Sport participation may protect socioeconomically disadvantaged youths with refugee backgrounds from experiencing behavioral and emotional difficulties

Alexander W. O'Donnell, Jaimee Stuart, Bonnie L. Barber, Peyman Abkhezr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Youth with refugee backgrounds experience social and socioeconomic difficulties that arise following resettlement. Research has found that sport participation generally provides youth with a protective milieu that is especially beneficial for the most disadvantaged youth. Accordingly, the current study examines whether sport participation is related to positive psychosocial outcomes for resettled adolescent refugees, and if these effects are greater for those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Method: Data were from a large, nationally representative cohort of refugees recently resettled in Australia (Building New Life in Australia study, BNLA). Self-reported social and emotional well-being was collected from 415 youth who entered the country as refugees (Mage = 14.04, SD = 1.99) at three years post settlement were used. Results: A moderated regression analysis indicated that refugee youth living in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods who participated in sports reported significantly better outcomes compared to those refugee youth in economically similar neighborhoods who did not participate in sport. In contrast, refugee youth residing in more socioeconomically advantaged communities had better developmental outcomes, regardless of sport participation. Conclusions: Sport participation is a protective factor for youth with refugee backgrounds. Community socioeconomic disadvantage moderates this relationship, whereby stronger effects were observed for adolescents in more disadvantaged communities. Protecting the most disadvantaged in our society is a human rights imperative, and the current study indicates that sport participation could contribute to these efforts among resettled refugee populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-152
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Volume85
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asylum seekers
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Positive development
  • Refugees
  • Sports participation

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