Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Enduring Involvement in Youth Soccer: The Socialization of Parent and Child

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Enduring Involvement in Youth Soccer: The Socialization of Parent and Child

Article excerpt


The choice of leisure activities is significantly affected by the social contexts of participation (Buchanan, Christensen, & Burge, 1981; Crandall, 1979; Field & O'Leary, 1973). Since leisure choices may constrain or be constrained by family members, the family is a particularly significant social context for leisure decision making (Freysinger, 1994; Holman & Epperson, 1984; Orthner & Mancini, 1990). This is especially true in the case of children's sport programs because parents typically make the initial decision to enroll their children (Howard & Madrigal, 1990), whereas their children's continued participation seems to enhance parents' social and psychological involvement with the sport (Hasbrook, 1986; Snyder & Purdy, 1982).

Studies of the ways in which parents and children develop and maintain their involvement in youth sport have both practical and theoretical significance. On a practical level, knowledge of the paths by which parents and children affect one another's interest and commitment can help to better design and market sport programs (cf. Carlson & Grossbart, 1988; Filiatrault & Ritchie, 1980; Ward & Wackman, 1972). Programs can be constructed and promoted with particular reference to the factors known to favor development of enduring involvement by parents and children. If the paths of influence between parent and child are known, program administrators can devise targeted strategies designed to impact both or either (parent or child) where needed.

In practice, program design and delivery are complicated by the unique nature of youth sport consumption (Chalip, 1978). Although parents purchase the sport experience for their children, and often provide the volunteer labor necessary to provide the experience, it is the children who participate. Parents are the purchasers and sometimes the providers, but children are the users. Parent and child thus obtain separate experiences. Parents may experience the organization as volunteer labor and as spectators at training and competition (Beamish, 1985; Gould & Martens, 1979; Watson, 1977). Children directly experience the coaching, peer interactions, and competitions (Chalip, Csikszentmihalyi, Kleiber, & Larson, 1984; Fine, 1987; Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1978). Thus, when assessing and valuing the sport program, parents and children do not operate from identical frames of reference (Hellstedt, 1990; Smoll, Schutz, Wood, & Cunningham, 1979). This needs to be taken into account when modelling the dynamics of parent/child relations in youth sport contexts.

There has been substantial empirical work aimed at elaborating models describing children's socialization into sport. Parents have consistently been found to play a key role (Oliver, 1980; Smith, 1979; Spreitzer & Snyder, 1976), particularly as a consequence of the encouragement they provide (Anderssen & Wold, 1992; Melnick, Dunkelman, & Mashiach, 1981). Parental encouragement seems to result in enduring involvement in physical activity (Dennison, Straus, Mellits, & Charney, 1988), particularly when the encouragement takes concrete forms, such as watching or discussing the child's activity (Routh, Walton, & Padan-Belkin, 1978; Sallis, Alcaraz, McKenzie, Hovell, Kolody, & Nader, 1992).

Parental encouragement may depend on the expectations parents have for their children, and may, in turn, affect children's sense of their own abilities. Higher adult expectations lead to increased levels of encouragement which, in turn, leads to higher performance by children (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968). Recent workobtains at least a portion of its impact through its effects on perceived skill. Higher levels of encouragement engender higher levels of perceived skill (Black & Weiss, 1992). Perceived skill seems to be particularly important for the development of enduring commitment to sport because individuals with higher levels of perceived skill are more likely to locate and value intrinsic elements of the sport experience, such as learning new skills and playing with the team, rather than extrinsic outcomes like winning or pleasing others (Ryckman & Hamel, 1993; Vlachopoulos, Biddle, & Fox, 1996). …

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