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Sports, Gender, & Adolescent Substance Use

Grace Barnes and Kathleen Miller served as co-principal investigators on this project coordinating the research efforts of a team of collaborating scientists which included Dr. Michael Farrell, professor in UB’s Department of Sociology, Dr. Don Sabo, professor at D’Youville College and Dr. Merrill Melnick, professor at SUNY College at Brockport. Extending previous research by this group, the specific aims of the study included determination of the nature of relationships between sports and other specific extracurricular activities and substance use and other risky adolescent behaviors. Analyses indicated that adolescent sports participation buffers against some health-risk behaviors, such as tobacco use, illicit drug use, and suicidality, while exacerbating other health-risk behaviors, such as problem drinking. The effects of athletic participation also differed by gender: teenage girls involved in sports reported reduced levels of sexual risk-taking, while teenage male athletes reported elevated levels. Additional findings, including gender and racial/ethnic differences in relationships between athletic participation and health risks, were published in a number of journals: International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Sociology of Sport Journal, Substance Use and Misuse, and Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Funded by a grant of $462,000 from NIDA, 2000-2004.