Parents’ Motivations for Enrolling their Children in Recreational Sports
Extensive literature covers reasons for participation in sports from the perspective of youth athletes. However, athletic involvement starts early and is determined in part by parental support. The purpose of this study was to learn more about parents’ motivations for enrolling their children in sports. A 49-item parent motivational scale of reasons for enrolling child(ren) in sports was created as part of the study first as a pilot and later tested with 84 parent participants who had school-aged children enrolled in recreational sports. An open-ended question on primary reasons why parents enrolled their child in sports was also included in the study. Exploratory factor analysis of the motivational scale indicated a four-component solution for types of reasons parents enrolled their children in sports: 1. Extrinsic/parent-focused; 2. Child growth and development; 3. Social benefits; and 4. Health/well-being. Parents rated the latter three types of beneficial reasons for enrolling children in sports more highly than extrinsic/parent-focused ones and were more likely to list beneficial than extrinsic reasons in the open-ended question. Scores on several individual motivational items varied by child’s, not parent’s, gender and parent’s marital status. Implications for use of self-determination and expectancy-value theoretical perspectives, understanding parents’ motivations to encourage children’s sports participation while considering family structure and gender of child, and study limitations with ideas for future research are discussed.
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