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Social-Emotional Learning Interventions in Youth Sport: What Matters in Design?
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal  (IF1.862),  Pub Date : 2021-05-22, DOI: 10.1007/s10560-021-00773-w
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, Samantha Bates, Anthony Amorose, Rebecca Wade-Mdivianian, Leeann Lower-Hoppe

Social skill development among socially vulnerable youth is a growing concern due to structural risk factors in schools and communities. Research suggests sport-based positive youth development (PYD) programs are contexts that can be leveraged to support social skill development. One gap in our research is exploration of whether SEL curricula and instruction, delivered via positive verbal reinforcements and tangible incentives (i.e., buttons) in sport-based PYD programs, can positively influence the development of social skills among socially vulnerable youth. To address this gap, we analyzed pre- and post-test survey data from 301 socially vulnerable youth who attended a 19-day sport-based PYD summer camp. The summer camp curriculum was focused on four social skills: (1) Self-control, (2) Effort, (3), Teamwork, and, (4) Social Responsibility (S.E.T.S). We used youth self-report items and hierarchical regression analyses to assess the influence of: (1) verbal reinforcements; (2) tangible incentives (S.E.T.S. buttons); and, (3) the valuation of tangible incentives, to determine whether these SEL instructional techniques contributed to growth in each of the four social skills. Results indicated that both verbal reinforcements and the value placed on the S.E.T.S. buttons positively predicted the youth’s post-camp S.E.T.S. scores after controlling for the pre-camp scores. The number of buttons received, however, was not a significant predictor in our analyses. Findings indicate curriculum alignment and training youth sport leaders and social workers to draw connections between sport activities and social skills may be critical to supporting positive developmental outcomes. Notably, researchers advocate youth sport can be leveraged to support SEL instruction and skill development.