Dec 11, 2020
Study: Sports Can Help Boys with Behavioral Issues

Organized youth sports can be a great outlet for young boys who may have behavioral problems, according to a new study of Irish kids.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, suggests that one-year-old boys with developmental delays were less likely to have developed emotional problems or poor conduct by the age of five if they regularly attend a sports club or group.

Photo: USAG-Humphreys / Creative Commons

“When we look at the data, participation in organized sport was associated with a significant reduction in the proportion of developmentally delayed boys who might have otherwise gone on to develop increases in behavioral problems prior to going to school,” lead researcher Ross Neville, a lecturer in sport management with the University College Dublin said to

While the results were apparent for at-risk boys, sports had no noticeable impact on the behavior of young girls, according to the study and

“There is research evidence to suggest that girls develop self-regulation earlier, and at a faster rate, than boys in this period of life,” Neville said to “So, combined with the fact that boys’ behavioral problems were higher to begin with and were trending up in these data, boys simply might have had more to gain from regular engagement in structured enrichment activities undertaken outside of the home — such as engagement in organized sports.”

The results are a little unusual in that organized sports are not generally recommended for children five or younger in the United States, Dr. Caroline Martinez, an assistant clinical professor of behavioral pediatrics with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, told

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Pop Warner football players can be as young as five and Little League baseball players as young as four, according to the leagues’ respective websites.

“We don’t recommend organized sports until the age of 6,” Martinez said to “Even though kids under 6 might have the motor and developmental skills that match that sport’s requirement — like running and kicking and throwing — they usually don’t have the mental capacity to understand the rules and focus for more than a few minutes, and cooperate and understand the ethics of competition,” she added.

To read the full study from on the impact of organized sports in young boys with behavioral issues, click here

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