Using a resilience framework, the purpose of this dissertation research was to: (a) describe relationships over the past decade between weekly school sports team participation and health-risk behaviors in three categories (substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, violence involvement) among student attending alternative high school in Minnesota; (b) explore potential mediating variables (school connectedness, adult connectedness, friend connectedness, emotional distress) in associations between sports team participation and health-risk behaviors; and, (c) explore gender and race/ethnicity as potential moderators of associations between weekly school sports team participation and health-risk behaviors.
The 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010 Minnesota Student Surveys (MSS; n = 14,096) for alternative school students were used for repeated cross-sectional analyses exploring relationships between sports and health-risk behaviors over the past decade. Separate logistic regression models for each health-risk behavior were used to examine associations by year between school sports team participation and health-risk behaviors. Meditating variables in relationships between sports team participation and two categories of health-risk behaviors (substance use and sexual risk-taking) were assessed using multiple mediator models for 2010 MSS data, only. Specific indirect effects of each mediator, adjusted for other mediators in the model, as well as the total indirect effect of all mediators on relationships between school sports team participation and each health-risk behavior were assessed. Substance use was examined over the past year for repeated cross-sectional analyses and over the past month for mediation analyses.
Results from repeated cross-sectional analyses suggested that, across survey year and race/ethnicity, weekly sports team participation was significantly associated with decreased substance use among alternative high school students. Sports team participation was more protective against substance use for males than females. Findings were mixed for sexual risk-taking outcomes. Females participating in weekly sports were significantly less likely to report ever having sexual intercourse. Male sports participants were more likely to report having three or more sexual partners in the past year, although differences became nonsignificant in final adjusted models. Among sexually active males, sports participants were more likely than nonparticipants to report using a condom at last intercourse. Results were also mixed for violence-related behaviors, with weekly sports team participation being a risk factor for some outcomes (e.g., gun carrying) but not significant for others (e.g., attempted suicide).
No gender or racial/ethnic differences were found in mediation analyses using 2010 MSS data. Results from mediation analyses suggested adult connectedness mediated protective relationships between sports team participation and substance use, while friend connectedness attenuated the strength of these protective associations. Adult connectedness and school connectedness mediated protective relationships between sports team participation and sexual risk-taking behaviors, while friend connectedness again diminished the strength of these relationships. Significant direct effects remained for several outcomes, indicating mediating variables included in each model did not fully explain relationships between sports team participation and substance use and risky sexual behaviors.
In conclusion, findings suggest sports team participation buffers against social-environmental risks that make alternative school students particularly vulnerable to engaging in substance use and risky sexual behaviors. The context of sports team participation, particularly social connectedness, matters. This underscores the importance of ensuring students in alternative schools have opportunities to participate on sports teams, and that these opportunities are deliberately shaped to promote healthy behaviors. Future studies should try to identify additional mediating factors explaining relationships between sports team participation and health-risk behaviors, and develop ways to promote positive elements of sports team participation that promote healthy behaviors.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2012. Major: Nursing. Advisor: Linda H. Bearinger, PhD, RN, FAAN, FSAHM. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 226 pages, appendices A-F.
Johnson, Karen Elizabeth.
Studying the playbook: mediating variables in relationships between sports team participation and health-risk behaviors among alternative high school students from 2001–2010..
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