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Are all sport activities equal? A systematic review of how youth psychosocial experiences vary across differing sport activities
  1. M Blair Evans1,
  2. Veronica Allan2,
  3. Karl Erickson3,
  4. Luc J Martin2,
  5. Ross Budziszewski1,
  6. Jean Côté2
  1. 1Department of Kinesiology, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr M Blair Evans, Department of Kinesiology, 268C Recreation Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA, 16803, USA; mbe13{at}


Objective Models of sport development often support the assumption that young athletes' psychosocial experiences differ as a result of seemingly minor variations in how their sport activities are designed (eg, participating in team or individual sport; sampling many sports or specialising at an early age). This review was conducted to systematically search sport literature and explore how the design of sport activities relates to psychosocial outcomes.

Design Systematic search, followed by data extraction and synthesis. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were applied and a coding sheet was used to extract article information and code for risk of bias.

Data sources Academic databases and manual search of peer-reviewed journals.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Search criteria determined eligibility primarily based on the sample (eg, ages 7 through 17 years) and study design (eg, measured psychosocial constructs).

Results 35 studies were located and were classified within three categories: (1) sport types, (2) sport settings, and (3) individual patterns of sport involvement. These studies represented a wide range of scores when assessed for risk of bias and involved an array of psychosocial constructs, with the most prevalent investigations predicting outcomes such as youth development, self-esteem and depression by comparing (1) team or individual sport participants and (2) youth with varying amounts of sport involvement.

Summary/conclusion As variations in sport activities impact youth sport experiences, it is vital for researchers to carefully describe and study these factors, while practitioners may use the current findings when designing youth sport programmes.

  • Children
  • Paediatrics
  • Sport psychology
  • Well-being

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  • Twitter Follow Michael Blair Evans @mblairevans

  • Contributors All authors contributed significantly to the manuscript. The initial idea for the review emerged through discussions of MBE and JC. All authors contributed to the study protocol and design through group discussions. MBE, VA and RB conducted the majority of the article extraction and coding. All authors contributed significantly throughout the writing and preparation process and approved of the submitted version of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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