The current study was the largest physical activity (PA) surveillance assessment of youth undertaken in Ireland in recent years. The purpose of this research was to assess the impact of social support, while controlling for age and screen time, on PA and sport participation, across a representative sample of Irish female youth.
A total of 3503 children (mean age: 13.54 [2.05] y) across the island of Ireland participated. Participants completed a previously validated electronic questionnaire while supervised in a classroom setting, which investigated their (1) levels of PA; (2) screen time; (3) community sport participation; and (4) social support (friend, family, and teacher) to be physically active/partake in sport.
There were significant differences, with medium and large effect sizes, for social support from friends and family across types of sports participation. Specifically, girls who participated in the most popular team sports, when compared with the most popular individual sports, reported higher social support scores for friends and family structures.
Findings from this study confirm the contributing influence of friends and family as sport and PA support networks for girls. Interventions should consider the importance of culturally relevant team sports for PA engagement in female youth.