Relative age effects in female sport contexts: a systematic review and meta-analysis of data (1984-2016)

Smith, Kristy L.; Weir, Patricia; Till, Kevin; Romann, Michael; Cobley, Stephen (2017). Relative age effects in female sport contexts: a systematic review and meta-analysis of data (1984-2016) Journal of Exercise, Movement, and Sport, 49(1), pp. 1-10. SCAPPS

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Subtle age differences can lead to immediate participation and long-term attainment influences in sport; commonly known as Relative Age Effects (RAEs; Barnsley et al., 1985). The prevalence of the RAE remains relatively undetermined for female sport contexts. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to examine female participation trends with respect to relative age in the published literature by evaluating the birth quartile distribution of athlete samples. Following PROSPERO (Reg. no. 42016053497) and PRISMA systematic search guidelines, 57 studies spanning 1984–2016 were identified and contained 308 independent samples across 25 sports. The overall prevalence and strength of the RAE across and within female sports contexts was determined, and moderator variables were assessed using odds ratio (OR; events vs. non-events) meta-analyses, applying an invariance random-effects model. The overall pooled estimate comparing the relatively oldest (Q1) v relatively youngest (Q4) suggested a small, but significant RAE (OR 1.25; 95% CI = 1.21-1.30; p = 0.01). Sub-group analyses revealed RAE magnitude was greater at pre-adolescent and adolescent age groups (<14 years) suggesting growth and maturation accounts for RAEs in females. However, RAEs persisted at elite levels indicating talent selection procedures may perpetuate the effect. RAEs were also observed in team-based sports (e.g., ice hockey) and individual activities associated with high physical demands (e.g., alpine skiing). Findings suggest interactions between athlete developmental stages, competition level and sport context demands moderate RAE existence and magnitude across and within female contexts. To reduce and eliminate RAE-related inequalities, direct policy, organizational and practitioner intervention are required.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen SFISM > EHSM - Leistungssport > Trainingswissenschaft


Smith, Kristy L.;
Weir, Patricia;
Till, Kevin;
Romann, Michael0000-0003-4139-2955 and
Cobley, Stephen






Service Account

Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2020 08:33

Last Modified:

22 Sep 2021 02:17

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Relative age effect Female sport


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