Parental behaviour and children’s sports participation: Evidence from a Danish longitudinal school study

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Parental involvement in their children’s organised sports has increased dramatically in the last decade. Recent debate has started to question whether parental involvement actually has a beneficial impact on child sports participation, and whether this is damaging for the children’s development of identity and autonomy. Prompted by this debate, we are using a longitudinal dataset of 1,096 Danish schoolchildren in the Municipality of Aalborg to explore the extent to which parental involvement or parental role modelling has a beneficial impact on children’s participation in organised sports. Our results suggest that parental involvement in children’s sport increases the likelihood that the child will participate in organised sports. When considering four types of parents, i.e. unengaged parents, servicing parents, self-realisation parents and super parents, our results remain unchanged. Further, we find that disadvantaged parents’ involvement increases children’s participation in organised sport whereas the involvement of advantaged parents’ has the opposite effect. From a policy perspective, embedding organised sport in a school context might be considered as a method of levelling the playing field.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)332-347
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Child sports participation
  • child fixed effects
  • parental involvement
  • parental role modelling
  • socioeconomic background

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