Friday Factoid: Parental Decision Making in Youth Football

The beginning of August welcomes the return of school and, for many Americans, the arrival of fall sports. The humid summer gives way to crisp fall days and the return of youth football. The sounds of whistles and pads cracking will echo throughout numerous practice fields. A recent study has explored the parental factors that have led parents to either allowing or not allowing their child to participate in the sport of football.

Murphy, Askew, and Sumner (2017) note the decline of Pop Warner youth football by 9.5% from 2010 to 2012 (Murphy, Eskew, & Sumner, 2017, p. 232). The authors hypothesize that the leading cause of the decline of youth football participation stems from parental fear of head injuries, but this cause has not been empirically proven before this study.  The authors note that, while football has inherent risks, it also has benefits such as physical, psychological, and social benefits which include benefits not found in other sports. In response, football league officials have made attempts to make the game safer by rule changes and coaching education (Murphy et al., 2017). Furthermore, additional advances have been made in the prevention, evaluation, and management of concussions.

The authors recruited a total of 685 participants (parents) who had one child playing football, with the majority being women (79.1%). A Likert scale was used to determine factors that led to the decrease and decision making in youth football participation. Four factors predicted a parent’s intention to let his or her child play football. They included social norms, attitude towards youth football participation, behavioral control, and the perceived risk of concussion (Murphy et al., 2017, p. 240). The study aimed to create a theoretical platform for future interventions that can promote football participation (Murphy et al., 2017, p. 240). It appears the authors were successful at obtaining the main factors that determine whether or not a parent will allow their child to participate in youth football. In turn, coaches and administrators can continue progressive safety measures to ensure the viability of the game going forward.

Murphy, A. M., Eskew, K. L., & Sumner, K. E. (2017). Parents’ intentions to allow youth football participation: Perceived concussion risk and the theory of planned behavior. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 6(3), 230-242.

Chris Morrison, M.A.
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

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