Secrecy surrounding the physical abuse of child athletes in Australia

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McPherson, L, Long, M, Nicholson, M, Cameron, N, Atkins, P & Morris, ME 2017, 'Secrecy surrounding the physical abuse of child athletes in Australia', Australian Social Work, vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 42-53.

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Over the past two decades there has been a growing awareness that sport may not be a positive experience for all children. For example, we know that some children experience sexual abuse in the context of organised sport, and that these offences are often committed by trusted adults, including coaches and club officials. However, less attention has been given to the physical abuse of child athletes. This paper presents a study that explored children's experiences of organised sport, as recounted by young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years in Australia. The study explored the experience of child physical abuse in organised sport including violence, overtraining, and training while injured. A mixed methods research design produced 107 survey responses and 10 in-depth interviews with young adults. Most respondents reported the positive impact that participating in sport had had on their development, but more than a third of the respondents also described experiences of overtraining, being forced to train when injured or of direct physical violence. Drawing upon a thematic analysis of the qualitative data, a conceptual model has been developed and is presented to assist in the understanding of the dynamic of secrecy, which may facilitate ongoing physical harm to children in this context.

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