Reducing aggression with martial arts: A meta-analysis of child and youth studies

Martial arts are becoming a mainstream sport for energetic youth and their popularity extends globally. Following a comprehensive search of martial arts research, a critical review of the field and the psychological implications was conducted.

The resulting meta-analysis examined the effect of martial arts on problematic externalizing behavior (aggression, anger, and violence). The final meta-analysis included twelve studies, with 507 participants (ages 6 to 18), where study type was a moderator. For nine intervention and longitudinal studies, there was a homogenous effect size of 0.65 (95% CI: 0.11, 1.03) indicating a medium effect, where martial arts improved aggression amongst the practicing youth.

The other three one-time comparisons studies did not yield a homogenous effect size. Based on these analyses, it appears that martial arts has a potential to reduce externalizing behaviors in youth, although further research is needed to determine the mechanisms of change and specify the most relevant population groups for targeted interventions.

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