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“Sports And Personality Development” Critique

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The article “Sports Participation, Screen Time, and Personality Trait Development During Childhood” investigates the correlation between the following variables: involvement in sport; age; sex; screen time; environmental variables such as social-economic-status (SES) and household income; and personality traits such as introversion, persistence, and reactivity. In this longitudinal study out of Australia, the parents of the child test subjects were asked about their children’s participation in physical activities (i. e. , sports) and sedentary activities (i. e. , watching television).

The parents were also asked about the subjects’ personality traits. All of the subjects’ parents who were able to repeat the study were asked the same questions every two years. The researchers then analyzed the relationship between the type of activity the children participated in and the personality traits these kids possessed. IntroductionThe purpose of this study was to determine “whether people with particular personality traits gravitate toward a more active lifestyle or whether an active lifestyle contributes to personality trait development” (Allen, Laborde, & Vella, 2015, p. 376). According to this study, the relationship between the two have been rather uncertain through previous research, despite the numerous benefits of physical activity such as increased metabolic rate and increased mental cognition (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 376).

Childhood a critical time of learning about the self and others, and the experiences children go through are vital to the personality traits which they will develop. These youth sports provide kids with the opportunity to learn “new concepts such as discipline, cooperation, fair-play, and sportsmanship. Through youth sports, children also learn new capabilities, gain confidence, and form lasting social relationships” (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 377). These invaluable lessons that are learned from sports can develop children into more social-competent, well-behaved, and extroverted kids capable of building intimate relationships in their future. On the other hand, there is a growing concern with the increase in screen time and other sedentary activities that our youth participates in. The growth in technology and impact of social media has had a direct impact on this increase. This increase in screen time has been proven to have a negative effect on cognition, and the more time kids spend doing sedentary activities, the less time they are spending participating in physical activity, thus depriving themselves from the lessons learned from youth sport. Moreover, kids who are more sedentary are more likely to be overweight or obese which can cause lower self-esteem and an increase in introversion. Sadly, participation in youth sports may not be completely beneficial to every child. Consequently, some children’s self-esteem may be undeservingly boosted, or the unwarranted pressure about their performance from parents and coaches can lead to stress. This longitudinal study emphasizes the importance of “identifying factors that might accelerate desirable changes and limit undesirable changes” and hypothesize that “high levels of extracurricular sport and low levels of screen time would be related to greater intra-individual stability for all traits” (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 377).


In 2004, this Australian longitudinal study started with two groups: “families with 4-to 5-year-old children (the K cohort) and families with 0-to 1-year-old infants (the B cohort)” (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 378). The primary parent for these children were asked the same 12 questions about the children’s environments and personalities (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 378). The data used for this study was taken when the kids from cohort K were ten-years-old and kids from cohort B were six-years-old, and again when the kids from cohort K were twelve-years-old and kids from cohort B were eight-years-old (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 378). In order to avoid statistical bias or error, only the data from the participants who returned for Time 2 were used in the results (Allen at al. , 2015, p. 378). It is significant that the data used is from children in middle to late childhood, as this is a time of increased motor development and involvement in play with peers. Furthermore, since the same questions were asked about the children at a younger age, the data can be used to see changes in personality development, and the results may be able to truly discern whether certain personality traits lead to involvement in either physical activity or vice versa.


Allen et al. (2015) were very thorough in their statistical analysis of their results. Over three-thousand test subjects were used in each cohort, all randomly selected and coming from different environments. This allows the results to be unbiased and indicative of the entire youth population. Each data point calculating the change in personality contained a t-value, p-value, and d-value. The t-value is the relationship between multiple means. The p-value measures the statistical significance of the data, and a p-value below 0. 05 means that there is a five percent chance a piece of data is not significant. All data values collected in this study are statistically significant. The d-value, also known as Cohen’s d, measures how large of an effect one variable has on another, and a d-value of one means that the variables differ by one standard deviation. In cohort K, there were increases in introversion, persistence, reactivity, household income, sedentary activities, and total screen time (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 381). In cohort B, there were increases in household income, sedentary activities, total screen time, and reactivity, while there was a decrease in introversion and persistence (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 381). The data from the charts also suggests that for both cohorts, children who participated in sports had “lower levels of introversion than those who did not participate” along with higher levels of persistence and reactivity (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 382-383). Interestingly, the increase in screen time did not affect introversion; however, an increase in screen time was correlated with a decrease in persistence (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 384). A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that if a child participates in more sedentary activities, then they will spend less time participating in physical activity, and they will be more likely to drop the sport after starting.


Unlike previous studies, the results from this study indicate that involvement in sports and screen time was responsible for the development of certain personality traits (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 386). The general trend over the two years was the decrease in introversion and persistence in cohort B and an increase in introversion and persistence in cohort K, and this can possibly be caused by “childhood biological and/or social transitions that occur at this stage” (Allen et at. , 2015, p. 385). It is also important to keep in mind that these personality traits may be domain-specific and develop individually rather than developing simultaneously in stages. Children in both cohorts who participated in sports showed lower introversion, and higher reactivity and persistence than did children who were sports dropouts, and “these findings are similar to those reported adult samples that found high physical activity involvement was associated with more stable traits” (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 386). The causes of developing these positive traits are uncertain, “but we can speculate that a combination of changes in interpersonal interactions, executive functioning, and general health might be important mediators” (Allen et al. , 2015, p. 386). In sum, while it may seem trivial for a kid to go play outside with his friends, this simple act may be very important for the child developing into a positive, stable person. Conclusions and Future StudyThis article made me think about the importance of play in a young child’s life. Not only are there many health benefits, but there are many social and interpersonal benefits that the general population does not know about. These benefits continue to be neglected in schools throughout the country even though schools stress the importance of developing the “whole person. ” Maybe if more people knew about the true importance of physical activity rather than the superficial health benefits, there would be more of a push to incorporate more of it in schools.

A possible variation on this study would be a randomized adult survey. The survey would ask the same questions as the parents of the children test subjects about personality, sports participation, environment, and sedentary activities in their childhood as well as in their adulthood. While there may be some statistical bias due to test subjects being untruthful or not completing the survey, the survey would be more able to show a continuity or discontinuity in personality traits throughout their lives than a short longitudinal study could.

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