High school sports involvement diminishes the association between childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial behavior

Diana R. Samek, Irene J. Elkins, Margaret A. Keyes, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose Life course-persistent antisocial behavior manifests as a display of aggressive and antisocial behavior beginning in childhood (conduct disorder [CD]) and lasting through adulthood (adult antisocial personality disorder). This study aimed to build on prior research by evaluating whether involvement in high school sports helped attenuate the association between CD and subsequent adult antisocial behavior (AAB). Methods A prospective sample of 967 male and female adolescents (56% adopted) was used. Structured interviews were used to assess CD (symptoms before the age of 15 years), involvement in sports during high school, and past-year adult antisocial personality disorder symptoms in young adulthood (M age = 22.4 years). Results As expected, the association between CD and AAB was significantly less for those involved in sports (β =.28; p <.001) compared with those not involved in sports (β =.49; p <.001), χ2(1) = 4.13; p =.04. This difference remained after including known covariates of antisocial behavior in the model (age, gender, adoption status), and results were consistent across males and females. Involvement in other extracurricular activities (e.g., student government, plays, clubs) did not significantly moderate the relationship between CD and AAB. Conclusions Although selection effects were evident (those with more CD symptoms were less likely to be involved in sports), findings nevertheless suggest high school sports involvement may be a notable factor related to disrupting persistent antisocial behavior beginning in childhood and adolescence and lasting through young adulthood. Implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant AA11886 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Grant MH66140 from the National Institute of Mental Health .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. All rights reserved.


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Conduct disorder
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Sports


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