UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families Working Paper No. 51 2006
In the United States, middle-class children are encouraged to enroll in sports activities. Studies show that these activities are positively associated with reduced delinquent behavior and increased academic and social performance. Research using parents' reports in interviews and surveys shows that parents view extra-curricular sports activities as an arena for socializing their children to important values and skills that go beyond the immediate benefits of participation in athletic activities. This paper expands on previous research in two ways. Using video data of naturalistic family interaction, this paper reveals that parents play an active role in this socialization process. Furthermore, in exploring everyday sports activities, this paper expands the definition of sports participation beyond formal participation in organized sports (such as Little League), to include informal and passive participation in sports. Informal sports refers to activities not provided through an organization, but instead are organized and regulated by the participants and include backyard pick-up games, shooting hoops in the park etc. Passive participation refers talk about sports that arises while watching televised athletic events and talk about past sports events. This paper underscores the important role that sports hold in family daily lives as a socializing tool for life-long traits and values.