This study explored the psychological experience of risk taking among experienced skydivers, with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A novel multi-perspectival (2-group), multi-case qualitative design was employed using a 3-interview series model of semi-structured interviews. Interviews explored the participants’ personal history leading up to their experience in skydiving, their experience of skydiving, and the meanings that skydiving had in the participants’ lives. Themes were analyzed and compared between sample groups from a critical phenomenological perspective using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Achievement, Self-Esteem, Thrill and Adventure Seeking, and Status were emergent themes common to both the ADHD and non-ADHD group participants. ADHD group participants more heavily endorsed themes of Identity, Social Context, Risk Taking, Boredom Susceptibility, Disinhibition, Experience Seeking, Sense of Well-Being, Experience and Management of Stress, and Psychological Dialectic, which refer to simultaneous but opposing psychological experiences. Non-ADHD group participants more heavily endorsed themes of Risk Management and Control. The constellations of emergent themes suggest that ADHD group participants are motivated by the experience of a sense of well-being that results from the integration of risk taking into identity while non-ADHD group participants are motivated more by a sense of achievement. The findings in this study offer a rich exploration of the subjective lived experience of risk taking in the sport of skydiving.
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Thesis advisor: Ley, Robert
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