Team Participation May Increase Substance Use Among Teens

There are many benefits for teens and youths who participate in team activities. Organized activities and team organizations teach youths how to interact with one another in a cooperative way and foster harmony, unity, and other valuable skills. In addition, teens who are involved in team activities guided by a competent adult tend to have higher rates of school achievement and interpersonal relationships than those who do not participate in team activities. But some researchers have found that team participation actually increases alcohol misuse and antisocial tendencies. Because of the immense value that can be gained by actively participating in team activities, identifying the factors that increase the risk for negative behaviors is essential.

Anne-Sophie Denault of the Department of Psychoeducation at the Universite de Sherbrooke in Canada recently led a study that looked at how peer associations influenced negative behaviors among teens involved in team activities. Denault interviewed 185 eighth and ninth grade teenagers and asked them about their peer relations, the gender of their teammates, and the type of mentorship and supervision that was provided in their particular activity. After evaluating all of the data, Denault discovered that peer behavior directly influenced the level of substance misuse and antisocial tendencies of the teens. In particular, the participants with the most deviant peer relations had the highest levels of negative behavior.

Denault did find that deviancy was linked uniquely to each behavior. Specifically, deviancy among teens of the same age was linked to antisocial behavior but not among participants who were part of a team with older teens. Also, the peer deviancy only increased substance misuse in certain activities, such as sports. This suggests that team sports, which usually involve teens of relatively the same age, could be fertile ground for negative patterns resulting from deviant behaviors among peers. Denault said, “Overall, these findings draw attention to the possibility of negative peer group dynamics in organized activities.” These results underscore the importance of attentive supervision and constructive mentoring to ensure that the benefits of team activities can be maximized and the negative influences minimized.

Denault, A.-S., Poulin, F. (2012). Peer group deviancy in organized activities and youths’ problem behaviours. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 44.2, 83-92.

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  • Grayson


    May 16th, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    What?!? This goes against what I think so many of us parents have always thought about being a part of a team sport.

    I was always under the impression that being a part of a team encouraged better behavior in schools and better grades. I know that sometimes poor behavior takes place but its like that whether you play team sports or not.

    But I thought that the idea of the team sports is to encourage more responsibility and a brotherhood among players, not just more peers to get in trouble with.

  • gabe


    May 16th, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    I saw an article somewhere about this very thing just yeaterday. If I recall correctly it said that the kids who played soccer and lacrosse did not have as many of these kinds of problems- that they were good in school and rarelt got into the same kinds of social and academic trouble that high school basketball and football players encountered.

  • Scot


    May 16th, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    The peer pressure felt even among teammates was always way more powerful to me than that that I faced with other students that I didn’t play sports with. I know that it was because we all spent a lot of time together and got to know each other’s weaknesses in a way that you don’t really experience with kids that you don’t spend as much time with. Being a team player only adds to the pressures that you feel in high school. You want to be a team player and not let your frineds down, and you want to be a part of the crowd that’s “in” and cool. What better way to do that than to be a big athlete and party hard? That’s what we all did, anyway.

  • S Styris

    S Styris

    May 16th, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Well any team activity can be a breeding ground for positivity as well as negativity..It depends on what the youngsters want to do..You can have a group of youngsters playing some sport as a tea give each other tips on fitness and helping each other and you could have the same group encouraging and exploring drug usage amongst themselves..It really cannot be a thumb rule-it changes with the individual’s in the group.

  • Angela


    May 17th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Just because your kids are part of a team does not lead to any guarantee that they won’t be involved in drugs or other poor choice behaviors
    You still have to be careful about the other kids that you let your own kids hang out with

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