Sports Participation and Juvenile Delinquency

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In the past few years, a boy that I have known my whole life has started to engage in delinquent behavior. No matter the consequences, he continues to engage in this behavior. He has always been good, however in the past year or two he has started to participate in delinquent activities. Criminology is a broad subject, and with the way this boy has been behaving has peaked my interest in juvenile behavior and the factors that influence this behavior. The specific factors in juvenile delinquency that will be the focus of this paper include the influence of role models, peers, and the involvement in extracurricular activities.

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High school is a time where you are finding out who you are. Students want to fit in and make lifelong friendships. Sometimes, the friends that make up a friend group may offend or participate in delinquent activities. Part of the reason a person may engage in delinquent behavior may be because they see what others in their friend group are doing and may conform to these actions for fear of being left out or they may be pressured to become involved. Selfhout, Branje and Meeus (2008) propose that social bonds are an indicator of potential juvenile delinquency. Those who have a bond with delinquents have a higher chance of participating in delinquent activities. In contrast, those who have a bond with non-delinquents have a lower chance of being a juvenile delinquent.

A study conducted by Haynie (2002) hypothesized that the number of relationships with delinquent peers is one of the most important elements when evaluating the effect delinquent peers have on others. In other words, the more delinquent friends a person associates with, the better the chance of that person to engage in delinquent actions as well. In the study, Haynie asked students to name up to ten of their closest friends, both male and female. Following this, the students were asked questions to identify their level of involvement in delinquency. From this information, it was determined if the ten friends listed previously had any effect on the engagement in delinquency of the student. In the findings, there were a lot of mixed groups that had both delinquent friends and friends who did not engage in delinquent behavior. It was found that the group with the highest delinquency was the group of delinquent dominant friends and the group with the lowest level of delinquency was the group that did not have juvenile delinquents.

Everyone has a person that they look up to, that is their role model. We dream to be like them and to follow in their footsteps. According to Walters (2016), role models have an impact on a child’s involvement in delinquency. A study conducted by Walters took a survey of eight hundred and fifty students in the Flint area in the year 1994. Each participant was asked to write their relationship with one male and one female role model. Following this, a self-report survey was sent out to each student asking questions about what kind of offending they have engaged in. Walters found that same-sex role models had a better effect against delinquency. For males, a biological father had the best impact. For females, it was more likely for them to offend if they had a biological mother role model.

In some cases, a person’s role model is their parent. Gottfredson (2016) conducted a study about the effects of parental role models on delinquency. Three hundred students from thirty-five different middle schools were given a questionnaire about how they may engage in delinquency, relationships with their parents, peer influence, their relationship with their role models, and other related subjects. In Gottfredson’s study, it was found that those who have a negative relationship with their parental role model offended more. Therefore, the better the relationship with a parental role model, the less likely it is for a juvenile to participate in delinquent activities.

Whether it is a job, sports, or an academic club, participating in extracurricular activities can help prevent young adults from engaging in delinquent behavior. By participating in such events and activities, student athletes are required to attend school, keep good grades and stay out of trouble. If these student athletes wish to continue participating in their respective sports and activities, they must abide by those guidelines set by school officials. In addition, some academic clubs and programs require certain grade point averages, number of volunteer hours, as well as committing to hour long meetings a few times each week. In a study by Guest and McRee (2009), it was found that certain clubs and sports have a positive effect on juvenile delinquency whereas other extracurricular activities have a negative effect on juvenile delinquency. Although there was a variation between some schools, on average the more active in sports and clubs, the lower the chance of delinquency.

The study performed by Spruit et al. (2016) evaluated the effects of the four central components of Hirshi’s Causes of Delinquency and concluded that all four have a positive effect on deviance. Having high school aged students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities, they create a commitment not only to the activity but also to the coach, advisor, and their teammates. This commitment can prevent participants from acting deviant for fear of being removed from the team or club. The second and third component, attachment and involvement, follow closely to commitment. Those who are involved in extracurricular activities have an attachment to others that are involved in the same activity. In addition, being involved in extracurricular activities takes up a lot of time, therefore students who participate in these activities have a smaller window to offend. The fourth and final component of Hirshi’s Causes of Delinquency is belief. According to Spruit et al. (2016), the final component, belief, strengthens how a juvenile may perceive society’s values because of the values and rules set by extracurricular activities.

It is known that friends and peers have a strong impact on adolescent behavior. For delinquency, the more delinquent friends a person has, the more likely it is for them to engage in delinquent behavior. Another import aspect in combating juvenile delinquency is role models. With young adults especially, appropriate role models are a key factor in preventing delinquency. Looking up to someone who has and does not offend can cause another to stray away from that type of behavior. In addition, participation in extracurricular activities gives a student less time to offend as well as create strong social ties to peers and coaches. With these strong social bonds, students can be swayed from delinquent actions for fear of being kicked off a team as well as disappointing team members and coaches. All of these suggest that juveniles are very susceptible to social bonds and those bonds can be key indicators of juvenile delinquency.

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Sports Participation and Juvenile Delinquency. (2020, Feb 27). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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