A Longitudinal Study of Sport Participation and Perceived Social Competence in Youth
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PURPOSE: Participation in sport presents a unique setting for positive youth psychosocial development. Evidence supporting the relationship between sport and perceived social competence, however, is lacking longitudinal evidence; therefore, it is unknown how the relationship changes through late childhood to early adolescence. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the association between sport participation and self-perceived social competence over 4 years of early adolescence. METHODS: The data for this study are from the longitudinal cohort Physical Health and Activity Study. A total of 2,278 children in grade 4 were followed for 4 years until age 13-14 years. Self-perceived social competence (SPSC) was measured using Harter's Self-Perception Profile for Children. Sport participation was measured using the Participation Questionnaire. Mixed effects models were used to evaluate the effect of sport as a continuous and categorical variable on SPSC. RESULTS: There was a significant association of sport at baseline (b = .06, 95% CI: .04-.08) and a significant association of sport over time (b = .01, 95% CI: 4 × 10-3 to .017) on SPSC for both males and females. When examining sport participation categorically, compared with no sport participation, participation in any category of sport (in-school, out-of-school, or both) is positively associated with SPSC. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study demonstrated that higher participation in sport is associated with small gains in perceptions of social competence during late childhood to early adolescence, suggesting that sport may be a small yet important contributor to young adolescents' perceptions of their social capabilities.