The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Social Development in a Sport-Based Positive Youth Development Program

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 2:00 PM
Nautilus 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, PhD, Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Allison Riley, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Anthony Amorose, PhD, Professor, Illinois State University, Normal, IL
Annahita Ball, PhD, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
BACKGROUND & PURPOSE:  Youth face a variety of issues that hold significant implications for their overall well-being (e.g., drug use, violence, poor academic performance). Research indicates that positive youth development (PYD) programs may help address these needs. Little is known about which aspects of the PYD context are the greatest predictors of positive youth outcomes, though belongingness appears to play a critical role in these contexts. It also is unclear which youth benefit the most from PYD programs.  This study utilized survey data from youth participating in a sport-based summer PYD program to address theses gaps in the research. The aims were: 1) to examine the average growth in youth social competence, and related self-perceptions; 2) to determine individual deviation from the average growth trajectory; and 3) to explore belonging as a predictor of change in youth outcomes.

METHODS:  Youth ages 9-16 (N=287) completed pre/post questionnaires assessing social competence; social competence in sport; overall athletic competence; commitment; teamwork; social responsibility; and belonging. Of these participants, 59% were male and 41% female. Seventy-three percent were African American, 12% Multi-racial, 5% White/Non-Hispanic, 4% Native American, and 6% identified as "Other".  Second order latent growth curve modeling was used to explore changes in each of the key outcome variables, as well as predictors of those changes. 

RESULTS:  Significant increases were found for social competence and social responsibility. The estimated standard deviations associated with the change scores revealed significant individual differences in all the outcome variables. Some participants increased and others decreased on each of the variables across the program. Results also demonstrated a significant negative relationship between where participants started on each variable and the amount they changed. Additionally, findings indicated that perceived belongingness was a significant positive predictor of change in each of the key outcome variables.

CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS:  These findings suggest that summer sport-based PYD programs can have a positive impact on youth who regularly attend the programs, particularly when considering changes in social competence and social responsibility. The results also suggest that summer sport-based PYD programs may be most effective for those participants who begin with less-developed social competence and social responsibility and for those who perceive a higher degree of support and develop a stronger sense of connection with the PYD program. In light of these findings, current policies should continue to emphasize PYD programming as one in-road to support positive outcomes for children and youth, especially those related to social competence and social responsibility. This study also indicates that social work practitioners in PYD contexts may have the most impact on children and youth if they focus on fostering a sense of belonging within their programs. Future research should continue to examine the specific mechanisms that contribute most to youth outcomes. This may include follow-up measures to determine the long-term impacts of PYD programs and additional characteristics of the youth and aspects of the camp that impact patterns of interindividual differences in patterns of intraindividual change.