In addressing a research gap, the current study examined sports involvement in middle school (no sports, no/low contact, and high contact) among 1,561 students, who were then followed into high school and asked about the frequency of sexual violence (SV) perpetration.
Several studies have examined the association between male involvement in sports and sexual violence (SV) perpetration, especially among college-age males. Less is known about the association between sports involvement and SV perpetration for adolescent males and females. In the current study, results from logistic regression models indicated that, even after controlling for mother’s education, race/ethnicity, SV perpetration in middle school, and traditional beliefs about masculinity and substance use, middle school sports participation was significantly associated with risk of SV perpetration in high school. Compared with youth who reported no sports involvement in middle school, youth categorized as no/low contact sports involvement had greater odds of SV perpetration in high school. Sex differences emerged, revealing that no/low contact sports involvement was associated with SV perpetration for females and high-contact sports involvement was associated with SV perpetration for males, compared with no sports involvement. These findings suggest potential opportunities to intervene in middle school to improve coaching practices; improve respect in relationships; and modify athletes’ norms, attitudes, and behaviors to reduce risk for SV perpetration in high school. (publisher abstract modified)