The social environment in children’s sport. Cohesion, social acceptance, commitment, and enjoyment

Janice L. Donkers *, Luc J. Martin *, Kyle F. Paradis ** and Scott Anderson *

(*) University of Lethbridge, Canada
(**) Western University, Canada

The primary purpose of the current study was to determine whether perceptions of cohesion mediated the relationship between social acceptance and individual commitment and enjoyment in children’s sport. A secondary purpose involved the assessment of the temporal nature of cohesion over the course of an athletic season. A total of 209 (Mage = 9.87 years; SD = 1.34) recreational soccer players completed questionnaires at three time points (T1 – social acceptance, cohesion; T2 – cohesion; T3 – commitment, enjoyment, cohesion) during an athletic season. Using structural equation modeling, the results indicated that task cohesion mediated the relationship between social acceptance and commitment and enjoyment, whereas social cohesion did not. In addition, individual perceptions of cohesion did not vary significantly over the course of the season. These results will be discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications. As one example, the relative stability in terms of perceptions of cohesion in this population could inform future intervention work aimed at enriching the social environment.

Keywords: Child sport, Group dynamics, Mediation, Physical activity, Social climate