Understanding the impact of youth participation in organized sport on family functioning
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Families provide individual members with a means of financial, social, and emotional support (Lavee, McCubbin & Olsen, 1987; Minuchin, 1985). Individuals have sought ways to improve family functioning in order to aid in personal development and the betterment of society (Broderick, 1993). Past research has shown that families that play or recreate together are likely to have higher levels of functioning (Orthner & Mancini, 1991). Youth sport has also been shown to be an external system that can provide a context that can lead to positive outcomes (Ewing et al., 2002). High functioning families set and achieve goals, regulate external boundaries, manage internal communications and regulate space within the family (Broderick, 1993). Coakley (2009) notes that the emphasis in youth sport in the U.S. has shifted towards a focus on skill development. With this shift, the time and financial demands on families for participation in these sport leagues has increased as well. While we know much about how families support sport participation, we know little about how this participation impacts families. This study seeks to answer the following research questions:What elements of the youth sport experience place particular demands on the family system? How do the aspects of family functioning interact with sport to mitigate the effects of the demands placed on the family from participation from youth sports? Seven families with at least one child participating in elite youth sport were interviewed. The data showed that families are willingly engaging with these leagues despite the stress they place on the family. Large financial and time demands are placed on the family that impacts the family in various ways. Elite youth sport is given high priority that may impact the marital dyad and the non-athlete sibling. Despite the additional strain that these leagues place on the family, families are still making a series of trade-offs to enroll in these leagues for the skill development of their child.