Social identity and mental health in community youth sport organizations


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on the physical and mental health of youth, especially those already facing barriers to access (Cost et al., 2022). Using a community-based participatory research design, this longitudinal study tracks community sport group participation and the recovery of physical and mental wellness of youth, through the lens of social identity. This specific presentation provides a foundational overview of the link between social identity and mental health perceptions using baseline data. Participants were 193 youth between the ages of 6 and 18 (Mage = 10.7, SD = 3.3) who were registered in sport programming at the YMCA of Northeastern Ontario (n = 124) and MLSE LaunchPad (n = 69) during the fall (late 2021) or Winter (early 2022). Participants completed measures of social identity, flourishing, and resilience as part of a larger questionnaire package. A latent profile analysis of social identity scores revealed clusters of higher (n = 73), moderate (n = 26), and lower (n = 94) identifiers, who differed significantly in flourishing (R2 = .11, p < .001) and resilience scores (R2 = .14, p < .001). In both cases, participants within the higher social identity score cluster reported higher mental health scores compared with those in the moderate and lower social identity score clusters (ps < .001), who did not differ from one another. Overall, these results represent an important extension of the social identity-mental health relationship to youth populations facing barriers to community sport access.