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Consistent participation in organized physical activity predicts emotional adjustment in children



The objectives of this study were to derive trajectories of childhood participation in organized physical activity (PA) and to examine how these trajectories are associated with pre-existing and subsequent emotional adjustment.


Trajectories of mother-reported participation in organized PA were derived from age 6 to 10 for 1492 children from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development birth cohort. Parents and teachers reported on internalizing behavior (emotional distress, anxiety, shyness, social withdrawal) at ages 4 and 12, respectively.


Longitudinal latent class analysis identified two typical trajectories of participation in organized PA. The Consistent Participation trajectory (61%) included children with elevated probability of participation at all ages. The Low-Inconsistent Participation trajectory (39%) included children who did not participate or participated only once or twice, generally in late childhood. Pre-existing internalizing behavior at age 4 did not predict trajectory membership. However, children in the Low-Inconsistent Participation trajectory showed higher subsequent emotional distress (B = 0.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.46–1.28), anxiety (B = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.18–1.04), shyness (B = 0.92, 95% CI = 0.39–1.44), and social withdrawal (B = 0.86, 95% CI = 0.37–1.34) at age 12 than those in the Consistent Participation trajectory.


Our findings suggest that early and sustained involvement in organized PA is beneficial for children’s emotional development.

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This study was specifically supported by a secondary data analytic grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC-435‐2017‐0784 [awarded to F.N.B.]). The larger Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD) is coordinated by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec and is made possible owing to the funding provided by the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon, the Institut de la Statistique du Québec, the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (MEES), the Ministère de la Famille (MF), the Institut de recherche Robert Sauvé en santé et sécurité au travail (IRSST), the Centre hospitalier universitaire Ste-Justine, and the Ministère de la Santé et des services sociaux (MSSS). Source: Data compiled from the final master file “E1–E20” from the QLSCD (1998–2017). The sponsors did not influence study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report, and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Author information

F.N.B. conducted data analyses and played the primary role in conceptualizing the study and writing the manuscript. All authors (1) contributed substantially to the conception and design of the study, as well as interpretation of data; (2) contributed substantially to drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and (3) approved the final version to be published.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Frédéric N. Brière.

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