The impact of sports programmes on youth crime
This thesis examines how and why sports programmes working with young people might contribute to crime reduction. The research focused on three case study programmes, selected with reference to a mechanism of crime reduction through pro-social development, and contrasting those working with high and low risk clients. The research was informed by the methodology of scientific realism. Analysis was at the level of each programme, at the level of individual participants, and across the three programmes. The mechanism of crime reduction through pro-social development was most apparent in the programme working with the highest risk level of participants. There was little support for this mechanism in the programmes working with lower risk participants, where diversion from crime was more important. The position of the programme on the continuum between high and low risk participants determines programme design and the relative importance of different mechanisms of crime reduction. Programmes impact on crime by more than one mechanism and may have multiple objectives. This contributes to the difficulties of programme evaluation, as do the greater inherent difficulties in researching a mechanism of pro-social development, especially in programmes working with low risk participants. Policy led by evidence might devalue programmes where such evidence is inherently more difficult to produce and values of academics and policy makers will continue to inform views of the validity of evidence. A critique of scientific realism confirms the value of the notion of generative causality, and notes implications for interview conduct, but also limitations.