A Social Ecological Approach to Understanding Youth Sport Specialization


  • Elizabeth Elder The University of Alabama
  • Aaron Struminger
  • Amanda Wilkerson
  • Samuel Wilkins
  • Michael Rosenthal
  • Eric Post


Youth Sports; Sport Specialization; Social Ecological Model


Despite the risks of sport specialization being identified, it is evident that parents, athletes, and coaches are engaging in and promoting early sport specialization. To develop more effective intervention strategies, researchers and other stakeholders should consider evaluating this behavior through a multilevel theoretical perspective and comprehensively evaluating the levels of influence. In response to recent calls for ecological assessments and a need for more theory-based research, we have created an ecological framework for youth sport based on the information synthesized in this literature review. To this end, the use of a social ecological perspective may help to better inform youth sport specialization research. The literature supports the multi-factorial determinants of behavior and the interplay between each of the levels of influence is important.


Formatted reference list included in text.