between variables such as pre-
competitive emotional states and performance outcomes such as win/loss or achievement
of a personal best performance etc. (see Beedie, Terry, & Lane, 2000; Jones, 1995), with a
relative absence into investigating how such variables influence thought processing during
performance which may in turn affect performance detrimentally. Hatzigeorgiadis and
Biddle (2001) provided indirect evidence of this in a follow-up study of volleyball players
where interfering thoughts disrupted concentration and resulted in decreased effort
amongst those athletes with lower goal attainment expectancies.
A more enterprising line of research may be to investigate the thoughts occurrence
profiles of adolescent athletes longitudinally as they progress through different athletic
transitions from junior to senior status. Recent research in youth sport settings has focused
on the normative transitions that young athletes move through as they developmentally
progress to higher standards of competition (Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004). Examining
differences in TOQS scores between junior elite age groups is one method of understanding
the potential effects and pressures of these transitions. However, longitudinal idiographic
research that tracks changes on a case by case basis may offer researchers a clearer insight
A. M. Lane et al.
into quality and quantity of cognitions that characterize a transition or move up to a higher
level/age group. This information is of clear relevance to practitioners dealing with
adolescent athletes entering the first year of senior competition. The validation of the
TOQS in this study should provide researchers with a measure to fulfill these various lines
In conclusion, results offer confirmatory support to the notion that the TOQS shows
factorial validity for use among adolescent athletes. Future research should use the TOQS
to investigate the extent to which thought processes of athletes during competition relate
with other psychological measures.
The authors would like to thank Sam Barney for his helpful comments during the
production of this paper. We would also like to thank the reviewers for their insightful
comments. We would like to acknowledge the Institute of Youth Sport in partnership with
the Youth Sport Trust (Great Britain).
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