Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Parents as Children's Socializing Agents in Youth Soccer

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Parents as Children's Socializing Agents in Youth Soccer

Article excerpt

In the youth sport literature, parental influences and socialization are often noted (Brown, 1985; Brustad, 1992; Higginson, 1985; Lewko & Greendorfer, 1988). Parents may be instrumental in determining children's sport involvement. Parents may often be the key socializers in children's sport participation (Lewko & Greendorfer, 1988). In support of the idea of the influence of parents in sport, research has noted that parents play a central role in early and middle childhood (Lewko & Greendorfer, 1988; Higginson, 1985). This coincides with the time children begin sports participation. According to the research, parents influence their children in many ways. The parents' value of sport is related to children's participation (Bergerone, Cei, Ceridone, & Formica, 1985). The family environment is often associated with children's sport involvement (Yee & Flanagan, 1985).

Research has investigated the behaviors of coaches as socializing agents in children's sport (Horn, 1985), yet research related to parents is limited (Brustad, 1992). It is known that parents provide social support (Brown, 1985) and influence physical activity levels (Brown, Frankel, & Fennell, 1989). Despite the knowledge of parents influencing sport participation, little is known about the parental influence within a specific sport. Perhaps the parents of children in a specific sport (i.e., soccer) exhibit certain characteristics, as do the children who choose to participate in that sport. It may not be as simple as classifying all youth sports into one group. In addition to these differences in characteristics, parents of children participating in a specific sport may be seeking certain benefits from that particular youth sport. Likewise, what parents want out of children's sport participation may play a part the socialization process. based on the issues of parental involvement in sport and the differences between the sports, the purpose of this study was to examine various demographic characteristics and opinions of parents in relation to children's participation in competitive youth soccer versus participation in other youth sports. It was hypothesized that parents of children in competitive youth soccer would be demographically and characteristically different from parents of children who do not participate in soccer. Additionally, it was hypothesized that parents of participating children would perceive sport participation and benefits derived from that participation differently than parents of non-participating children.



Participants for this study were 165 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 10, inclusively. Parents were recruited from three elementary schools in and around a large metropolitan area. Youth sport programs were prominent in all areas and included a variety of sport options, such as baseball, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, and swimming. Youth sports programs were possible year round due to seasonal conditions and availability. Of the parents, 111 were mothers, 54 were fathers, and 46 parents had children participating in youth soccer. Additional demographics are reported in the Results section.


Based on the results of a pilot study, the questionnaire for the primary investigation was constructed and put into five sections: (1) demographics; (2) types and levels of children's sport participation; (3) benefits from participation; (4) parental behaviors in children's sport; and (5) parental opinions of children's sport.

A pilot study, using an open-ended format, assisted in constructing the questionnaire used for the primary investigation. From this pilot study, lists were generated from the responses in each section, with the exception the demographic section. As suggested by Thomas and Nelson (1990), using open-ended questions often enables one to better construct closed questions. The open-ended questionnaire included: (a) demographic questions, such as age and gender of parents and children, parents' sport and physical activity participation, occupation, and income; (b) questions inquiring about children's sport participation, as in which sport and at what level; (c) questions asking for reasons for children's sport participation, such as why should children participate and what do they get out of it; (c) questions related to parental behaviors in children's sport, such as what specific things do they do related to their child's sport participation; and (e) questions related to parental opinions of children's sport, such as what do children learn from sports, coaches behaviors, and sport program qualities. …

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