"“Every day we’d have an arranged activity, so she’d have football, swimming, dance, gymnastics”: A Sociological Analysis of Parenting and Sports-Based Enrichment Activities for the Under-Fives."

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Abstract: In this article, we provide a sociological analysis of parental choice in pre-school sports and physical activity as a form of concerted cultivation, as a way of understanding the uptake of sports-based physical activity (PA) enrichment activities in the UK since 2000. Despite a growth in the under-five preschool enrichment market, little is known about why parents pay for their under-fives children to participate in sport or PA enrichment or how this relates to wider patterns in contemporary parenting. 24 semi-structured interviews with parents of early years children from across England were conducted. Findings suggest the reasons why parents enrol their child(ren) in sports-based enrichment activities, can be considered a form of concerted cultivation, in particular, parents value routine and socialisation for themselves and their children. Parents look for paid-for activities that enhance their child’s social and academic skills, but do not emphasise physical activity as particularly important in their decision making. Instead they prioritise opportunities to enhance their child’s social and cultural skills in ways that enable the children to be accepted and interact positively with other adults and children in key institutional settings. Parents also valued spaces where their young children could expend energy, although the importance of this was distinctly gendered. We conclude by outlining that paying for under-fives sport-based enrichment is linked to wider social and cultural expectations on parenting, and highlighting that more needs to be understood about the gendered, racialised and ableist spaces of commercial preschool sport and PA.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2024


  • Lareau, advantage, early years, children, parents.

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