Community sports programmes as a means of reducing violence and antisocial behaviour in young people in London: A mixed-methods approach to maximising impact

Currently recruiting

Supervisor: Jennifer Lau

Non-accademic partner: West Ham United Foundation

Studentship start date: 01/10/2024

Application deadline: 16/02/2024

Homicide is the third leading cause of death in young
people. As knife crime reports once again rise in
socioeconomically-deprived areas, tackling youth violence
warrants urgent action. Tackling youth violence can take
many approaches (educational, psychosocial) and be
delivered in many settings (schools, communities, religious
institutions) but sports programmes have been highlighted
by young people as a powerful and engaging method for
reducing violence and antisocial behaviours. Sports
involves physical activity which has known mental and
physical health benefits as well as positive impacts on
well-being, cognitive flexibility, and self-esteem. However,
beyond this, team sports in competitive contexts such as
football can offer a forum for learning and practicising
effective emotion regulation and social skills, which have
been linked to reducing youth violence.

Youth violence prevention is a key strand that cuts across a
range of West Ham United Foundation’s (WHUF)
community projects. As an anchor organisation within East
London’s community, WHUF is in a unique position to a)
deliver a range of activities to support young people in
overcoming the challenges they face and b) being a hub to
bring other stakeholders (sporting organisations, local
government, schools, police) together to tackle wider public
health issues such as youth violence. However, such
initiatives need to draw on guidelines and best practices
that are rooted in evidence. But before such guidelines are
produced, a clearer picture of how sport and physical
activity relate to reducing youth violence is needed. Here,
we propose to address gaps in the literature by working
with WHUF to identify how sports contribute to reductions
in youth violence.

We propose three studies spanning different
methodologies. Study 1 will use secondary data analysis to
explore whether sports engagement is concurrently and
longitudinally associated with early precursory signs of
youth violence (externalising behaviours, poor emotion
regulation and social cognitive abilities). Study 2 will extend Study 1 by exploring changes in physical activity
(assessed using wearable technology) co-occurs with and
temporally-predicts changes in externalising behaviours,
emotion regulation and social cognitive capacities, as they
occur in real-life contexts during a one-week sports
programme. Study 3 will use an audit and qualitative
approaches to understand and compare how different
community sports organisations across London target
violent and antisocial behaviour. We will focus both on the
programmes that different organisations offer to young
people and the ways they embed information or strategies
around the management of aggression, violence and
antisocial behaviours. Our findings can better inform how
sports programmes can be structured to maximise their
benefits. In turn, this information can also contribute to the
wider discussions around youth violence in East London, of
which WHUF is at the heart of.

For more information, including how to apply click here: Community sports programmes as a means of reducing violence and antisocial behaviour in young people in London: A mixed-methods approach to maximising impact at Queen Mary University of London on