The influence of physical activities and team membership on delinquent behavior during high school.
High school students (Behavior)
High school students (Health aspects)
Criminal behavior, Prediction of (Analysis)
Thames, April Denise
|Publication:||Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research Canadian Subject Form: Prediction of criminal behaviour|
|Product:||Product Code: E197400 Students, Senior High|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
Decreases in delinquent behavior have been positively correlated with psychosocial variables such as positive peer group interactions and physical activity. However, many of the studies examining physical activity anti delinquency have done so within the context of a sports team, which makes it difficult to isolate the effects of physical activity from team membership. The present study attempts to remedy this issue by isolating physical activity from team membership and examining its influence on delinquent behavior (e.g., committing destructive acts, gang activity, drug use). The sample consisted of 125 college students who self-reported past involvement in team sports, physical activity, clubs/organizations, and delinquent behavior during high school. Results indicated that involvement in physical activities was not indicative of one's involvement in delinquent behavior. However, participants who reported positive perceptions of group membership were less likely to report involvement in delinquency during high school compared to those who reported negative perceptions.
Certain psychosocial factors have been found to deter delinquency, including positive family dynamics, availability of community resources, strong academic performance, high self-efficacy, involvement in physical activity, and positive peer groups (Cashwell & Vacc, 1996; Fox, 1997; Harrison & Narayan, 2003; Kirkcaldy, Shepard, & Siefen, 2002). In particular, physical activity has been considered a possible deterrent to delinquency because of its positive effects, such as high self-esteem, improvements in academic ability, and closer relationships with family members (Field, Diego, & Sanders, 2001 ; Kircaldy, Shephard, & Siefen, 2002; Women's Sports Foundation, 2000; Vihjalmsson, Thorlindsson, & Thorolfur, 1992). One limitation of research conducted on physical activity is that it has been evaluated within the context of sport teams. Thus, the confounding effects of the benefits of group membership (in a team) may produce positive effects to self-image, self-concept, and self-esteem, regardless of physical activity.
Although there has been a vast amount of research that supported the idea that team sports and physical activity deter delinquent behaviors, a few researchers have argued that pervasive methodological flaws exist in much of the early deterrence literature (Miller, Melnick, Barnes, Sabo, & Farrell, 2007; Eide, Turner, & Eide, 2003). Specifically, early deterrence studies used cross-sectional designs or failed to account for other confounding variables (such as team membership). Furthermore, contrary conclusions have also been reached according to which sports activity actually increased the likelihood of delinquent behaviors (Begg, Langley, Moffit, & Marshall, 1996; Faulkner et al., 2007; Paetsch & Bertrand, 1997). One such study found that when college students were also members of sports teams, they had a greater potential for becoming habitual alcohol drinkers compared to their non-member counterparts (Vaisman-Tzachor & Lai, 2008).
The evidence regarding the deterring effects of team sport and physical activity on delinquency among adolescents is therefore mixed. Perhaps the divergent results are due to methodological limitations of past studies; however, a substantial portion of the discrepancy in conclusions between studies may be due to the way in which "physical activity" is operationally defined. Many studies define physical activity as membership in team sports that confounds important variables. The problem of integrating physical activity with team sports is that it does not separate the benefits of physical activity from the benefits of team membership. Perhaps one factor is more influential for positive adolescent development than the other. In addition, most research studies have neglected to measure how identified team members are with their teams and how adolescents perceive their self-worth in reference to their membership in the team. It is likely that adolescents who identify with their teams and who perceive themselves as worthy members are more influenced by their team than adolescents who do not share these sentiments.
Therefore, the basic aim of this study is to answer three questions: (1) Does physical activity influence delinquent activity when evaluated outside of the team context? (2) Does group membership influence delinquent activity regardless of whether or not it involves physical activity? (3) Does perception of group membership (e.g., perceiving oneself as a worthy member of the group) influence delinquency?
In the next few paragraphs, we will provide a brief literature review in three major areas: delinquency, peer relationships, and perceptions of group membership.
Peer group interactions are an important influential factor in overall adolescent development (Henry & Kobus, 2007; Schaie & Willis, 2000; Tarrant, 2002). By creating a sense of group identity, adolescent peer groups become valuable networks through which individual identity is gradually formulated (Tarrant, 2002). Adolescents who display higher identification levels with their peer group purpose are more likely to report positive relations with their group members as well; deviant peer groups can be perceived positively by adolescents just as much. Research of street gangs and gang membership demonstrated that the members feel connected with their group and report positive attributes such as, "The gang takes care of me"; "The gang is my family"; and "We ali look out for one another" (Sikes, 2000).
Adolescents who come from dysfunctional families are particularly vulnerable to peer influence, as they seek other relationships with which to feel connected and with which to identify (Barnow, Lucht, & Freyberger, 2005; Harris, 1983). In a study that examined correlations of handgun possession among male adolescents, the authors concluded that the males in this sample were more likely to carry handguns if they were associated with peers who engaged in problematic behaviors as well (Luster & Oh, 2001). Thus, becoming involved with a peer group that behaves delinquently may inadvertently lead the adolescent to adopt similar behaviors in order to feel connected or more similar to the group. It is also possible that adolescents will adopt the identity of the group with whom they are most frequently involved. Frequent involvement is usually measured by the amount of time spent with a group or activity in a given week, or the amount of hours in a given day. To illustrate, suppose an adolescent is both a football player and a member of the chess club. If he or she meets with the football team 5 days a week and the chess club once every other week, he or she is more likely to identify with the football team and define himself/herself as a football player. In turn, the adolescent may report more preference toward the football team over the chess team since that is the group in which he or she is most frequently involved.
Perceived Self-Worth/ Perceptions of Group Membership
Self-value or self-worth in a group dynamic is widely believed to be based on an individual's perception of the importance of his or her role within the group. Self-worth would be considered a subjective measure of how important the individual feels in the group or how subjectively cohesive the group feels to the individual. A sense of belonging to a group or community is critically important for all humans and an essential component of healthy adolescent development (Harrison & Narayan, 2003). According to Social Identity Theory (Hogg & Abrams, 2003; Tajfel, 1978), adolescents may use group-based comparisons in order to secure positive evaluations within their peer group. In turn, this leads to a more positive self-identity (Tarrant, 2002). Positive perceptions about one's non-deviant group may serve as a protective factor against future involvement in delinquency. Studies examining organized team activity as a protective factor against substance abuse found that adolescents who were more involved in extracurricular activities were less likely to drink alcohol and use drugs than those who did not participate in any organized group activities (Elder, Leaver-Dunn, Wang, Nagy, & Green, 2000). Through bonds created with others, the adolescent fashions a sense of purpose, which in turn can be associated with purposeful behaviors. Harrison and Narayan (2003) found that adolescent involvement in volunteer activities and school clubs also promoted pro-social behavior.
Purpose of Current Study
Given the integrative nature of sports teams (e.g., involves physical activity, team membership, peer interactions), it is difficult to decipher which factors actually influence pro-social behaviors. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of participation in activities (individual physical activity, team sports, and non-physical club activities) and perceived self-worth within group membership on delinquent behavior during high school (as defined by involvement in gang fights, theft, drug use, and other destructive acts). In this study, individual physical activity was operationally defined as "any activity with physical movements performed individually to accomplish a personal physical fitness or competitive goal." Activities that involved personal gain such as boxing, running, or swimming were considered individual physical activity. Team sport activity, on the other hand, was defined as "physical activity performed with at least one other person to accomplish a group goal." Activities such as football or basketball were considered team sport activity. Non-physical club activity was defined as "any activity that is organized among a group in which the foundation of the group is not based on physical activity." These include activities such as sororities, fraternities, math clubs, student government, etc.
There were three main hypotheses guiding this study. The first hypothesis was that those adolescents who were frequently involved in physical activities and team activities (physical or non-physical) would report less involvement in delinquent activity compared to those adolescents who reported no involvement or minimal involvement. The second hypothesis was that those adolescents who reported a higher sense of self-worth in their group were less likely to have been involved in delinquent behavior compared to those who reported a lower sense of self-worth in their group. The third hypothesis was that, because of the benefits of team structure, those who were involved in nonphysical club activities and team sport activities were going to score lower on delinquency measures compared to those who were involved in individual physical activity.
Participants consisted of college students from California State University, Long Beach, and Cerritos Community College (N=125). The majority of the sample consisted of women (F=80, M=45). Participants were recruited from Introductory Psychology, Child Development, and University 100 classrooms. Participants were informed that the study was to explore various activities that college students were involved in during high school.
Participants were administered a demographic questionnaire to collect data on age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. See Table 1 for demographic data.
Physical Activity/Team Sports/ Organization Involvement
Participation in physical activity and team activity was measured with the question, "Approximately how many hours a week did you participate in the following activities?" Activities were listed that included individual physical activity (e.g., gym exercise, individual swimming, golf), team sports (e.g., football, basketball, baseball), and clubs/organizations (e.g., student government, math club, chess club). Participants were asked to provide information about their participation from 104 through 124 grade. The concept of measuring activity through self-report is well established and is used extensively in data collection (Faulkner et al., 2007). In order to check whether participants had difficulty remembering past activities, a Likert-scaled question was provided at the end that asked, "How difficult was it to remember the activities you participated in during high school?" An analysis of responses indicated that the majority of participants (N=100) reported that they did not have trouble remembering their involvement in activities.
Participants who indicated that they were involved in group activities (i.e., team sport, club/organization) were asked to complete the Group Attitude Scale (Evans & Jarvis, 1986) to assess their experience of group membership (i.e., sense of self-worth within the group) and whether they liked their group (i.e., identification with the group). The Group Attitude Scale has demonstrated good reliability (Cronbach Alpha coefficients of .90-.97). Lower scores on this scale represent more negative attitudes toward one's group, whereas higher scores represent more positive attitudes towards one's group.
Participants were administered a modified but commonly used delinquency measure (Hagan et al., 1985; Harris, 2003) to assess their involvement in various delinquent acts during their years in high school. Students were asked about their past involvement in delinquent activities in the 104 through 12th grades. The questions were as follows: "Approximately how often during [specified grade] had you done each of the following....?" (1) taken a car without permission, (2) banged up or damaged something on purpose, (3) sold marijuana or hashish, (4) taken things worth more than $50, (5) broken into a locked building, (6) sold drugs other than marijuana or hashish, (7) beat up or hurt anyone (excluding sibling fights), (8) carried a weapon, (9) taken part in gang fights, (10) used marijuana or hashish, (11) drank alcohol, and (12) used drugs other than marijuana or hashish. The last three items about drug use were included since drug use is considered a proxy of delinquency. In order to check whether participants had difficulty remembering past delinquent acts, a Likert-scale question was provided at the end that asked, "How difficult was it to remember these behaviors you participated in during high school?" Analysis of responses indicated that the majority of participants (N=96) reported that they did not have trouble remembering activities.
Categorization of Involvement and Group Perception
For analysis purposes, participants were grouped based on the total number of hours per week that they indicated were spent in each type of activity. Participants who indicated that they did not participate were categorized as 'no involvement' (N=25). Participants who reported involvement were categorized based on a median split of total number of hours of participation per week. Participants below the 504 percentile were categorized as 'low involvement' (N=49), and those who had a total number of hours per week above the 50th percentile were categorized as 'high involvement' (N=51). See Table 2 for involvement classification.
Participants who reported having had group membership experience during high school (N=89) were analyzed using cluster analysis to select participants into negative perceptions of their group involvement (N=27) and positive perceptions of their group involvement (N=62) based on their composite scores from the Group Attitude Scale. See Table 4 for group perception classification.
Table 1 describes the characteristics of the sample as a whole and provides comparisons by age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The sample consisted primarily of freshman and sophomore students (N=72). Most ages of the participants ranged from 18-24 (N=89). On average, males reported higher numbers of delinquent acts (M=25) compared to females (M=6). Furthermore, males reported more violent delinquent acts such as gang fights and robbery compared to females who reported more acts such as substance and alcohol use. The sample consisted of 65% Latinos, 20% Caucasians, 20% African Americans, and 13% Asian-American/Pacific Islander. Socioeconomic status was also skewed among the sample to the lower socioeconomic range, with 84% who reported an annual income of $10,000-20,000; 10% who reported an annual income of $21,000-30,000; and 6% who reported an income from $31,000-40,000.
Hypothesis 1: Those who were frequently involved in physical activity and team activities (physical or non-physical) will report less involvement in delinquent behavior compared to those who reported no involvement or minimal involvement.
Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to examine the differences in reported delinquent behaviors among the three groups while controlling for gender as a confounding variable. The results indicated no significant differences in reported delinquent behaviors between respondents who were highly involved group members in either sports or other activities in their recent past compared to those who were not involved or minimally involved in such groups activities, F(1,121) = 1.66,p >.05. See Table 3 for results.
Hypothesis 2: Those who reported more positive perceptions of group membership will report less involvement in delinquent behaviors compared to those who reported more negative perceptions of group membership.
Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to examine whether mean differences in delinquent behaviors between respondents' perceptions of their group memberships as positive or negative while controlling for gender were statistically significant. The results of the ANCOVA indicated that those who were involved in group activities and reported more positive perceptions of group membership also reported significantly less involvement in delinquent behaviors compared to those who were involved in group activities but reported more negative perceptions of such experiences, F (1, 86) = 18.261, p < .05. See Table 5 for results.
Hypothesis 3: Those who were involved in non-physical club activities and team sport activities will score lower on delinquency measure compared to those who were involved in individual physical activity or no group activity.
Most individuals who reported involvement with individual physical activities also reported involvement with group activity. Due to the low number of individuals who reported involvement solely in individual physical activity (N=10), this hypothesis could not be analyzed.
The purpose of this study was to examine whether involvement in team sports, individual physical activity, clubs/organizations, and perceptions of group membership influenced engagement in delinquent behaviors during high school years. Inconsistent with expectations, those who reported more frequent involvement in activities did not report significantly less involvement in delinquent behaviors compared to those who reported minimal to no involvement. Although these results were different than expected, they are actually consistent with more recent literature on delinquency, which argues that mere involvement in extracurricular activities does not serve as a deterrent from delinquent behaviors (Miller et al., 2007; Eitle et al., 2003; Faulkner et al., 2007; Paetsch & Bertrand, 1997).
Interestingly, and consistent with social identity theory, participants' perceptions of their group membership experience, particularly how positively or negatively they perceived it, were predictive of involvement in delinquent behaviors. It is possible that the perception of the quality of group membership modulates either enhances or diminishes the relationship between involvement in group and/or social activity and involvement in delinquent behaviors. If perception of group membership indeed serves as a modulating factor, it may serve as a remedy to the discrepancies found in past research of sport involvement and delinquent behaviors. It makes intuitive sense that if an adolescent is frequently involved with a football team but does not necessarily like the group, nor feels like a valued member in it, that his football involvement may not be a deterrent of delinquency. This would be consistent with Smith's (1999) findings that those who perceived themselves to be more accepted by their sport teammates also felt a greater commitment to their sport.
There were several limitations to the current study that should be noted and caution the reader to the interpretations of the findings. First, many participants reported involvement in both team sports and individualized physical activity. Therefore, it was difficult to isolate the number of individuals (N=10) who reported involvement solely in individualized physical activity to perform the appropriate statistical analyses required to analyze the hypothesis pertaining to physical activity. Second, this study examined delinquent behavior with a predominately female population who were attending college. Most students who pursue college educations were not involved in delinquent activities as high school students. Even among the "no-involvement" group, overall scores on the delinquency scale were relatively low. Furthermore, the sample consisted of students enrolled in introductory psychology and child development courses. This limits the generalization of the findings to students who elect to pursue these majors. Future studies should include both non-college and college students from various majors. Finally, examination of participant responses indicated that most of the delinquency scale items endorsed were substance use items. Therefore, future studies should separate delinquent acts from substance use.
Team and physical activity involvement, group membership, and the quality of such as protective factors against adolescent delinquent behaviors are only a few of probably many factors affecting a complex phenomenon. Researchers, educators, and community leaders may want to heed the notion that integration of organized group activities where adolescents feel that they serve an important role may act as a deterrent against delinquent behaviors.
This article is approved by the following for continuing education credit:
The American Psychotherapy Association provides this continuing education credit for Diplomates.
After studying this article, participants should be better able to do the following:
1. Explain the problems inherent to early delinquency deterrence literature examining the benefits of physical activity within the context of a sports team.
2. Explain the influences of peer groups on adolescents' sense of identity.
3. Explain the importance of a research perspective, which isolates the deterrence of physical activity from that of team membership.
4. Explain how the results from this study assist educators and community organizers in structuring team activities for maximum benefit.
KEYWORDS: Adolescents, Delinquency, Team Membership, Physical Activity, Group Perception
TARGET AUDIENCE: School counselors, educators, mental health professionals
PROGRAM LEVEL: Basic
DISCLOSURE: The authors have nothing to disclose.
CE ARTICLE 1: The influence of Physical Activities and Team Membership on Delinquent Behavior During High School (pages 10-15)
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This article is approved by the following for continuing education credit:
The American Psychotherapy Association provides this continuing education credit for Diplomates
POST CE TEST QUESTIONS (Answer the following questions after reading the article, pages 10-15)
1. According to the article, what is one main problem of examining the benefits of physical activity within the context of the sports team?
a) Sports teams are competitive.
b) For the most part, adolescents do not like to engage in physical activity.
c) Group involvement also provides benefits to adolescents' self-image.
d) There is no problem examining physical activity in the context of a sports team.
2. Which of the following was o methodological flow in past research on physical activity and delinquency deterrence?
a) The use of cross-sectional designs
b) The failure to account for confounding variables
c) Sample size
d) Both a & b
3. How did the authors measure group perception?
a) Group perception was measured using the Group Environment Scale.
b) Group perception was measured using the Group Altitude Scale.
c) Group perception was measured using a structured interview.
d) Group perception was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
4. The researchers found support for all three hypotheses.
5. Which of the following was a limitation to the current study?
a) Gender of sample
b) Delinquency included substance abuse
c) Representativeness of sample
d) All of the above
6. How does the article best inform scholars, clinicians, and the overall community?
a) Based on the results, it can be concluded that ali physical activities buffer delinquent behavior.
b) The article has created awareness that substance abuse is a major problem among adolescents.
c) Based on the results, integrating organized team activities in an adolescent's curriculum may help serve as a buffer to delinquency.
d) This article helps community organizers develop appropriate team activities for adolescents.
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Take CE tests for free online at www. americanpsycholherapy.com or see the questions for this article on page 16.
April Denise Thames is a 5th-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at AIliant International University. April is currently entering her APA Clinical Psychology Internship ac Patton State Hospital in Patton, CA. April's primary research and clinical interests are delinquent and antisocial behavior, neuropsychology, and severe mental illness. April also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the psychology department ac Cerritos College.
Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor, PhD, FACFEI. FAPA, DAPA, CHSIII, was born in Israel. He obtained his doctorate in clinical psychology from Alliant International University, California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles where he is currently an adjunct professor. He is a Fellow of both the American College of Forensic Examiner's International and the American Psychotherapy Association, and is Certified in Homeland Security at Level III. He has conducted numerous studies and published on a diverse number of topics including human animal interaction, psychological evaluations in federal immigration courts, and psychological profiles of terrorists. He currently owns and directs the Counseling Center of Santa Monica, a psychological corporation and private practice organization in Santa Monica, California.
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of the Sample (N = 125) N M S.D. Age 22.31 3.45 18-24 89 25-34 22 35-41 10 41+ 4 College Level Freshman 67 Sophomore 15 Junior 20 Senior 23 Gender -- -- Male 45 Female 80 Ethnicity -- -- Caucasian 25 African-American 3 Latino/Hispanic 81 Asian-American/ Pacific Islander 16 Other 0 Socioeconomic Status 16,525 2,394 10,000-20,000 105 21,000-30,000 12 31,000-40,000 8 41,000 + 0 Table 2. Mean Frequencies of Involvement on Delinquency (Adjusted for Gender) M (Adjusted Group N for Gender) No Involvement 25 5.17 Low Involvement 49 5.26 High Involvement 51 4.70 Table 3. Analysis of Covariance of Delinquency by Involvement Group Source of Sums of Mean Variation Squares df Squares F Covariate (Gender) 311.197 1 311.197 8.29 * Involvement Group 125.335 2 62.67 1.66 Error 4541.945 121 37.53 Total 10117.286 125 Note: * p <.05 ** p <.01 Table 4. Mean Frequencies of Group Perception on Delinquency (Adjusted for Gender) M (Adjusted Group N for Gender) Negative 27 9.03 Positive 62 3.19 Table 5. Analysis of Covariance of Delinquency by Perception of Group Sums of Mean Source of Variation Squares df Squares F Covariate (Gender) 54.443 1 54.443 2.00 Group Perception 481.290 1 481.290 18.26 ** Error 2266.269 86 26.351 Total 5158.153 89
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