The link between children's sport participation and self-esteem: Exploring the mediating role of sport self-concept

Carly B. Slutzky, Sandra D. Simpkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: Sport participation is positively associated with indices of adjustment, such as self-esteem, among adolescent participants. Less is known about the processes through which younger children benefit from their sport participation. The purpose of this investigation was to test whether children's sport self-concept mediated the longitudinal associations between time spent in individual- and team-oriented organized sport activities and later self-esteem. Methods: We used four waves of data from the Childhood and Beyond Study collected from three cohorts of elementary school-aged children (N = 987), their parents, and their teachers. Results: Findings indicated that children who spent more time in team sports, but not time in individual sports, reported higher sport self-concept, which, in turn, was associated with higher self-esteem than their peers. Multi-group analyses suggested that these relations did not vary across gender, sport ability, sport importance beliefs, or peer acceptance. Conclusions: Study results suggested that the relations between time spent in sports and children's sport self-concept depends, in part, on whether the time was spent in team or individual sports. This investigation highlighted the value of examining mediating processes so as to better explicate the association between time in sports and self-esteem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Elementary school-aged children
  • Self-esteem
  • Sport participation
  • Sport self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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