A qualitative examination of parental mental health and wellbeing in Australian youth sport


Parents have complex experiences as a result of their involvement in organised youth sport. Among such experiences, the roles and responsibilities taken on by parents can influence their mental health and wellbeing. For that reason, the purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of mental health and wellbeing among parents in relation to their involvement in organised youth sport. Eighteen Australian youth sport parents (12 mothers, 6 fathers; Mage = 47 years, SD = 4.74) participated in individual semi-structured interviews to better understand how their youth sport-specific roles and behaviours influence mental health and wellbeing. Following reflexive thematic analysis, five themes were generated from the data: (a) sport as a platform for family unity; (b) cohesion and conflict between parents and other social agents; (c) requirements of youth sport and family equity; (d) interconnectedness of parent and child emotions in sport; and (e) sport as a context for self-improvement and parental validation. The findings provide meaningful insight with respect to how the youth sport environment, and parents' roles within it, leads to positive and negative mental health experiences. We encourage applied scholars to consider the current findings when designing quality youth sport programs that are tailored to all stakeholders (i.e., including parents).