Social identity and positive youth development in recreational sport


An emerging area of research has focused on understanding how the group dynamics of a sport team influence positive youth development (PYD).  The identities that youth form through their membership in sport teams (i.e., social identities) have been found to influence teammate behaviour and team performance (Bruner et al., 2014; Murrell & Gaertner, 1992). Yet, there exists minimal work on social identity and PYD in youth sport. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between social identity and PYD in recreational youth sport. Youth engaged in recreational sport (N = 219; Mage =12yrs) completed measures of social identity (Cameron, 2004) and PYD in sport (MacDonald et al., 2012). The social identity measure assessed three dimensions including ingroup ties (IGT; perceptions of similarity, bonding, belongingness), cognitive centrality (CC; importance of being a team member), and ingroup affect (IGA; feelings associated with group membership). A regression analysis was performed separately for four PYD outcomes (personal and social skills, goal setting, initiative, negative experiences) with the three dimensions of social identity entered as predictors. Regression analyses revealed that IGT (B=.14, B=.11) and IGA (B=.13, B=.08) were positively associated with enhanced personal and social skills (R2adj=.31) and goal setting (R2adj=.16). Further IGT (B=.11) significantly predicted initiative (R2adj=.17), while CC (B=.08) and IGA (B=-.20) were associated with negative experiences (R2adj=.08). The findings extend previous research highlighting the benefits of social identity on teammate behaviour and team performance, demonstrating how social identity may contribute to PYD through sport.     

Acknowledgments: The project is supported by a Sport Participation Research Initiative (SPRI) grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC 862-2011-0006) and Sport Canada.