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The Mediating Effects of Family on Sport in International Development Contexts

The role of family in influencing sports behaviour is widely recognized. This article extends this body of knowledge by examining how the family influences young people’s responses to sport programmes operating in international development contexts. Recognizing the central role of the family as a social institution, the article highlights the cultural significance and specificity of the family, and the importance of this to sport programmes which aim to foster social change. Drawing on empirical data from studies in India, Zambia and Brazil, the multiple and contradictory roles that families play in relation to three sport programmes are analysed. It is shown that while families may support and even extend the positive impact of programmes, they might equally resist them, and in some cases may even be a source of the problems that such initiatives seek to alleviate. The article concludes that locating young people’s experiences of and responses to sport within their family context is an important step in developing a better understanding of the social and cultural environment within which international development programmes operate.