What determines sports participation among 15-19 year old women

Historically, research into determinants of sport and physical activity has tended to focus on quantitative methods. Sport England commissioned the University of Oxford to undertake a review of existing qualitative research to help identify priority groups for a potential qualitative research programme. Oxford’s review confirmed that more qualitative research needs to be undertaken to understand sports participation.

Based on the evidence available, Oxford devised a framework which links together the factors (potential determinants) that are likely to influence an individual’s participation in sport and physical activity.

In undertaking research the framework can be used as a checklist to ensure all factors that influence participation or non-participation are explored and that the interrelationship between those factors is evaluated. It also helps to establish what interventions might best deal with the barriers associated with each of the determinants.

The Oxford framework has informed this piece of research in terms of the ‘life course’ element helping to identify several transitional’ lifestages that require qualitative investigation.

Given the absence of previous research in understanding participation amongst girls and young women identified in the Oxford review, combined with Sport England’s policy imperative of driving up participation, the need to undertake qualitative research amongst 15-19 year old women was identified as one of the priorities.

There are increasing concerns to drive up young people’s participation in sport and physical activity. The concern about levels of physical activity or inactivity among young people is noted in a recent review of adolescence (Coleman and Schofield 2005). Two key findings are reported. Firstly, among young people of secondary school age, boys are more likely to participate in sports and physical activity compared to girls.

Secondly, the gap between the genders becomes more pronounced with advanced age within the teenage years. In order to drive up participation in sport and physical activity, we must be aware of the factors that influence if, why, and when young women both commence and maintain their participation. Equally, we must be aware of the factors that discourage or prevent their participation in sport.

Sport England Research January 2006

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