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Dev Psychol. 2009 Mar;45(2):341-53. doi: 10.1037/a0014063.

Sports participation and juvenile delinquency: the role of the peer context among adolescent boys and girls with varied histories of problem behavior.

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National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


In a study of 1,344 urban adolescents, the authors examined the relation between participation in organized sports and juvenile delinquency. They compared youth who participated in sports to those who only participated in nonathletic activities and to those who did not participate in any organized activities. They also examined the indirect relations between sports and delinquency via 2 peer-related constructs-deviant peer affiliations and unstructured socializing. Finally, they examined the extent to which gender and prior externalizing problems moderated the direct and indirect relations between sports participation and delinquency. The authors found that the odds of nonviolent delinquency were higher among boys who participated in sports when compared to boys who participated only in nonathletic activities but not when compared to boys who did not participate in any organized activities. Deviant peer affiliations and unstructured socializing mediated the relation between sports participation and boys' nonviolent delinquency. Moreover, prior externalizing problems moderated the mediated path through peer deviance. The authors did not, however, find direct, mediated, or moderated relations between sports and boys' violent delinquency nor between sports and girls' violent or nonviolent delinquency.

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