After School Programs Help At-Risk Kids

A recent study published in Children and Youth Services Review validates previous research findings that suggest participation in youth development organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs makes children and adolescents less likely to engage in problem behaviors.  The authors, Dawn Anderson-Butcher and Scottye J. Cash, cite previous studies that conclude that participating in such programs deters and prevents “alcohol and drug use, juvenile delinquency, violent crime, school dropout and failure, and teenage pregnancy.”  The authors also cited research studies that specifically credit Boys & Girls Clubs and their programs for enhancing self-esteem, improving academic performances, reducing substance abuse, and unlawful behaviors.

The study was done through questionnaires designed to assess children and adolescents’ problem behaviors. The study focused on one “urban intermountain west community” Boys & Girls Club of America. Of the 279 study participants only 29% were recruited from the nearby area apartment complexes, and were not members of the Boys & Girls Club.  The questionnaires took 40 minutes to complete, and the goal of the questions was to determine the child’s vulnerability to risky behavior.

The research suggests that “involvement in the (Boys & Girls) Club was particularly important in developing positive self-concept among youth participants” and that increased attendance at the Boys & Girls Club tended to lead to an increase in self-concept, or in other words, an improvement in how they view themselves.  The authors of the article assert that a positive self-concept makes youths less vulnerable to negative outcomes, which in turn, decreases their likelihood of engaging in problem behaviors. Interestingly, they concluded that even small changes in self-concept could indirectly influence behaviors.  As the researchers explained in an article posted on Ohio State University’s Research News, “As kids’ self-concept improves, it reduces their vulnerability to negative influences, which in turn decreases their likelihood of using drugs and alcohol, joining gangs, or failing in school.”

The authors express a need for such programs to target the development of self-concept, given that it tends to reduce unlawful and risky behaviors.  They emphasize that Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth development organizations “serve important roles in the lives of youths, families, and communities today.”

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