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Youth's Participation in Sports

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This section of the paper reviews past literatures that have been studied regarding sports and its impact on troubled youths. Firstly, despite the believe that sports can aid youths avoid trouble and keep them off the streets being very popular among most American families, most research conducted have been on the impact of sports on academic achievement of students. Overall, sports literature looks at the range of both negative and positive results associated with youth’s engagement in sports.

The relationship between sports and academic success has remained a controversial subject among academic scholars and researchers. Some studies indicate that student’s involvement in sporting activities improve their academic achievements to higher levels (Snyder & Spreitzer, 1990), while others argue that students participation in sports lower their academic achievement (Bowen & Levin, 2003).  Though significant portion of researches conducted so far involving sports and impact on youth’s behaviors particularly antisocial behaviors have focused on colleges and other higher institutions (Adler & Adler,1991), there are those which have been conducted to examine the relationship between sports participation and antisocial/aggressive behaviors among younger troubled adolescents and children (Kreager, 2004).

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Secondly, for us to understand better the effect of sports on troubled youths, it’s important first we examine previous literature and researches that have sought to explain what factors motivate youths to be involved in sports and then examine what factors drive youths into trouble and motivate them to engage in delinquent behaviors. Once we have observed these factors, then the paper will examine literature on the effect of sports on troubled youths. Literature review section is divided into three sections, first section reviews of literature on reasons that motivate youth’s participation in sports, second section reviews literature on reasons that drive youths into trouble and delinquency, and the third section examines literature on the effect of sports on troubled youths.

Factors that Motivate Youth’s Participation in Sports

Understanding empirical and theoretical researches that examines main reasons that motivate youths to participate in sports is recommended before examining the effect of sports on troubled youths. The questions we ask ourselves are what motivates youths to join sporting activities and how the motivation factors affect their behaviors? Furthermore, why do youths decide to engage in physical activities? Do we have any difference between sports and other extra curriculum activities? Academic psychologist and sociologists among other scholars have been attempting to answer the above questions for years. According to Hines & Groves (1989) and Wankel & Berger (1990) the main primary motives why youths participate in sports include fun and competitions, skill development, physical fitness and the desire to be a member of a team/group. Furthermore, in our analyses of factors that motivate youths to engage in sports, we will analyze the demographic reasons since demographic differences like gender are related with the choice to participate in sports. We will also look at contextual differences that affect youth’s choice such as school and other sporting programs.

Demographic differences accounts highly to variations in decisions making among the youths including the decision to participate in sporting activities. Gender, race, economic and social statue including family background are highly likely to affect youths choice to engage in sports. According to Marsh (1993) the main demographic factors strongly related with participation in sports are gender; male, economic and social status, race; blacks and basketball and school structure; small schools.

Historically, gender has been one of the main determinants of youth’s decisions to engage in sports. Study conducted by Goldberg and Chandler (1989) found that 53% of male youths desire to be remembered as outstanding sports persons compared to 34% who responded the same. The gap is more likely to be smaller owing to growth in opportunities for women and girls to participate in sports today. 

Geographical location, urban or rural locations plays a significant role in factors that motivate youth’s involvement in sports together with economic and social status. According to McNeal (1995), 8 students in rural areas are 1.3 times more likely to be engaged in sports while in urban schools, students are 1.2 times less likely to involve themselves in sports than students in rural schools. They study also found that student with lower economic status participate more in sports compared to those with high economic status, suggesting that the rich tend to participate more in no-sport activities  like private lessons after schools. Adolescents from two parents home are more likely to participate in sports compared to those from single parent homes (Harrison and Narayan, 2003).

Certain psychological and behavioral characteristics have been identified by numerous researches to influence motivation for youth’s participation in sports like self esteem, and desire to be competitive. Study conducted byWhite & Duda (1994) to examine the connection between goal orientation and sports participation motivation among collegiate and high school sport participants finds that sporting setup is connected with increasing desires on normative abilities and competitive outcome among the athletes. Coleman (1965) associates self esteem and peer approval with motivation to participate in peer valued athletic activities and found that regardless of school location, size, economic and social status, student body. The best way to gain popularity in high school is through participation in sports.

Coleman (1965) is the first to associate peer approval and self-esteem with participation in peer-valued activities and reports that regardless of school size, school location or the socioeconomic (Goldberg and Chandler, 1989).  Survey from majority of high school’s students indicate that most would love to be remembered as great athletes particularly true among white male students with affluent social backgrounds (Eitzen, 1975).  Coleman’s findings were assessed by Goldberg and Chandler (1989) and found to be still true; sporting ability remained vital for improved self esteem and peer approval.  Further studies among male youths indicate that they prefer to be remembered as great academic achievers as being remembered as great athletes. Girls on the other hand were found to be less concerned on being remembered as great athletes compared to their desire to be remembered as great academic achievers.

Research studies have also attributed youth’s desire or likelihood to participate in sports to their schools program and settings.  According to McNeal (1995), complex school structure (population, teacher/student ratio) and contextual factors such as student body and school climate impinge student’s engagement in sports and other extracurricular activities.  The study also revealed that school climate and size accounts for 66% of the variations in sports participation.  

Reasons for the Rampant Delinquency by the Youth

Appreciating the reasons why young people get in trouble or why they get involved in delinquent activities is without a doubt significant in understanding how involvement in games and sporting may have an effect on that choice. The available literature on the current juvenile criminal behavior look at an array of societal, economical, and demographic related factors that may constitute to a young person’s probability of getting into trouble or being involved in delinquent doings. For a comprehensive report on the reasons why the youth are involved in delinquent mannerism, this review part will connect literature under similar magnitude as the sport literature, by examining the demographic, mental and backgroundfactors that result in delinquency.

Factors that contribute to the demography of a location for example sex, race orientation, socio-economic position and family setting add up to a child’s probability of participation in delinquent actions as they do to their probability of involving themselves in sporting activities. Some deem that criminal behavior in youth is as a result of the peer circles and most likely the family organization. David Farrington (2004) analyses the connection between the different American families and misdeeds. Citing preceding study, Farrington (2004) comes to a conclusion that inadequate parental child managing, infancy antisocial actions, getting hurt by parents and/or their siblings, reduced levels of intelligence and academic achievement, and disconnection from a figure parent are along with others the main signs of offending. According to the research, other powerful indicators are being male, being in a state of very low socioeconomic position, and most important point coming from a minority race (Farrington, 2004). The size of the family is also believed to be important in determining a young man’s behavior. According to the research carried out by Farrington, he notes that a boy who has 4 or more siblings was considerably more probable of being a juvenile convict.

Several studies examining gender disparities in the tendency to be engaged in early delinquent activities (Heimer, 1996; Messner, 2002). Messner and Heimer bear the opinion that delinquency, compared to other youthful engagements (for example sports) are significantly gender socialized. Putting into consideration that violation of laws is not consistent with femininity in the same degree as masculinity, young females’ criminal behavior is seen to be an out of place behavior and therefore more challenging and more abnormal than parallel behavior from men. On the other hand, men may display masculinity through engagement in delinquency behaviors. Since women, more so young women, are to a higher degree concerned with personal relations (Heimer, 1996), they would therefore be prevented from delinquency as according to them others in their peer groups would not approve. Heimer also notes that regulation is more imperative for young men than it is for girls for prevention of offending, and also black girls have a lower probability than non-black females to commit offenses partly since black females have a higher probability to give in to gender definitions.

Prevention approaches that implant moral fiber and principles and improve psychological and social performance have been proven effective restraints to youth violent behavior (Clayton, 1999). Research reveals that criminal oriented or delinquent youths exhibit superior deficits in social ability than those who are non-delinquent (Morris et al., 2003). This being the case, delinquent youth may possibly gain from courses that teach principles and social ability such as discipline, cooperation, self-respect and responsibility. Existing research also put forward that group behavior improve the growth of self-concept, and it is important as an observed connection illustrated between self-esteem that is low and a variety of delinquent mannerisms (McDonald and Howe, 1989; Wells and Rankin, 1983). Rankin and Wells put forward that primarily, self-esteem is negatively interrelated to criminal behavior, (children with low self esteem have a higher probability of turning to delinquent actions); but afterwards, these criminal behaviors become positively connected to self-esteem as a result of the self-enhancing outcomes of delinquency (Rankin and Wells 1983).

Sociologists argue that delinquency is primarily the product of contact with abnormal manipulation. This shows that young people in company of delinquents bear a larger possibility of delinquency than those who accompany fewer delinquents (Schafer, 1969). The effects of locality on delinquency in juveniles (particularly in schools) are still assorted and mixed. A number of report studies disclose that young scholars living in interior cities have a higher probability to identify fellow students in possession of a weapon in the school premises than those living elsewhere. Another study shows that crime in schools is somewhat the same across learning institutions in city, uptown and rural regions.

Nevertheless, instructors and tutors in urban area institutions of learning report higher levels of intimidation, assault, harassment, threats, vulgar remarks and possessions vandalism than their counterparts in uptown or rural schools (Gottfredson, et al., 2004). Lack of involvement in school and poor educational performance might also constitute to the probability of getting involved in the various delinquent behaviors. A study conducted by Fiqueira-McDonough (1986) found out that criminal behavior is more recurrent in schools with an environment that support high competitive academic and co-curricular activities. A similar study, on the other hand reveals that the consequences of institutions of learning being in session reduced possessions crime but instead augmented violent crime, (Jacob, 2003) hypothesized that the trend and behavior of reduction in property offenses is connected to sequential displacement whereas violent crimes are linked to relations and interactions with other people. The theories discussed above, temporal displacement and mingling or relating with other people are the primary explanations of how delinquent behavior and sports and games are interrelated. On one hand, a number of scholars put forward that troubled youth are less likely to be involved in delinquency when they more time is spent in sport activities. Another group associate attachment to peer groups and other aims attained in the course of sports as a system for reduction of delinquency by the troubled youth. However, others debate that youth, whether troubled or not, have a high probability of engaging in aggressive behavior or delinquency due to the fact that they may have violent characteristics acquired in sports.

Relationship between Sports and Troubled youths

Several theories have been put forward concerning how being active participants in sports may be related to high probabilities of getting engaged in violent behaviors by troubled youth. Troubled youths have a very high delinquency rate which tends to hit the highest point at around age 16 to 18 (Sampson and Laub, 1993). Laub and Sampson argue out that if active participation in various sport disciplines has a propensity to minimize violent behaviors among these troubled youth as several scholars suggest, then it appears logical that the youth should be advised to be active participants in games either all through or prior to crest delinquent years. Nevertheless, the experimental researches are not clear on whether sports do minimizes delinquency.

A research study proposes that since the same type of persons may be drawn towards both sports and delinquent or violent behavior, it would permit for the replacement of one for the other (Donnelly, 1981). The researcher notes that both sportsmen and youthful delinquents are related with regards to type of body, order of birth, and both sportsmen and youthful delinquents have a preference for motivation seeking actions and high tolerance to pain (Donnelly, 1981).

Physical activities and sports have two main qualities; reduction boredom in all youth categories and minimizes the amount of leisure time that goes unsupervised (Morris et al., 2003). A number of people argue that engagement in sports and other physical activities is basically time spent in structured activity and not engagement in delinquency and violent behavior. Other academicians argue that sports implant behavioral and psychological values in troubled youth and those who are not so troubled reducing their likelihood to be delinquent individuals. However, quite a number argue that physical activities and sports actually augment the probability of delinquency resulting from techniques learned in sport such as thorough aggressiveness and controlled violence. A Canadian student’s study revealed that quite a number of students who showed a low degree of sports involvement have a higher probability of reporting no delinquency, compared to those with higher involvement and vice versa (Paetsch and Bertrand, 1997). Therefore, an evaluation of the relevant hypothesis underlying the above mentioned assumptions is important in understanding the connection between sports and delinquency in troubled youths.

How Sports Decrease Delinquency in Troubled Youths

Sports involvement among youth and children has been associated with decreased rates of delinquency as suggested by reports from United Kingdom, Australia, and United States. For instance according to a synopsis on sports and youth in the United States, Ewing & Seefeldt, (2002) outlined epidemiological and social tendencies in youth delinquency and sports involvement. This substantiation indicates that non-participants in sports are more prone to engage in delinquent conducts than those who participate (and that this relationship is more prevalent among youths who come from lower-class backgrounds) or youths who involve in trivial sports. The authors’ indicates, little is known on the cause of this negative relationship.

According to Donnelly, (1993), though with little support, it has long been held that involvement in sports has the ability to change individual’s character. Among all the literature on youth/children, the most inducing in terms of social gains, yet the most complicated to enumerate, involves the likelihood that taking part in physical activity and sports may have positive impacts on the moral development of young people. A survey data conducted by CCES, (2002) explores that in Canada, sport is considered to be the most influential in attaining and developing positive values among the youth.

In fact, information collected from research by CCES, (2002) indicates that the role played by sport in enhancing and developing ethical character was reflected to be an important constituent for the very meaning of sport for youth and children, though not astoundingly, these suggestions of the constructive impact of sports on character development tend to emanate from parents, coaches, participants and volunteers who are dynamically involved in sports among children and youth. Donnelly & Coakley, (2004) adds that the “character logic” issue is habitually used to defend and encourage children’s involvement in sport; it is also used to validate the endowment of sports policies, the sponsorship of events and establishment of the necessary facilities. It is also concluded in a review by Gould’s & Hedstrom (2004) that research demonstrations indicate possibilities of character enhancement through settings in physical education and sporting activities, when there is consistent and systematic teaching on sportsmanship, fair play, and ethical development information. In other words, PCPFS, (2006) indicates that being an influential social experience among children and youth, sports may under right circumstances lead to positive development of character.

There is a horde of research that proposes that sports are correlated with lower rates of a diversity of unconstructive outcomes. Among them, Thorlindsson & Vilhjamsson (1992) reflects lower rates of depression, anxiety and other psycho-physiological symptoms, while Narayan & Harrison, (2003) indicates lower rates of alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug use as a result of sporting activities, which in turn, may be associated with delinquent conduct. Extensively quoted among early writings on delinquency and sports in comparison with the present situation, Coleman, (1965) indicates that there would have been worse cases of troubled youths in delinquency of boys, rebellion against schools and dropout rates, were it not for interscholastic athletics or a similarity of the same in the field of sports. Remarkable evidence also proposes that coaches are key contributors towards enhancement and development of ethical and moral parameters that impact on youths who participate in sport. Research findings according to Ewing et al, (2002) points out that behavior and moral values that children learn in sports emanates directly from training and individual engagement, and indirectly from responses of coaches’ observations. 

Sports, Drugs and Drinking Behaviors in Troubled Youths

Numerous studies reveal that there are lower rates of use of drugs among the youths who participate in organized sports. Among teenaged athletes, both male and female, there is less likelihood of use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, hallucinogens and marijuana. According to a research conducted by Australian Institute of Criminology, (2000), survey reports from both male and female participants indicates that there are slightly higher occurrence of binge drinking compared to those who are not participants in sports, but alcohol use is generally lower. However, there is some proof that involvement in sports especially among the males can intensify some detrimental health behaviors. In a research conducted by US Department of Health And Human Services (2004), the study revealed that both participants and non-participants in sports were similarly unlikely to report on their engagement in binge drinking throughout the preceding month, and consuming high-flat foodstuffs as well as vomiting or use of laxatives to avoid weight gain. Nevertheless, youths who participate in organized sports were generally more probable to testify of eating vegetables or fruits the preceding day and less probable to be overweight. Moreover, the study revealed close association between organized sports and social interaction where less antisocial behavior such as moving with a weapon, or attempting or contemplating suicide, was observed among participants.

Furthermore, according to findings of a research conducted by Girls, Inc, (2000) girls’ involvement in sports improves the image of their bodies as well as self esteem, enhances scholastic performance and confidence, and minimizes the risk of depression as well as decrease in rates of school drop-outs. Australian Institute of Criminology (2000) compiled the findings of a survey conducted by Australian Sports Commission investigating whether organized sport and physical activity policies have a positive impact on antisocial behavior among the youth. The research concluded on a wider view that sports and physical activity are among worldwide strategies of crime prevention as they are used as deterrents to crime.

In spite of the experiential studies that demonstrate positive impacts of sports among troubled youths, some research has portrayed that in some situations; there may be violence among participants who are involved in highly competitive contact sports like football, rugby and ice hockey. Study by Abdal-Haqq, (2004) indicates that in such cases, aggressive behavior and excessive anxiety is escalated by pressures connected with sports. The negative results of engagements in sports appear to emanate from adults, especially parents and coaches, and the pressure to win, and when victory pursuits are accompanied by direct or indirect indications that it is acceptable to use even aggressive behavior to attain it. Despite such proofs, literatures on criminology have generally recommended that anti-social behavior can be reduced through sports involvement. Moreover Abdal-Haqq indicated that many programs to prevent crime have fruitfully used sports to enhance optimistic behaviors.

As evidenced by Wade, (1998) in his study, there are lower pregnancy rates among girls who participate in sports, less frequency in sexual engagement, have a small number of partners, and begin to engage in sexual intercourse later on compared to those who don’t participate in sports. Substantial evidence from early research findings by Schafer, (1969) Segrave & Hastad, (1984), and Agnew & Petersen, (1989) proposes that there is pessimistic correlation between delinquent behavior among the youth and participation in sports. Segrave & Hastad, (1984) outlines that this association have a historical tendency to be powerful among athletes in minor sports as well as among lower-class youths. Agnew and Petersen (1989) indicate a negative correlation between delinquency and specific time spent in noncompetitive sports, organized leisure activities and passive entertainment. In their analysis, Petersen and Agnew (1989) distinguishes between non-competitive and competitive sports making comparison with other free time activities (passive entertainment, loafing/hanging out, social activities, housework activities, music/art, games/hobbies and organized activities). They concluded that passive entertainment or engagements in sport is the most well-liked activities and in done with peers. Comparing these activities with self-reported information on delinquent behaviors, they were weighted according to the extent of delinquency. This study is prone to criticism in that the weights are totally prejudiced. The findings of their research showed that non-competitive sports had a substantial and negative correlation to delinquency of which many discoveries from recent studies have disapproved these results as far as prevalence of distress among the youth is concerned.

Kraeger, (2004) investigates the degree to which involvement in interscholastic sports in high school contributes to interpersonal aggression and tests among the males if the kind of sport and peer athletic engagement are associated to successive male hostility. His findings propose that there is less likelihood for male athletes to engage in serious physical aggression compared to male non-athletes, but that violence-sports correlation have a substantial variation according to type of sport. Serious physical aggression is more prevalent and significant to football players than other athletes specifically among players with low self-esteem.

Data from National Youth Survey was utilized by Hass (2001) to find out if there is any proof that supports sports programs that are school sponsored in order to reduce delinquency. His results do not hold up this hypothesis and actually show optimistic, but statistically irrelevant relationships between sports engagement and some varieties of delinquency. Generally, the findings of Hass’s study show less statistical implication in the relationship between delinquency measures and sporting programs that are school-sponsored. One of the possible causes cited by Hass for the inability to attain statistically important correlations between participation in sports and delinquency is that time used on pessimistic acts outside family or home contributes to deteriorate rather that reinforce the social bonds, even when the activities have the approval of conservative society. As pointed out by Hass, the suggestion that if a person is involved in conventional acts like sports, then he/she won’t have time to carry out delinquent activities is defective since it neglects the likelihood that youths may at the same time involve themselves in delinquent acts.

Ancient and recent data compiled by Schafer, (1968), Landers & Landers (1978), and McNeal, (1995) suggests that involvement in extracurricular activities is related to numerous outcomes in light of optimistic educational, social and developmental results such as enhanced interpersonal skills, academic performance, improve self-esteem and decreased levels of delinquency. Other writers have indicated that the impact of sports on delinquency can only be important when in combination with other interventions and activities. MacDougal and Cameron, (2000), studies that though prevention of crime is not the main purpose of physical activity and sport, it may be a tremendously helpful derivative. Their findings reflect that combining sports and physical activity with other involvements may lessen crime in specific communities and groups. Likewise, Morris et al, (1993) concluded that in spite of the benefits of sports, there is slight robust proof of the direct effect of physical activity and sport on unsociable behavior. They indicate that programs involving sports and physical activity can endow with an imperative vehicle that would facilitate the occurrence of personal and social development and optimistically impact behavior. Nonetheless, Morris et al, (2003) hypothesize that sport oriented programs alone do not have a direct contribution to a decline in unsocial or delinquent behavior.

Decreasing Crime due Organized Sport

It is impractical to assert that a structured sport for the youth on its own is capable of reducingthe height of youth criminal behavior insociety. The origin of criminal behavior in the youth is multifacetedand also multidimensional. Well structured sport procedures may in one way or the other constitute to the reduction of youthful delinquencies by providing the troubled youth with positive identities, building teamwork and positive independence skills under supervision, and providing empowerment feelings to the troubled youth (Jamieson and Ross, 2007). Quite a number of researches have shown that involvement of troubled youth in physical activities especially any form of organized sport may actually prevent their involvement in violent behavior (Utting, 1996). An urban complex city in Missouri, Kansas City, basketball games are quite a popular evening engagement and this helps to reduce criminal incidences in the city particularly from the African Americans (Hawkins 1998). A police report in the city revealed that areas where basketball games were on in the evening experienced a reduction in the rate of juvenile criminal behavior by a margin of about 66% (Kennedy and O’Brien, 1996). Elsewhere in Virginia a significant reduction of crime was experienced among young ladies who were participants in an athletic program by an American club (Vibar-Bawzon, 1997). A rehabilitation program that involved juvenile delinquents in a well structured sport event in Australia most importantly contributed to the reduction of criminal attacks in the aboriginal society (Mason and Wilson, 1988). Research revealed that programs that meet the aim of crime reduction through organized sport involvement seems to be able to develop and integrate qualities of good relationship, competence and independent empowerment (Gatz et al, 2002). On the other hand, organized sporting programs that are largely dominated by unfair admittance and the passion to win no matter the means used, more often than not promote social abnormalities among troubled youths (Hawkins, 1998).

The review of the literature provides numerous contrasting conjectures and results concerning the impacts of sports on troubled youths. There are several reasons as to why the findings of the literature are largely inconclusive and inconsistent. Distinctions in numerical methodology, varieties of data used (longitudinal versus cross-sectional) researched populations and disparity in findings all contribute to the inconsistency of the outcomes. Viewing distinct sport varieties (those that involve contact versus those that don’t) as well as diverse varieties of delinquency or behavioral results also adds to discrepancy in the outcomes of empirical studies involving this subject. 

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