This article presents research on the impact of sports participation on juvenile delinquency.
Participation in sports activities is very popular among adolescents, and is frequently encouraged among youth. Many psychosocial health benefits in youth are attributed to sports participation, but to what extent this positive influence holds for juvenile delinquency is still not clear on both the theoretical and empirical level. There is much controversy on whether sports participation should be perceived as a protective or a risk factor for the development of juvenile delinquency. A multilevel meta-analysis of 51 published and unpublished studies, with 48 independent samples containing 431 effect sizes and N = 132,366 adolescents, was conducted to examine the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency and possible moderating factors of this association. The results showed that there is no overall significant association between sports participation and juvenile delinquency, indicating that adolescent athletes are neither more nor less delinquent than non-athletes. Some study, sample and sports characteristics significantly moderated the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency. However, this moderating influence was modest. Implications for theory and practice concerning the use of sports to prevent juvenile delinquency are discussed. (Published Abstract Provided)