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Experiences and Perceived Benefits of a Youth Skateboarding Program in South Africa: From the Physical to Emotional and Beyond

Sorsdahl K, Davies T, Jensel C, Oberholzer D, Gelberg L, van der Westhuizen C. Experiences and Perceived Benefits of a Youth Skateboarding Program in South Africa: From the Physical to Emotional and Beyond. Journal of Adolescent Research. 2021 Oct 18;

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This study aimed to assess the mental health needs and risk behaviors of adolescents attending an afterschool life-skills skateboarding program, to evaluate the perceived benefits of the program, and to identify potential modifications required to meet the identified needs. Program participants were from three gang- and poverty-affected urban communities in Cape Town, South Africa. Seventy-six adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years old (83% male) completed a self-report survey, and 24 adolescents and 19 key influencers participated in in-depth interviews and focus groups. Descriptive analyses were conducted on survey data and a framework approach was used to analyze qualitative data. 72% of the adolescents reported symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety and/or depressive symptoms, 66% had experienced food insecurity, 45% had been physically abused at home, 47% had been bullied, and 59% had used alcohol. Benefits of the program included experiencing a sense of belonging to a skateboarding subculture, protection from gang recruitment and community violence, physical and emotional benefits of exercise, mentors as positive role models, and learning life skills. Recommendations to improve the program were to include information on depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and grief, and to include stress management and emotion regulation skills.

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