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Dev Psychol. 2009 Mar;45(2):368-82. doi: 10.1037/a0014577.

More than child's play: variable- and pattern-centered approaches for examining effects of sports participation on youth development.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


The authors used data from Grades 5 through 7 of the longitudinal 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development to assess relations among sports participation, other out-of-school-time (OST) activities, and indicators of youth development. They used a mixture of variable- and pattern-centered analyses aimed at disentangling different features of participation (i.e., intensity, breadth). The benefits of sports participation were found to depend, in part, on specific combinations of multiple activities in which youths participated along with sports. In particular, participation in a combination of sports and youth development programs was related to positive youth development and youth contribution, even after controlling for the total time youths spent in OST activities and their sports participation duration. Adolescents' total time spent participating in OST activities, duration of participation in sports, and activity participation pattern each explained a unique part of the variance in some of the indicators of youth functioning. These findings suggest the need for future research to simultaneously assess multiple indices of OST activity participation.

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