Sports and Juveniles

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Extracurricular activities are a very important part of a young child’s life. It gives them something to look forward to, something they can do after school instead of running around on the streets. Extracurricular activities can range anywhere from a knitting class to being the starting point guard on a team in the local basketball league. All extracurricular activities work equally as well in deterring children from a life of crime.

In 1999 there were 2.5 million arrests on persons under the age of 18. Twenty-seven percent of the arrests involved females, and 32% were youths under 15. Although arrests for violent and property crimes dropped 23% and 24% respectively from 1995 to 1999, the numbers are still staggering (OJJDP). Prevention has been a primary goal of law enforcement agencies and those in related fields who look to divert youths from antisocial behavior at an early age. Wide-ranging strategies involving health, family, employment, education and recreation can play an important role in preventing juvenile delinquency, but recreation is most interesting of all (Munson). Landers and Landers did a study of 521 students from a northeastern high school to see the effects of extracurricular activities. The students were grouped in one of the following categories: athlete, service-leadership, both or neither. After an extent of time names were taken to the town courthouse to determine the number of misdemeanors and felonies of each group. They found that the students in the neither category were more likely to participate in delinquent behavior than those in athletics, service-leadership, or both. There was nothing in the study that could support that athletics offered greater socialization opportunities than other types of extracurricular activities (Munson).

According to Seigel and Senna the involvement in conventional activities will keep juveniles busy and therefore they are less likely to be involved in delinquent behavior. For example, Hirschi says that the involvement in family, school, and recreational activities helps to shelter young people from delinquent behavior. Involvement is not quite enough to make a big difference in delinquent acts, it is how interested or engrossed they are in the actual activity they are participating in that makes the biggest difference (Munson).

Jones and Offord evaluated the effects of involvement in an after-school recreation program on low-income children, five to 15 years old, who live in public housing in Ottawa, Ontario. The purpose of the program was to increase their involvement with pro-social youths and adults and for development and improvement of skills in sports, music, dance, scouting and other non-sport areas. After reaching a certain level of capability, children were encouraged to continue participation in on-going programs in the community such as leagues and other competitive activities. Results of the program indicated that the number of arrests declined significantly (75%) for the experimental project and increased (67%) for those in the control project. Unfortunately, 16 months after the conclusion of the project, positive changes diminished significantly. However, Jones and Offord concluded that getting kids involved with pro-social recreation activities during after-school hours appears to have something to do in reducing delinquent behavior in the community (Munson).

Attachment also plays a role in a young person’s life. Attachment refers to the amount of respect or affection that one has towards another. Engaging in pleasurable leisure activities with parents and participating in recreation activities in school and community increase attachments to these institutions and people. Commitment in these recreational activities also plays a big role in staying away from delinquent behavior. The more time that juveniles put into something, the more they are involved and put effort into something, the more they want to savor and protect...
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