Parenting in relation to children’s sports participation: generational changes and potential implications

Sharon Wheeler, Ken Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents data on the parenting practices and perceptions of middleclass parents in the domain of children’s sport. Adopting a grounded-theory approach, the data were generated through 16 semistructured interviews conducted with parents and children from eight different families. The findings in relation to parenting practices indicated that the parents were ‘investing’ in their children’s sports participation earlier and more heavily than their parents had done with them, thus suggesting an intensification in the middle-class social reproduction process. The findings regarding parenting perceptions revealed that the parents felt they were better able and more inclined to invest in their children in general, and their children’s sports participation in particular, as a consequence of several ‘structural’ and ‘cultural’ changes that have occurred over the past 30 years or so. Given recent research indicating the significance of socialisation in the family for sports participation rates (Birchwood, Roberts, & Pollock, 2008), this additional investment by parents may have profound implications. Indeed, if sports participation rates are strongly dependent upon the transmission of sporting cultures within families, and parents are increasingly enabled and inclined to invest the sporting cultivation of their offspring, it follows that overall sports participation rates will benefit. This may be a more or less significant part of the explanation for the substantial growth in sports participation from the 1970s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-284
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jul 2012
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2012


  • capital
  • culture
  • habitus
  • investment
  • parents
  • sport


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