Differences in behavior,psychological factors, and environmental factors associated with participation in school sports and other activities in adolescence
Harrison, Patricia A.~~Narayan, Gopalakrishnan
This study examined whether participation in school team sports, exclusively or in combination with other extracurricular activities, is associated with higher levels of psychosocial functioning and healthy behavior than participation in other extracurricular activities alone or nonparticipation. The study sample includes 50,168 ninth grade public school students who completed an anonymous, voluntary statewide survey in 2001. Students were classified into four groups based on their participation in sports and other activities (such as clubs, volunteer work, band, choir, or music lessons): neither, both, other activities only, and sports only. Odds ratios for the group involved in both types of activities were significantly higher than those for all the other groups for all healthy behaviors and measures of connectedness, and significantly lower for all but one of the unhealthy behaviors. Students involved in sports, alone or in combination with other activities, had significantly higher odds than the other two groups for exercise, milk consumption, and healthy self-image, and significantly lower odds for emotional distress, suicidal behavior, family substance abuse, and physical and sexual abuse victimization. Students involved in other activities, alone or in combination with sports, had significantly higher odds than the other two groups for doing homework and significantly lower odds for alcohol consumption, mari-juana use, and vandalism. The finding that abuse victims appeared to avoid sports but not other group activities raises concern and merits further research. Considering the potential benefits of participation in sports and other activities, more research is needed to identify and overcome barriers or deterrents, particularly for youth from low-income families.