The purpose of this study was to explore the socio-ecological determinants of participation and dropout in organised sports in a nationally-representative sample of Australian children.
Data were drawn from Waves 3 and 4 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. In total, 4042 children aged 8.25 (SD = 0.44) years at baseline were included, with 24-months between Waves. Socio-ecological predictors were reported by parents and teachers, while cognitive and health measures were assessed by trained professionals. All predictors were assessed at age 8, and used to predict participation and dropout by age 10.
Seven variables at age 8 were shown to positively predict participation in organised sports at age 10. These included: sex (boy); fewer people in household; higher household income; main language spoken at home (English); higher parental education; child taken to a sporting event; and, access to a specialist PE teacher during primary school. Four variables predicted dropout from organised sports by age 10: lower household income; main language spoken at home (non-English); lower parental education; and, child not taken to a sporting event.
The interplay between child sex, socioeconomic indicators, and parental support is important in predicting children’s participation in organised sports. Multilevel and multicomponent interventions to promote participation and prevent dropout should be underpinned by the Socio-Ecological Model and targeted to high risk populations using multiple levels of risk.