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Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’ Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of Trust in Coach



Self-esteem is a positive evaluation of oneself that can facilitate optimal functioning. However, little research has focused on its antecedents in sport. Accordingly, we adopted an interactionism perspective and proposed that gratitude, a dispositional factor, will enhance an athlete's self-esteem and affective trust in coach, a situational factor, will strengthen such a positive effect. Athletes completed measures of gratitude, affective trust in coach, and self-esteem at Time 1 and self-esteem at Time 2 after 6 months. Results showed that athletes with higher levels of gratitude increased their self-esteem over time when they had higher affective trust in their coaches.
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Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
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Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’
Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of
Trust in Coach
Lung Hung Chena & Chia-Huei Wub
a National Taiwan Sport University
b London School of Economics and Political Science
Accepted author version posted online: 15 Apr 2014.Published
online: 08 May 2014.
To cite this article: Lung Hung Chen & Chia-Huei Wu (2014) Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’
Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of Trust in Coach, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26:3,
349-362, DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2014.889255
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DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2014.889255
Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’ Self-Esteem:
The Moderating Role of Trust in Coach
National Taiwan Sport University
London School of Economics and Political Science
Self-esteem is a positive evaluation of oneself that can facilitate optimal functioning. However,
little research has focused on its antecedents in sport. Accordingly, we adopted an interactionism
perspective and proposed that gratitude, a dispositional factor, will enhance an athlete’s self-
esteem and affective trust in coach, a situational factor, will strengthen such a positive effect.
Athletes completed measures of gratitude, affective trust in coach, and self-esteem at Time 1
and self-esteem at Time 2 after 6 months. Results showed that athletes with higher levels of
gratitude increased their self-esteem over time when they had higher affective trust in their
Self-esteem, defined as a positive evaluation toward oneself (Rosenberg, 1965), has been
widely regarded as a positive characteristic that can facilitate optimal psychological and phys-
ical functioning (Leary & Baumeister, 2000; Rosenberg, 1965) in various aspects, such as
relationships (Erol & Orth, 2013), subjective well-being (Walker & Schimmack, 2008), and
academic grades (Schmidt & Padilla, 2003). In sport psychology, many studies have found
that high self-esteem has several benefits for athletes as they develop. For example, high
self-esteem contributed to preventing athletes from having eating disorders and experiencing
burnout (Engel et al., 2003; Gustafsson, Kentt¨
a, Hassm´
en, Lundqvist, & Durand-Bush, 2007),
depressive symptoms (Armstrong & Oomen-Early, 2009), and cognitive anxiety while increas-
ing self-confidence (Coudevylle, Gernigon, & Ginis, 2011). Although self-esteem is widely
regarded as a personality trait, it is malleable and can be shaped by life experiences; thus, it
is a developmental outcome that represents a person’s global evaluation of his or her overall
worthiness in general and his or her abilities, skills, and social relationships in particular
(Harter, 1999). As such, promoting an athlete’s self-esteem is possible and has become a crit-
ical issue in sport psychology (Beachamp, Jackson, & Morton, 2012; Coatsworth & Conroy,
2006; Sanna, 2012; Stenseng & Dalskau, 2010).
Previous research has discussed the impact of either dispositional factors (Koivula, Hass-
men, & Fallby, 2002; Podlog, Lochbaum, & Stevens, 2010) or situational factors (Coatsworth &
Received 27 August 2013; accepted 27 January 2014.
Address correspondence to Lung Hung Chen, Department of Recreation and Leisure Industry Man-
agement, National Taiwan Sport University, No. 250, Wen Hua 1st Road, Kueishan, Taoyuan County,
Taiwan. E-mail:
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350 L. H. CHEN AND C.-H. WU
Conroy, 2006; Smith, Cumming, & Smoll, 2008) in shaping an athlete’s self-esteem. However,
as human beings’ thoughts and actions are largely determined by their individual characteristics
and environment (Andersen & Thorpe, 2009; Griffo & Randall, 2009), we suggest that exam-
ining both dispositional and situational factors to understand how they jointly shape athletes’
self-esteem is even more crucial. Following previous work in sport psychology highlighting
the importance of this interactionism perspective (Coatsworth & Conroy, 2009; Sheldon &
Watson, 2011; Smith & Smoll, 1990), we aim to identify dispositional and situational factors
that can jointly enhance athletes’ self-esteem.
In this study, we suggest that dispositional gratitude and affective trust in one’s coach are
important dispositional and situational factors that can jointly shape one’s self-esteem over
time. Specifically, “dispositional gratitude is a generalized tendency to recognize and respond
with grateful emotion to the roles of other people’s benevolence in the positive experiences and
outcomes that one obtains” (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002, p. 112). Affective trust
in a coach is a “psychological state that refers to an emotional bond between athlete and coach
emphasizing empathy, affiliation, and rapport on the basis of shared regard for one another”
(Schaubroeck, Lam, & Peng, 2011, p. 864).
As we briefly elaborate, we suggest that dispositional gratitude directs an athlete’s attention
to perceive and appreciate care and support provided by others, and affective trust in one’s
coach denotes a supportive and positive relationship between athletes and coaches. We propose
that these two factors can promote an athlete’s self-esteem over time in a broaden-and-build
mechanism (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) such that when grateful athletes have higher affective
trust in their coaches, they are more likely to perceive and obtain more resources from coaches
in a supportive relationship (a broadening process) and then utilize such resources to achieve
personal goals (a building process), which helps to increase their self-esteem. Overall, we
propose the congruency between dispositional gratitude and affective trust in one’s coach
produces positive changes in athletes’ self-esteem.
In this study, we focused on adolescent athletes because they are in a critical stage of life
in terms of their overall development (Arnett, 1999). Adolescents have a higher tendency to
have conflicts with their parents, experience mood disruptions, and exhibit risky behavior in
this stage, which is well known as adolescent storm and stress (Steinberg & Morris, 2001).
Athletes in this stage might be relatively unstable both psychologically and physically, and we
believe that cultivating self-esteem might prevent athletes from misbehaving and indirectly
contribute to their improved well-being.
Our study contributes to the literature in several ways. First, we highlight the importance
of dispositional gratitude in shaping athletes’ lives, which has rarely been discussed in sport
psychology (except for Chen & Kee, 2008). Second, rather than focusing on a dispositional
factor (Koivula et al., 2002; Podlog et al., 2010) or a situational factor (Coatsworth & Conroy,
2006; Smith et al., 2008) only, we adopt an interactionism approach (Andersen & Thorpe,
2009; Griffo & Colvin, 2009) to understand how dispositional and situational factors can
jointly shape athletes’ self-esteem. Next we provide arguments to support our hypotheses.
Gratitude has been defined as a dispositional characteristic (McCullough et al., 2002);
thus, individuals with higher gratitude tend to express their grateful feelings across different
contexts. This grateful tendency is highly relevant to the sports context. For example, Carl
Lewis mentioned that gratitude to his competitors is a part of his competition repertoire
(Lewis & Marx, 1990) and can improve his mental preparation. The benefits of gratitude to
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athletes have been directly reported by Chen (2013) and Chen and Kee (2008), who showed
that athletes with higher gratitude are more likely to have higher life satisfaction, which is in
accord with the observation that grateful individuals tend to have better social relationships
and exhibit pro-social behavior and well-being (for a systemetic review, see Wood, Froh, &
Geraghty, 2010). Therefore, previous findings have implied the importance of gratitude in
shaping athletes’ lives. Here, we extend previous research by implying that gratitude will have
a positive function by enhancing athletes’ self-esteem over time.
Gratitude is defined as a positive trait involving both cognitive and affective elements.
Those with high levels of gratitude tend to notice and appreciate the positivity in the world
(Wood et al., 2010); thus, they easily perceive when someone has acted in the interest of
their welfare (McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001) and tend to recognize and
respond to such benevolence with a positive emotion (McCullough et al., 2002). Because
of these characteristics, we propose that people with high levels of gratitude tend to have,
maintain, and increase their self-esteem, that is, a person’s self-appraisal (Rosenberg, 1965).
The sociometer theory of self-esteem (Leary & Baumeister, 2000) implies that self-esteem
is a sociometer that relates to how an individual is liked and accepted by others. Accordingly,
those with high levels of gratitude tend to have higher self-esteem because they are more
likely to perceive support from others, which is an indication of being liked and accepted in
a social environment. Over time, this sociometer mechanism can lead to a broaden-and-build
effect (Fredrickson, 1998) in enhancing one’s self-esteem. Specifically, those with high levels
of gratitude are more likely to broaden their social capital because they tend to have flexible
worldviews to recognize and interpret the things they have in life as gifts (McCullough et al.,
2002) even in negative circumstances (Lambert, Graham, Fincham, & Stillman, 2009). This
broadening effect will further help an individual achieve his or her goals (a building process)
because an upward spiral of interpersonal connections (Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010) can
help an individual to accumulate social resources (Fredrickson, 2000). For example, having
support from coaches, family, and teammates will result in an athlete’s possessing higher self-
confidence (Freeman & Rees, 2010) and, thus, enhance this athlete’s performance and goal
achievement (Rees & Hardy, 2000). Based on self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987), which
implies that self-evaluations are constructed by comparing one’s actual status with a certain
standard (Elliot, Thrash, & Murayama, 2011; Hein & Hagger, 2007; Hofer, Busch, Bond, Li, &
Law, 2010), we therefore suggest that gratitude can help to enhance one’s self-esteem over time
via a discrepancy-reduction process, and gratitude can help individuals obtain social resources,
which can facilitate their moving forward and reducing the gap between their current statuses
and their wanted statuses.
Empirically, although a positive association between gratitude and daily self-esteem has
been established (Kashdan, Uswatte, & Julian, 2006), whether gratitude can bring enhancement
of self-esteem has not been examined. We suggest that such an examination is important
theoretically because longitudinal studies can help researchers understand the function of
gratitude in self-esteem and is important practically because it helps coaches and others
involved know how to promote athletes’ self-esteem.
In line with previous work in sport psychology (Elliot, Cury, Fryer, & Huguet, 2006; Stoeber,
Uphill, & Hotham, 2009), we examine our hypothesis using a residual change approach that
examines the change phenomena of a specific construct over time by controlling for the prior
level of the construct (Little, Bovaird, & Slegers, 2006). We propose the following:
H1: Athletes’ gratitude at Time 1 will be positively related to their self-esteem at Time 2 after
controlling for the prior level of self-esteem at Time 1.
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352 L. H. CHEN AND C.-H. WU
Moderating Role of Affective Trust in Coach
We further propose that affective trust in one’s coach will enhance the impact of gratitude
in promoting self-esteem over time. We focus on affective trust in one’s coach because coaches
occupy a dominant role, offering instruction, controlling resources, and allocating rewards
(Jowett & Cockerill, 2003).
Affective trust involves an intense emotional investment and one’s beliefs that partners
would express genuine care and concern for one’s welfare; that those sentiments are recipro-
cated (McAllister, 1995); and that this represents a well-established, supportive, and caring
atmosphere (Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, 1985). As such, coaches with higher affective trust
can be regarded as a secure attachment figures for athletes, as they can provide support when
needed and encourage athletes to approach their goals, facilitating the broaden-and-build
mechanisms of gratitude (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003).
Specifically, affective trust in a coach denotes a trusting relationship in which athletes can
obtain support from the coach easily because they can comfortably express their opinions,
feelings, and difficulties about training or competition to their coach without fear or worry of
being criticized. In line with this argument, studies on leadership have shown that employees
are more likely to obtain support from their supervisors when they are in a mature, trusting
relationship (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Because grateful athletes tend to recognize other
people’s benevolence and broaden possibilities to obtain more social resources, higher affective
trust in a coach will enhance this broadening effect, as grateful athletes are more likely to enjoy
the benefits of obtaining support from coaches. Moreover, higher affective trust in a coach will
also enhance the building effect of gratitude in shaping self-esteem over time because grateful
athletes will be able to rely on the support and resources obtained from trustworthy coaches
to take challenges and pursue personal goals for personal growth, which is a way to enhance
self-esteem according to self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987). In other words, having a
trustworthy coach will help grateful athletes approach their goals, resulting in an enhancement
of their self-esteem, because athletes can always obtain help from coaches when encountering
obstacles during pursuit of their goals. Accordingly, we propose the following:
H2: The positive impact of gratitude on increased self-esteem will be stronger when trust
in coach is high rather than low.
Participants and Procedures
Adolescent athletes are participating in an ongoing longitudinal study supervised by the
first author.1Initially, the first wave of data collection (gratitude, affective trust in coach,
and self-esteem) involved 412 athletes recruited from diverse sports (swimming, track and
field, baseball, judo, basketball, volleyball, softball, archery, and cycling) ranging from 15
to 18 years old. Those adolescent athletes represented their teams in national competitions
at the high school level. After 6 months, athlete self-esteem was collected.2To examine our
hypotheses, the completed variables collected from 232 adolescent athletes (128 male) with a
mean age of 16.9 (SD =.75) years were used. Attenuation was high because some of the athletes
graduated from their high schools before the second wave of data collection. Measurements
were administered to the athletes in classrooms before their practices. Athletes’ involvement
in the current study was voluntary, and their confidentiality and anonymity were ensured.
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Athletes were rewarded with 100 New Taiwan Dollars at the time of each data collection to
increase their response rate.
Dispositional gratitude
McCullough et al. (2002) developed the Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ) to assess an indi-
vidual’s dispositional gratitude. GQ has six items, and its reliability and validity has been
established (Froh, Yurkewicz, & Kashdan, 2009). In this study, we used GQ–Taiwan version
(GQ-T) to assess dispositional gratitude. Chen, Chen, Kee, and Tsai (2009) translated the GQ
into the Taiwan version and examined the reliability and validity of GQ-T. In their study, they
reported that (a) the GQ-T contains only five items because one item in GQ was dropped due
to nonsignificant factor loading; (b) Cronbach’s alpha of GQ-T was .80; and (c) GQ-T was
positively correlated with happiness, optimism, agreeableness, and extraversion and negatively
correlated with neuroticism. The GQ-T has been used in athlete samples (Chen, 2013; Chen
& Kee, 2008). In the current study, participants indicated their responses on a 6-point Likert
scale, with responses ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to6(strongly agree). Cronbach’s
alpha in this study was .83 at Time 1.
Affective trust in a coach
The affect and cognition-based trust scale (McAllister, 1995) was used to assess partici-
pants’ trust. This scale contains two subscales to assess different components of trust: affective
and cognitive trust. For this study, we used the affective trust subscale to assess athletes’ af-
fective trust in their coaches. This scale had been translated into Chinese and has satisfactory
validity and reliability (e.g., Jiand, Ding, & lin, 2012). To fit our research context, the authors
and one independent scholar modified the items to assess trust in a coach specifically. Sample
items are “I can talk freely to ‘my coach’ about difficulties I am having in my sport and know
that (s)he will want to listen,” and “If I shared my problems with ‘my coach,’ I know (s)he
would respond constructively and caringly.” Responses were indicated on a 6-point Likert
type scale with a responses format ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to6(strongly agree).
Cronbach’s alpha of this measure in this study was .84. Additional data in this sample showed
that affective trust in a coach was positively correlated with team satisfaction (r=.51, p
<.001) and negatively correlated with dropout intention (r=−.26, p<.001), supporting
criterion validity of this measure.
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) was used to assess an athlete’s level
of self-esteem. To increase the response rate, our study used the four-item version (Items
3, 6, 7, and 10 in the original order) to assess athletes’ self-esteem. The four-item version
was reliable and valid as reported in previous studies. For example, Nezlek, Feist, Wilson,
and Plesko (2001) reported the four-item version has satisfactory mean daily reliability (.98).
In addition, Kashdan et al. (2006) found that the posttraumatic stress disorder group scored
significantly lower than the non-posttraumatic stress disorder group on the four-item version
of self-esteem, supporting its discriminant validity. To ensure that we assess the trait level
of self-esteem, the self-esteem scale in this study was entitled as “in general” rather than
in the last few days or weeks. The correlation of self-esteem between Time 1 and Time 2
was moderate (r=.48, p<.001), which provided further evidence to support the notion
that the self-esteem scale measures a reliable/stable trait across times. Participants evaluated
self-esteem on a 6-point Likert scale, with responses ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to6
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354 L. H. CHEN AND C.-H. WU
Table 1
Correlation Matrix for Research Constructs
MSD 123456
1. Gender 1.45 .50 1.00
2. Age 16.09 .75 — 1.00
3. T1GQ-T 4.79 .82 .17∗∗ .141.00
4. T1trust 4.13 1.15 .19∗∗ .05 .40∗∗∗ 1.00
5. T1SE 3.84 .83 .03 .05 .39∗∗ .31∗∗∗ 1.00
6. T2SE 3.78 .85 .06 .14 .20∗∗ .16.48∗∗∗ 1.00
Note. N =232. T =time; GQ-T =gratitude, SE =self-esteem.
p<.05. ∗∗p<.01. ∗∗∗p<.001.
(strongly agree). Cronbach’s alpha of this scale in this study was .66 for Time 1 and .67 for
Time 2, which is slightly lower than the recommendation of .70 (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994).
Preliminary Analysis and Multilevel Modeling
The means, standard deviations, and correlations for the research variables are presented
in Table 1. The correlations between gratitude and self-esteem were as expected. Gratitude at
Time 1 had a positive correlation with self-esteem at Time 1 (r=.39, p<.01) and Time 2
(r=.20, p<.01), respectively. We also conducted a paired-samples ttest to examine whether
self-esteem changed from Time 1 (M=3.84, SD =0.83) to Time 2 (M=3.78, SD =0.85).
Results indicated that self-esteem from Time 1 to Time 2 did not significantly differ (t=1.13,
ns), implying that athletes did not increase their self-esteem in general over time.
Because our participants are nested in teams, we used multilevel modeling with a restricted
maximum likelihood estimator to test our hypotheses. Our data indicated skewness and kurtosis
values within the range from –1 to +1. Moreover, results of the residual analysis imply that
the residuals follow normal distribution in general. As such, the data distributions do not
significantly deviate from normal distribution, the assumption of the restricted maximum
likelihood estimator.
First, we calculated the ICC(1) for each variable and found that the ICCs were approximately
0.05, reaching the criterion level required to address nonindependent data (e.g., Dyer, Hanges,
& Hall, 2005). We, thus, conducted a two-level random intercept model to examine our
hypotheses. In this model, self-esteem at Time 1, gratitude, affective trust, age, and gender are
individual-level constructs, and there is no team-level construct. Grand mean centering was
applied to all research variables (except for gender, which is a dummy variable). This centering
method is appropriate when predictors are from the same level (Hofmann & Gavin, 1998). A
random effect was introduced for the intercept to acknowledge that participants from different
teams can vary in their self-esteem level at Time 2. The random effects of other research
variables were not introduced as they were not significant in preliminary analyses.
In Model 1, gender, age, and self-esteem at Time 1 were included. Model 2 included the
main effects of gratitude and affective trust in one’s coach at Time 1. The final model contained
the interaction term. As shown in Table 2, neither gratitude (b=.04, ns) nor affective trust in
one’s coach (b=.01, ns) at Time 1 significantly predicted changes in self-esteem. However, a
significant moderating effect was found3(b=.12, p<.05). The interaction plot is portrayed
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Table 2
Results of Fixed Effect in a Two-Level Random Intercept Model for Change in Athlete’s
T2 self-esteem
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Constant 3.80 3.81 3.77
Gender .03 .09 .08
Age .13 .13.13
T1 self-esteem .48∗∗∗ .46∗∗∗ .45∗∗∗
T1Gratitude .04 .04
T1 affective trust .02 .01
Interaction term .12
Note. Unstandardized coefficients are reported.
p<.05. ∗∗∗p<.001.
in Figure 1 based on Aiken and West’s (1996) suggestion. Specifically, 1 standard deviation
above the mean of gratitude and affective trust and lower were used to indicate higher and
lower gratitude and affective trust. To further understand the interaction effect, we examined
simple slopes in a two-level random intercept model. The results showed that the relationship
between gratitude and self-esteem was stronger at higher levels of affective trust in one’s coach
(1 standard deviation above the mean; β=.18, p<.05), whereas there was no relationship at
lower levels of affective trust in coach (1 standard deviation below the mean; β=–.10, ns),
supporting our hypothesis that the relationship between gratitude and an athlete’s self-esteem
would be strengthened under the condition of high affective trust in a coach. On the other
hand, gratitude did not exert its effect on changing athletes’ self-esteem when affective trust
in a coach is low. In other words, only an athlete who possessed high gratitude tendency
Low gratitude High gratitude
Self-esteem at time 2
Low trust
High trust
Figure 1. Simple regression lines predicting change in self-esteem.
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356 L. H. CHEN AND C.-H. WU
and affective trust in one’s coach at the same time would lead to a higher change in self-
The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of gratitude on changes in athletes’ self-
esteem. The second aim was to identify the moderating role of affective trust in one’s coach in
the relationship between gratitude and athletes’ well-being. For the first aim, the results did not
support the author’s prediction, indicating that dispositional gratitude alone failed to predict
changes in self-esteem. However, the moderation analysis indicated that affective trust in one’s
coach strengthens the relationship between dispositional gratitude and changes in athletes’
self-esteem. Simply stated, the grateful athlete experiences greater self-esteem increases from
Time 1 to Time 2 when this athlete trusts his or her coach emotionally. In summary, only one
of the hypotheses was supported.
The Longitudinal Relationship Between Gratitude and Athletes’ Self-Esteem
Sport psychologists have gradually shifted their attention from performance enhancement
to athletes’ self-esteem (Coatsworth & Conroy, 2006); however, those studies are usually
cross-sectional in nature (Coudevylle et al., 2011; Engel et al., 2003), which might result in
poor-quality scientific conclusions (Hagger & Chatzisarantis, 2009). This study is a reminder
that sport psychologists should not only be satisfied with investigating what is correlated
with the level of an athlete’s self-esteem but also focus on the factors that lead to lasting
change if our aim is to continually promote positive growth in the youth. Regarding the
bivariate relationship between gratitude and self-esteem at a single time point, a grateful
athlete reported that he or she possessed a positive view toward the self. These results corre-
sponded to most of the field research using cross-sectional surveys, which have demonstrated
a positive relationship between gratitude and optimal function (for a review, see Wood et al.,
However, a contradiction was observed when the longitudinal results of gratitude were
compared with the results of previous studies. Current results indicated that when controlling
for the initial score, gratitude failed to predict self-esteem. To the author’s best knowledge,
only a few field studies have used longitudinal methods to investigate gratitude, and those
results were also contradictory. For example, Krause (2009) used nationwide survey data
with a 2-year interval and did not find that gratitude significantly decreased older adults’
depressive symptoms over time. Similarly, Algoe and Stanton (2012) found that gratitude
also did not predict an increase in perceived social support after 3 months in women with
metastatic breast cancer. On the other hand, Wood, Maltby, Gillett, Linley, and Joseph (2008)
conducted longitudinal studies on gratitude. Their two independent studies found that grateful
people reported less stress and depression while indicating higher perceived social support.
In addition, Lambert, Fincham, and Stillman (2011) conducted multiple studies indicating
that gratitude significantly predicted a decrease in depressive symptoms in an undergraduate
student sample.
In comparing this study with previous research, the current findings support one aspect of
the previous results but do not support the other results in the literature. This contradiction could
be explained in several ways. First, the operational definitions were slightly different across
studies. Some researchers adopted the psychometrically sound GQ to assess an individual’s
gratitude (Krause, 2009; Lambert et al., 2011; Wood et al., 2008), whereas others designed
new scales (Algoe & Stanton, 2012; Krause & Ellison, 2009). The use of different measures
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might not capture the same aspects of gratitude, however, which would result in inconsistent
findings. Second, the dependent variables might represent multiple aspects of life function.
Thus, gratitude might not exert its effects equally on the different indicators.
A third possible explanation relates to the samples investigated. The samples surveyed in
previous studies included undergraduate students, older adults, and women with metastatic
breast cancer. The diverse life experiences of these study populations might contribute to
the inconsistent results. The last explanation is a lack of including moderators. For example,
financial strain (Krause, 2009) and ambivalence over emotional expression (Algoe & Stanton,
2012) were identified as moderators. Those studies found significant moderation, which im-
plied that the longitudinal effects of gratitude might be conditional, and this line of reasoning
was explored in the current study.
The Moderating Role of Affective Trust in One’s Coach
The main contribution of this study was to identify the boundary conditions of gratitude; the
results might have several implications for both theory and practice. Based on the interaction-
ism perspective (Reynolds et al., 2010), this study investigated the moderating role of affective
trust in one’s coach. Algoe (2012) asserted that gratitude not only has a function in establishing
new relationships with strangers but also exerts its effect within communal relationships, such
as romantic partners (Algoe et al., 2010), couples (Chang, Li, Teng, Berki, & Chen, 2013), and
parent–child relationships (Hoy, Suldo, & Mendez, 2013). This study corroborated her claim
and succeeded in identifying that gratitude exerts its effects in a coach–athlete context despite
the fact that our data structure was not dyadic. It should be noted that the fact that gratitude
did not contribute to change in self-esteem independently emphasized the importance of fit
between the person and the environment. In our study, athletes’ affective trust in their coach
was conceptualized as a micro environment. It characterized chronic adaptation to positive
social interaction with one’s coach. In such a secure and supportive relational context, affec-
tive trust in one’s coach strengthens the effect of gratitude on athletes’ self-esteem over time.
This finding adds new knowledge to the literature on gratitude by discovering new boundary
These results have practical contributions for sport psychology: to enhance their self-
esteem, athletes might need to practice how to be grateful, whereas coaches must learn how to
establish their trustworthiness, as we found that gratitude and affective trust in a coach could
not significantly predict change in athlete self-esteem independently. For the gratitude practice,
previous studies have developed and manipulated gratitude successfully. For example, having
people count three things they are grateful for in their lives (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
or mailing gratitude letters to those for whom they are grateful (Seligman, Steen, Park, &
Peterson, 2005) can be effective. Although those gratitude practices are easy to perform, we
are not aware, unfortunately, of any well-designed gratitude intervention conducted with an
athlete population. Therefore, gratitude intervention aiming to increase athletes’ awareness of
gratitude might be the first key element for enhancing athlete self-esteem.
The second key element for inducing change in athlete self-esteem involves establishing
trustworthiness; however, it is not a simple task for practitioners. It is well documented that
cognitive trust is the foundation of affective trust (e.g., Johnson & Grayson, 2005; McAllister,
1995). Accordingly, the first step might be to encourage coaches to participate in profes-
sional workshops aimed at enhancing their training skills. Coaches who possess such knowl-
edge, including competence and responsibility, assist in developing athletes’ cognitive trust
(McAllister, 1995). The next step might involve educating coaches to care and empathize with
athletes’ predicaments to cultivate affective trust. Interventions that include multiple steps
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358 L. H. CHEN AND C.-H. WU
might be useful to establish trust. In short, this study implied that athlete self-esteem might be
enhanced step-by-step once the person fits the environment.
Overall, the current study corresponds to the investigation of Froh, Kashdan, Ozimkowski,
and Miller (2009) that reminds researchers who benefits more from gratitude. Although
gratitude manifests itself in different manners, including personality, mood, and emotion,
Froh, Kashdan, et al. (2009) provided valuable insight concerning possible moderators that
could enhance or undermine gratitude. Despite this study’s focus on gratitude as a trait, future
research that intentionally manipulates gratitude should take affective trust in one’s coach into
account to further expand upon the knowledge in the literature.
Limitations and Conclusion
When reading this article, several limitations should be kept in mind. First, this study relied
on self-reported data, which may suffer from common method variance (Lindell & Whitney,
2001). Other rating data could be included in the future to reduce the possible overestimation
of effects. Second, this study did not investigate other types of close relationships that athletes
have. For example, does trust in teammates or a physiotherapist also have the same influence
on an athlete’s self-esteem? Because trust involves a close relationship between two persons,
these interesting issues await further exploration. Finally, we did not explore the issue of time
in our study. We used 6 months as the only period to examine self-esteem change. However,
as there is no specific guidance for when such change would be more likely to occur, more
studies are required to examine the issue of time in the future.
Adolescent athletes are a special population that experiences pressures from the demands
of their academic and sport lives. Factors contributing to athletes’ self-esteem are important
issues for sport psychologists. This study drew on theory to investigate the effect of gratitude
on athletes’ self-esteem, and new boundary conditions were identified, which contributes to
the theory of gratitude and its application.
The first author’s research on gratitude was supported by Ministry of Education (2012
project of elastic salary for outstanding scholar) and National Science Council (100-2410-H-
179 -007, 101-2410-H-179-003, and 102-2410-H-179-003), Taiwan, R.O.C.
1The data for this study were collected in the context of a larger project supervised and
funded by a series of research grants for the first author. Neither the analyses nor the findings
reported in the present research have been reported in any prior work.
2Athletes participating in our longitudinal study completed the GQ-T, affective trust in one’s
coach, and self-esteem measures at bothtime points. However, our purpose was to identify the
change of athletes’ self-esteem rather than the reciprocal relationships between constructs.
Thus, only variables relevant to the current study are reported.
3We performed additional analysis to ensure whether there is a potential gender or age effect
that will influence the obtained interaction effect between gratitude and trust in predicting
changes of self-esteem. Results show that there is no interaction effect of gender or age with
other key research variables (gratitude, trust, and self-esteem at Time 1) to predict self-esteem
at Time 2, implying that our findings will not be influenced by suspected gender or age effect.
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... For example, Emmons (2013), one of the most fruitful populizers of gratitude concept, confirmed in multiple examinations that gratitude training increases the level of happiness, as well as reduces the level of depression and has positive physical benefits such as strengthens immune systems and lowering blood pressure. Gratitude also increases selfesteem (Chen, 2014) and also mental strength, as well as it improves sleep quality. It enhances empathy as well as reduces aggression (Ziegler, 2012) what has a positive influence on social relationships. ...
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... Trait gratitude is correlated with general indicators of mental health including mind wellness (Green et al., 2019), psychological health (Hill et al., 2013), psychological well-being (Washizu & Naito 2015;Wood et al., 2009b), and psychological flexibility (i.e., the ability to flexibly cope with adversity; Frinking et al., 2019). Several crosssectional survey studies identified the association between trait gratitude and self-esteem (e.g., Aghababaei et al., 2018;Corona et al., 2020;Kong et al., 2015), whereas only one study employed a time-lagged study design (i.e., Chen & Wu, 2014). Chen and Wu examined athletes' change in self-esteem across six months and found that higher trait gratitude increased selfesteem over time. ...
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Though gratitude research in organizational behavior (OB) is nascent, this emotion has a rich history in the social sciences. Research has shown gratitude to promote prosocial behaviors, encourage personal well-being, and foster interpersonal relationships. However, gratitude research has been siloed among these three outcomes of gratitude (moral, wellness, and relational). Similarly, past reviews of gratitude have focused on only one group of outcomes, one of its forms (trait, state, or expressed), or empirical findings without emphasis on the theoretical underpinnings. In contrast, this review recognizes that each type of gratitude, its functions, and outcomes are part of a single process model of gratitude. As such, in the current review we provide a comprehensive assessment of gratitude in the social sciences by distilling and organizing the literature per our process model of episodic gratitude. Then, we translate the insights for management scholars, highlighting possible differences and synergies between extant research and workplace gratitude thereby helping advance “gratitude science” in the workplace. In all, this review (a) examines definitions and operationalizations of gratitude and provides recommendations for organizational research; (b) proposes a process model of episodic workplace gratitude as a conceptual map to guide future OB research on gratitude; (c) reviews empirical gratitude research through the lens of our process model; and (d) discusses the current state of the literature, important differences for workplace gratitude, and future directions for organizational scholars.
... A large body of research (Rash et al. 2011;Chen and Wu 2014;Kong et al. 2015;Lin 2015aLin , 2015bZhang et al. 2017;Bernardo et al. 2018;Unanue et al. 2019;Bartlett et al. 2020) has shown that gratitude correlates with or positively predicts self-esteem. Likewise, experimental studies (Rash et al. 2011) have proved that 4 weeks of grateful contemplation increased participants' levels of self-esteem. ...
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... Self-control characterized chronic adaptation to positive social interaction with the others. In such important and relational contexts, the affective trust strengthened the effect of appreciation on elite athletes' self-esteem over the time to discover new boundary conditions [21]. Self-control was frequently confirmed to create applicable, effortful recovery activities. ...
... Örgütleri oluşturan bireylerin fiziksel ve ruhsal sağlığının örgüt verimliliği üzerindeki etkisi tartışılmazdır. Minnettarlığın özgüven, zihinsel dayanıklılık ve fiziksel sağlık üzerinde olumlu etkileri olduğuna dair çalışmalar mevcuttur (Emmons & McCullough, 2003;Chen & Wu, 2014;Celano vd., 2017). Yapılan bir çalışmada minnettarlığın uyku kalitesini ve süresini arttırdığını, uykusuzluktan kaynaklı dikkatsizlik sonucu oluşan kazaların ve verimsizliğin azaldığı ispatlanmıştır (Wood vd., 2009). ...
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This chapter describes evidence-based happiness techniques that are highly relevant for workers in the tourism and hospitality industries. Although happiness creates success for many stakeholders, there is limited evidence on how to increase the happiness of workers in these industries as the focus has predominantly been on the happiness of the customers. The authors fill this gap in the literature by presenting three proven interventions that are particularly relevant to these sectors: job crafting, acts of kindness, and gratitude exercises. The chapter explains what these concepts are and how they work. It also provides specific examples of how they can be implemented into tourism and hospitality organisations.
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The purpose of this study was to examine distinct groups of athletes based on their gratitude and coach-athlete relationships (CAR) and to compare the groups on three dimensions of athlete burnout: sense of reduced accomplishment, emotional and physical exhaustion, and sport devaluation. Types of gratitude measured included general trait gratitude, general state gratitude, and sport state gratitude. Cluster analysis with 576 intercollegiate athletes showed four distinct groups: "ungrateful in life and sport, and disconnected from the coach" (Group 1), "highly grateful in life and sport, and well-connected with the coach" (Group 2), "generally less grateful in life, but connected with the coach" (Group 3), and "generally grateful in life, but disconnected from the coach" (Group 4). Group 1 reported the highest levels of burnout. In contrast, Group 2 reported the lowest levels of burnout. Athletes in Groups 3 and 4 (which were similar on sport state gratitude, but differed on other indicators) reported moderate levels of burnout, but Group 4 athletes were more burned out than Group 3 athletes. Specifically, both groups reported similar levels of devaluation; yet, Group 4 scored higher on reduced sense of accomplishment and emotional/physical exhaustion than Group 3. Examination of group composition revealed that male athletes were overrepresented in Group 2 and underrepresented in Group 4, and Group 1 athletes tended to identify as non-religious. Taken together, findings point to the protective role that gratitude and a positive CAR may play in athlete burnout prevention.
Does trait gratitude shape leaders’ behavior and thus followers’ outcomes? We developed and tested a model linking leader’s trait gratitude to ethical leadership and leader–member exchange (LMX), and examine their impacts on followers’ felt psychological safety and thus creativity at work. Using multi-wave, multi-source survey data from 295 subordinates and 76 supervisors, we found that leader’s trait gratitude was positively associated with ethical leadership at the team level and LMX at the individual (follower) level. In turn, both ethical leadership and LMX contribute to followers’ felt psychological safety and ultimately improve creative performance at work. Our study extends gratitude research by examining how trait gratitude can shape leadership influence on followers.
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Organizational researchers are increasingly interested in model ing the multilevel nature of organizational data. Although most organi zational researchers have chosen to investigate these models using traditional Ordinary Least Squares approaches, hierarchical linear models (i.e., random coefficient models) recently have been receiving increased attention. One of the key questions in using hierarchical linear models is how a researcher chooses to scale the Level-1 indepen dent variables (e.g., raw metric, grand mean centering, group mean centering), because it directly influences the interpretation of both the level-1 and level-2 parameters. Several scaling options are reviewed and discussed in light of four paradigms of multilevellcross-level research in organizational science: incremental (i.e., group variables add incremental prediction to individual level outcomes over and above individual level predictors), mediational (i.e., the influence of group level variables on individual outcomes are mediated by individual perceptions), moderational (i.e., the relationship between two individ ual level variables is moderated by a group level variable), and sepa rate (i.e., separate within group and between group models). The paper concludes with modeling recommendations for each of these paradigms and discusses the importance of matching the paradigm under which one is operating to the appropriate modeling strategy.
The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described.
Cross-sectional studies of attitude-behavior relationships are vulnerable to the inflation of correlations by common method variance (CMV). Here, a model is presented that allows partial correlation analysis to adjust the observed correlations for CMV contamination and determine if conclusions about the statistical and practical significance of a predictor have been influenced by the presence of CMV. This method also suggests procedures for designing questionnaires to increase the precision of this adjustment.
Emotional processes influence a wide range of mental and physical systems, which makes them difficult to understand from a single perspective. In this special issue of the Review of General Psychology, contributing authors present 4 articles that draw from several areas within psychology in the service of understanding a topic relevant to emotion. In this overview, the authors argue that the long neglect of the scientific study of complex processes such as emotion might be linked, in part, to the fractionation of the field into specialized subdisciplines. Just as emotions were of central concern in the early years of psychology (which was a generalist's era), as psychology moves toward more integration in the late 20th century broad phenomena such as emotions are once again central interests. The 4 articles of this special issue are briefly reviewed as exemplars of an integrated approach to understanding emotional phenomena.
Self-enhancement models posit a general motive to enhance self-regard that is believed to be particularly strong in people with low self-esteem. The authors extended previous laboratory research with college students to a field setting and studied the attraction responses of child athletes to coaches who differed in their observed behavior patterns during the sport season. Consistent with predictions derived from self-enhancement theory, children who were low in self-esteem responded most positively to coaches who were reinforcing and encouraging and most negatively to coaches who were low on this supportiveness dimension. A similar pattern was found in children's responses to technical instruction, which was regarded as instrumental to competency development and esteem enhancement. Attraction responses of moderate- and high-self-esteem children were relatively unaffected by these variations in adult leader behaviors.
The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the process of burning out in endurance athletes. The experiences of three elite cross-country skiers who left their sport due to burnout were explored. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and inductively analyzed. The Athlete Burnout Questionnaire and training logs were used to validate the interviews and to enrich the analysis. The burnout process was found to evolve with different severity and time perspectives in the three cases. Athletic identity and achievement strivings to validate self-esteem were found to be important driving forces in the burnout process. Also, chronic lack of mental and physical recovery as well as early skiing success leading to high expectations comprised common themes in the burnout process.
Lack of consensus regarding the nature and conceptual definition of the social support construct has led to a plethora of different forms of measurement of this psychosocial variable, many with psychometric limitations. Beyond the psychometric limitations of some measures, in sport there is also a need for measures to be relevant to the specific experiences of sports performers. In order to gain a greater understanding of the social support experiences of sports people, 10 high-level sports performers were interviewed regarding their experiences of social support. Principles of the grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) approach were adopted for analysis of their responses and insights. Four dimensions of support were generated, within each of which were comments relating to sport-specific support and comments relating to support not directly concerning the sport itself. The dimensions were labeled emotional, esteem, informational, and tangible. Example quotes are given to highlight each dimension of support, and implications for intervention are derived.