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Trajectories of team and individual sports participation in childhood and links with internalizing problems

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The purpose of this 5-year longitudinal study is to identify trajectories of team and individual sports participation in childhood, and to compare these trajectories on different types of internalizing problems. Parents reported their children’s annual sports participation from the ages of 6 to 10 (n = 785) and teachers reported internalizing problems (depression, anxiety, social withdrawal) at the beginning and at the end of this period. The study used latent class growth analyses to identify two trajectories of team sports and two trajectories of individual sports participation were identified: 1) high participation, and 2) low participation. Considering baseline level of internalizing problems and gender, children in the high participation team sports trajectory show significantly fewer depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal behaviors at age 10 than those in the low participation team sports trajectory. No differences between individual sports trajectories were observed. Comparison with joint trajectory groups partially confirmed these results but also showed that sustained participation in multiple individual sports could also be linked to decreased anxiety. Our findings suggest that participation in team sports should be encouraged to promote certain aspects of children’s mental health.

Social development, Vol. 32 Feb (1), 348-364 (2023)
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Sport, Physical activity, Anxiety, Depression, Social withdrawal
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