Children and Sport
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0238
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0238
Children and young people become involved in the world of sport at a variety of different levels ranging from local level grassroots clubs to national championships to international mega sporting events. Within each of these contexts, given that such events can be specific to children and young people, one would be forgiven for assuming that children’s rights and child protection concerns have traditionally been at the forefront of all sporting initiatives for children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), the most highly ratified international treaty worldwide, promotes and protects both the civil and political rights of children as well as their economic, social, and cultural rights. The holistic protection provided by this international treaty means that it applies to all domains of children’s lives including the world of sport. Furthermore, while sport does not receive specific mention in the CRC, reference is made to the right to play under Article 31 CRC and sport has been viewed as a means of achieving this right. The importance of ensuring that children’s rights are protected in the world of sport is evident from the work of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which is one of the few organizations to explicitly address this issue with the publication of the Children’s Rights in Sport Principles. To date, general academic literature using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies has laid bare the reality which is that while there is an awareness of the need to both protect children and promote their rights in sport, there is a clear absence of uniform and consistent approaches as well as standard regulation at all levels. This is evident from existing general literature in the field, from a wide variety of disciplines, which tends to be specific to particular jurisdictions and focuses on issues specific to that jurisdiction.
Children’s Rights and Sport: A General Overview
Despite the predominant status afforded the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at international level, according to Eliasson 2017, the CRC itself has not been found to be a meaningful document even at a policy level for the world of sport. Indeed, as David 2005 points out, sport is an area which has traditionally failed to incorporate children’s rights to the extent envisaged under international law. While abuses of children’s rights occur outside sport, the world of sport has not been immune to cases of child sexual abuse, child labor, trafficking, and the sale of children. Indeed, many examples of children’s rights violations in the sports context have been explored in the research. In competitive sport, David 2005 notes the extent to which the best interests of children can be protected has been questioned, while Yilmaz, et al. 2018 questions the protection of this right in a specific context—that of football transfers. Such abuses may be magnified due to the culture of a particular nation as explored by Hong 2004 for example, or due to the nature of the sport itself as highlighted by Grenfell and Rinehart 2003 in the context of youth figure skating and Turkeri-Bozkurt and Bulgu 2018 in relation to hockey. Yet as highlighted by Ohman and Quennerstedt 2017, some countries have recognized the value of sport in the promotion of children’s rights through the potential direct benefits conferred on children. Slutzky and Simpkins 2009 has identified the importance of sport in improving the self-concept and self-esteem of high-risk children, while Kidd and Donnelly 2000 have identified its potential role in promoting the human rights of athletes including a more basic right to participate in sport and physical activity. In order to ensure that children experience an organized sport that meets their needs and expectations, De Martelaer, et al. 2002 argues that they should have a meaningful input into new and existing sports initiatives, consistent with the child’s right to be heard. Moreover, Fenoglio and Taylor 2014 explores how specific initiatives have been developed in some countries which aim to support the protection of children’s rights in sport ahead of the expectations or demands of adults. The report Alexander, et al. 2011 on children and organized sport in the United Kingdom has highlighted the positive experiences that children have of sport in general. However, this report noted that there was also a litany of more negative and harmful experiences.
Alexander, K., A. Stafford, and R. Lewis. The Experiences of Children Participating in Organised Sport in the UK. London: NSPCC, 2011.
This is the report of a three-year study involving over six thousand young children on their experiences of participating in organized sport in the United Kingdom.
David, P. Human Rights in Sport: A Critical Review of Children’s Rights in Competitive Sports. UK: Routledge, 2005.
This is the only book of its kind dedicated to a detailed consideration of children’s rights in the context of sport.
De Martelaer, K., J. Van Hoecke, P. de Knop, et al. “Marketing in Organized Sport: Participation, Expectations and Experiences of Children.” European Sport Management Quarterly 2 (2002): 113–134.
In this piece, the authors argue that children should be consulted about each new or existing sports initiatives to be sure that what is organized for them really meets their wishes and expectations. From a management perspective, as well as from a pedagogical viewpoint, the experiences of young participants as clients of organized sport are of paramount importance.
Eliasson, I. “The Gap between Formalised Children’s Rights and Children’s Real Lives in Sport.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 52.4 (2017): 470–496.
Focusing on the Swedish context, this paper examines the attitudes of child athletes and adult coaches regarding the incorporation of the UNCRC into Swedish sport policy through the Swedish Sports Confederation policy document “What Sport Wants’” (2009).
Fenoglio, R., and W. G. Taylor. “From Winning-at-All-Costs to Give Us Back Our Game: Perspective Transformation in Youth Sport Coaches.” Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 19.2 (2014): 191–204.
Give Us Back Our Game (GUBOG) began as an emergent grassroots soccer campaign in the United Kingdom in 2006 as an approach to youth sport which aimed to develop sporting talent while, at the same time, fulfilling the human rights and dignity of children in its various programs. This paper examines the processes of critical reflection, rational discourse, and action affecting a perspective transformation from a reified, outcome-oriented, winning-at-all-costs approach to the more child-centered, GUBOG approach.
Grenfell, C., and R. Rinehart. “Skating on Thin Ice: Human Rights in Youth Figure Skating.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport (2003): 79–97.
This study was part of a larger ethnographic project which examines human rights issues in youth figure skating, from both the skaters’ and the adults’ points of view.
Hong, F. “Innocence Lost: Child Athletes in China.” Sport in Society 7.3 (2004): 338–354.
This examines the relationship between child athletes and human rights in the context of culture and politics in contemporary China.
Kidd, B., and P. Donnelly. “Human Rights in Sport.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 35.2 (2000): 131–148.
This article focuses on the human rights of athletes, including the basic right to participate in sport and physical activity development. It also examines the potential of human rights initiatives in sports.
Ohman, M., and A. Quennerstedt. “Questioning the No-Touch Discourse in Physical Education from a Children’s Rights Perspective.” Sport, Education and Society 22.3 (2017): 305–320.
Questioning the rationality of “no-touch policies” in relation to physical contact between teachers and students in the context of physical education (PE) in schools, this article explores previous research which has drawn attention to how a discourse of child protection is starting to affect how physical contact is viewed in PE practice.
Slutzky, C., and S. Simpkins. “The Link between Children’s Sport Participation and Self-Esteem: Exploring the Mediating Role of Sport Self-Concept.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 10 (2009): 381–389.
This investigation develops prior research on sport participation and self-esteem by exploring sport self-concept as a mediator, examining the time spent in team and individual sports separately, and focusing on elementary school-aged participants.
Turkeri-Bozkurt, H., and N. Bulgu. “Is Injury Part of Sports? A Children’s Rights Perspective.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 55.1 (2018): 98–114.
This study highlights the link between injuries and violations of children’s rights where those children receive training in volleyball as licensed athletes. It is hypothesized that the results of this study will be taken into consideration in policy development and training planning with regard to the violation of child rights.
UNICEF. Children’s Rights in Sport Principles. 2d ed. Japan Committee for UNICEF, December 2018.
This document developed by the Japan Committee for UNICEF together with UNICEF, sets out ten principles which should underpin the promotion and protection of children’s rights in sport.
Yilmaz, S., J. Esson, P. Darby, E. Drywood, and C. Mason. “Children’s Rights and the Regulations on the Transfer of Young Players in Football.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 55.1 (2018): 115–124.
This article discusses the FIFA regulations regarding the mobility (Regulations on the Statute and Transfer of Players) and representation (Regulations on Working with Intermediaries) of minors in player recruitment processes through the lens of the UNCRC.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Abduction of Children
- Aboriginal Childhoods
- Addams, Jane
- ADHD, Sociological Perspectives on
- Adolescence and Youth
- Adolescent Consent to Medical Treatment
- Adoption and Fostering
- Adoption and Fostering, History of Cross-Country
- Advertising and Marketing, Psychological Approaches to
- Advertising and Marketing, Sociocultural Approaches to
- Africa, Children and Young People in
- African American Children and Childhood
- After-school Hours and Activities
- Ancient Near and Middle East, Child Sacrifice in the
- Animals, Children and
- Animations, Comic Books, and Manga
- Anthropology of Childhood
- Archaeology of Childhood
- Ariès, Philippe
- Attachment in Children and Adolescents
- Australia, History of Adoption and Fostering in
- Australian Indigenous Contexts and Childhood Experiences
- Autism, Females and
- Autism, Medical Model Perspectives on
- Autobiography and Childhood
- Benjamin, Walter
- Best Interest of the Child
- Bioarchaeology of Childhood
- Body, Children and the
- Body Image
- Bourdieu, Pierre
- Boy Scouts/Girl Guides
- Boys and Fatherhood
- Bronfenbrenner, Urie
- Bruner, Jerome
- Buddhist Views of Childhood
- Byzantine Childhoods
- Child and Adolescent Anger
- Child Beauty Pageants
- Child Homelessness
- Child Protection
- Child Public Health
- Child Trafficking and Slavery
- Childcare Manuals
- Childhood and Borders
- Childhood and Empire
- Childhood as Discourse
- Childhood Studies and Leisure Studies
- Childhood Studies in France
- Childhood Studies, Interdisciplinarity in
- Childhood Studies, Posthumanism and
- Children and Dance
- Children and Film-Making
- Children and Money
- Children and Social Media
- Children and Sport
- Children and Sustainable Cities
- Children as Language Brokers
- Children as Perpetrators of Crime
- Children, Code-switching and
- Children in the Industrial Revolution
- Children with Autism in a Brazilian Context
- Children, Young People, and Architecture
- Children's Humor
- Children’s Museums
- Children’s Parliaments
- Children’s Reading Development and Instruction
- Children's Views of Childhood
- China, Japan, and Korea
- China’s One Child Policy
- Civil Rights Movement and Desegregation
- Classical World, Children in the
- Clothes and Costume, Children’s
- Colonization and Nationalism
- Color Symbolism and Child Development
- Common World Childhoods
- Competitiveness, Children and
- Conceptual Development in Early Childhood
- Congenital Disabilities
- Constructivist Approaches to Childhood
- Consumer Culture, Children and
- Consumption, Child and Teen
- Conversation Analysis and Research with Children
- Critical Approaches to Children’s Work and the Concept of ...
- Critical Perspectives on Boys’ Circumcision
- Cultural psychology and human development
- Debt and Financialization of Childhood
- Discipline and Punishment
- Disney, Walt
- Divorce And Custody
- Domestic Violence
- Drawings, Children’s
- Early Childhood
- Early Childhood Care and Education, Selected History of
- Eating disorders and obesity
- Environment, Children and the
- Environmental Education and Children
- Ethics in Research with Children
- Evolutionary Studies of Childhood
- Fairy Tales and Folktales
- Family Meals
- Fandom (Fan Studies)
- Female Genital Cutting
- Feral and "Wild" Children
- Fetuses and Embryos
- Films about Children
- Films for Children
- Foundlings and Abandoned Children
- Freud, Anna
- Freud, Sigmund
- Friends and Peers: Psychological Perspectives
- Froebel, Friedrich
- Gay and Lesbian Parents
- Gender and Childhood
- Generations, The Concept of
- Geographies, Children's
- Gifted and Talented Children
- Growing Up in the Digital Era
- Hall, G. Stanley
- Happiness in Children
- Hindu Views of Childhood and Child Rearing
- Hispanic Childhoods (U.S.)
- Historical Approaches to Child Witches
- History of Adoption and Fostering in Canada
- History of Childhood in America
- History of Childhood in Canada
- HIV/AIDS, Growing Up with
- Humor and Laughter
- Images of Childhood, Adulthood, and Old Age in Children’s ...
- Infancy and Ethnography
- Infant Mortality in a Global Context
- Innocence and Childhood
- Institutional Care
- Intercultural Learning and Teaching with Children
- Islamic Views of Childhood
- Japan, Childhood in
- Juvenile Detention in the US
- Key, Ellen
- Klein, Melanie
- Labor, Child
- Latin America
- Learning, Language
- Learning to Write
- Legends, Contemporary
- Literary Representations of Childhood
- Literature, Children's
- Love and Care in the Early Years
- Magazines for Teenagers
- Maltreatment, Child
- Maria Montessori
- Marxism and Childhood
- Material Cultures of Western Childhoods
- Mead, Margaret
- Media, Children in the
- Media Culture, Children's
- Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Childhoods
- Middle Childhood
- Middle East
- Moral Development
- Moral Panics
- Multi-culturalism and Education
- Music and Babies
- Native American and Aboriginal Canadian Childhood
- New Reproductive Technologies and Assisted Conception
- Nursery Rhymes
- Organizations, Nongovernmental
- Parental Gender Preferences, The Social Construction of
- Pediatrics, History of
- Peer Culture
- Peter Pan
- Philosophy and Childhood
- Piaget, Jean
- Politics, Children and
- Postcolonial Childhoods
- Poverty, Rights, and Well-being, Child
- Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica Childhoods
- Prostitution and Pornography, Child
- Queer Theory and Childhood
- Race and Ethnicity
- Racism, Children and
- Radio, Children, and Young People
- Readers, Children as
- Refugee and Displaced Children
- Relational Ontologies
- Relational Pedagogies
- Rights, Children’s
- Risk and Resilience
- School Shootings
- Sex Education in the United States
- Social and Cultural Capital of Childhood
- Social Habitus in Childhood
- Social Movements, Children's
- Social Policy, Children and
- Socialization and Child Rearing
- Socio-cultural Perspectives on Children's Spirituality
- Sociology of Childhood
- South African Birth to Twenty Project
- South Asia
- Special Education
- Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence
- Spock, Benjamin
- Sports and Organized Games
- Street Children
- Street Children And Brazil
- Sure Start
- Teenage Fathers
- Teenage Pregnancy
- The Bible and Children
- The Harms and Prevention of Drugs and Alcohol on Children
- The Spaces of Childhood
- Theater for Children and Young People
- Theories, Pedagogic
- Transgender Children
- Twins and Multiple Births
- Unaccompanied Migrant Children
- United Kingdom, History of Adoption and Fostering in the
- United States, Schooling in the
- Value of Children
- Views of Childhood, Jewish and Christian
- Violence, Children and
- Visual Representations of Childhood
- Voice, Participation, and Agency
- Vygotsky, Lev and His Cultural-historical Approach to Deve...
- Welfare Law in the United States, Child
- Well-Being, Child
- Western Europe and Scandinavia
- Witchcraft in the Contemporary World, Children and
- Work and Apprenticeship, Children's
- Young Carers
- Young Children and Inclusion
- Young Children’s Imagination
- Young Lives
- Young People, Alcohol, and Urban Life
- Young People and Climate Activism
- Young People and Disadvantaged Environments in Affluent Co...