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Unnecessary roughness? : Youth sports, peer networks and male adolescent violence.

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In many American schools, interscholastic sports play a fundamental role in structuring student status hierarchies and peer friendship networks. Athletes, particularly males playing popular team sports, are likely venerated by other students and their local communities, becoming core members of a school’s “in-crowd” (Kane 1988; Holland and Andre 1994; Miracle and Rees 1994). Similarly, non-athletic friends of popular athletes tend to share elevated social status and gain membership in more exclusive peer groups (Eckert 1989). The predominance and visibility of sports in school culture encourages all students, regardless of gender or athleticism, to orient their behavior toward these activities and define their own positions and identities in relation to the most popular athletes and athletic cliques (Pascoe 2003; Eckert 1989).

Given the importance of sports in adolescent social development, it is not surprising that the previous four decades ha ve witnessed an abundance of research on the topic. Along with being a vehicle for increased social status (particularly among males), research has generally found sports participation associated with a host of additional benefits; including increased selfesteem, locus of control, academic achievement, commitment to school completion, educational
aspirations and economic attainment (Otto and Alwin 1977; Marsh 1992, 1993; Fejgin 1994; McNeal 1995; Mahoney and Cairns 1997; Eccles and Barber 1999). Much of this research has also found a negative relationship between high school athletics and delinquency (Landers and Landers 1978; Seagrave and Hastad 1982; Stark et al. 1987; Fejgin 1994; Mahoney 2000; Langbein and Bess 2002). Marsh (1993:35) sums up the area when he proclaims, “The broad general conclusions based on a large number of complicated analyses are simply stated: Participation in sport has many positive effects with no apparent negative effects and these positive effects are very robust.” Such findings appeal to the positive views of youth sports held by the general public. They also provide support for theoretical perspectives arguing that sports participation) increases adolescents’ bonds to schools, conventional peers, and conventional activities (McNeal 1995; Mahoney and Cairns 1997; Larson 1994), 2) socializes adolescents into the basic values of American life, such as competition, fair play, self-restraint and achievement (Educational Policy Commission 1954; Evans and Davies 1986; Frey 1986; Jeziorski 1994), and 3) helps develop social and physical competence, leading to increased self-esteem and social capital (Spady 1970; Otto and Alwin 1977; Ewing et al. 2002).

Despite general findings that sports serve protective and integrative roles for adolescent development, many scholars remain cautious about the positive impacts of sports, contending that such benefits may be overstated or mask more nuanced and problematic relationships. One question of increasing debate is the relationship between sports participation and interpersonal violence. Contrary to the view that interscholastic sports help curb adolescent violence, critical scholars assert that the hypermasculine cultures of many athletic programs (particularly within male-dominated contact sports) teach violence as an acceptable means of maintaining valued identities. These theorists argue that, even though athletes tend to personally benefit from their participation in sports, these benefits are often gained at the cost of increased aggression toward perceived outsiders and the reproduction of gender and class inequalities. From this perspective, masculinized sports are socially sanctioned stepping stones toward privilege and power, sites where coaches, peers and parents foster aggression as a means of achieving team success while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of off-the- field violence.



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Editor's comments - [  This study examines the extent to which participation in high school interscholastic sports contributes to male interpersonal violence. Deriving competing hypotheses from social control, socialisation and masculinity theories.  ]  Reference this?Cryer, J. (Year). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from <this page's full URL>

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Reference : Kreager, D. (2004). Unnecessary roughness? : Youth sports, peer networks and male adolescent violence. Washington: University of Washington


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