During play, the break, and the drive home: The meaning of parental verbal behaviour in youth sport

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    Problems surrounding parental involvement in youth sport have received much attention in the international academic community. Most of the focus has surrounded the frequency and nature of parental verbal behaviour such as criticism, swearing and abuse. While such behaviour has the potential to exert a negative influence in youth sport, little is known about the socially constructed meaning of parental verbal behaviour. In other words, there is a current lack of understanding surrounding the social significance (or lack thereof) of parental comments, criticisms and abuse in the context of youth sport. Addressing this oversight is important given that parents and youth do not always share a common appreciation of parental involvement in sport. This paper reports on a study which sought to generate a greater understanding of parental involvement in the junior Australian football experience. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with parents and youth participants (n = 86) currently involved in a competitive Australian football season. Data were manually transcribed verbatim and subjected to a thematic analysis. The findings reveal how parents and youth attribute different social meaning to parental verbal behaviour during play, the breaks and the drive home. While youth appear to experience parental verbal behaviour in polarising ways, parents rationalise their own verbal behaviour and in doing so, contribute to a broader social reproduction of sport parenting behaviour.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)645-656
    Number of pages12
    JournalLeisure Studies Journal
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Australian football
    • parental involvement
    • Sport-parenting
    • youth sport


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