Mental Toughness: Is the mental toughness test tough enough?

Abstract:
This represents the first stage of "research in progress" into the construct definition and validation of the mental toughness construct. The study evaluated the construct validity of responses to Loehr's (1986) mental toughness test, the Psychological Performance Inventory (PPI), by 263 student-athletes from an elite sports high school. As confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) yielded poor model fit and an improper solution for the a priori model, exploratory factor analysis was carried out using all the original PPI items. Item deletion and exploration of three through to ten alternative factor structures yielded a five-factor model that fitted the data well. Whereas the alternative structure yielded a much better model fit than the original PPI structure, further analyses showed that a variety of key correlates of mental toughness were more strongly correlated with the factors based on the original structure than factors based on the alternative structure. In conclusion, neither the original PPI nor the subset of PPI items in the better-fitting alternative model were sound measures of mental toughness, indicating that a good fit is a necessary but not sufficient condition for construct validation. Good instrumentation must be strong in terms conceptual/theoretical considerations, psychometric properties, and relationships to key correlates hypothesised to be meaningfully related to it. Examining definition and validation of the mental toughness construct is the crucial next stage of this "research in progress."

What separates athletes who thrive on elite competition from those who buckle under pressure? Why do some athletes succeed in the face of adversity whereas others do not? Why do some athletes experience unproductive negative affect in competition and adverse circumstances while others do not? Why do some athletes bounce back from personal failure whereas others are overwhelmed by it? Many suggest that the answer lies in mental toughness.

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