Extracurricular Activities May Protect Against Delinquency
> 3/24/2008 1:05:51 PM

Extracurricular activities may seem like an ideal place for troubled students, those involved in violence or drugs, to develop healthy peer relationships and more socially-acceptable behaviors. In a recent study, however, researchers from Northeastern University demonstrate involvement in school and community organizations can affect students in a nuanced fashion. In studying the effects of social bonds on juvenile delinquency, they found that that although involvement in extracurricular activities benefits both boys and girls, the specific benefits offered by different activities vary by gender.

In a departure from many previous studies, the researchers questioned students from a population not normally associated with delinquency: an upper-middle-class suburban high school. In their study, which appears in the journal Crime & Delinquency, they assessed 1,366 subjects, half of whom were female, on measures of risky behavior (smoking, drinking, drug use, sexual behavior) and on measures of more serious delinquent behavior (carrying weapons, fighting, and gang participation). They then asked the subjects about the number of extracurricular activities with which they were involved, including academic or service clubs, community organizations, church activities, and sports.

Involvement with any extracurricular activity was associated with lower rates of delinquent behavior, but in regards to risky behaviors, only the protective value of sports and church activities reached statistical significance. The researchers surmise that these activities may be more effective than others at helping students to adopt healthy behaviors and avoid behaviors that can put them at risk for delinquency. Surprisingly, the study also found that while involvement in any individual activity was associated with a reduction in delinquency, involvement in multiple activities was associated with an increase in both risky behaviors and delinquency. This trend was most prominent among boys, and more research is necessary to understand why this association occurred.

For both risky behaviors and more serious delinquent behaviors, the benefits provided by extracurricular activities were influenced by gender. For boys, sports had little effect on their risk of engaging in either type of behavior, but boys who were involved in church activities, school clubs, or community organizations had lower rates of delinquency and risky behaviors. The opposite was true of girls, with female athletes less likely to engage in delinquency or risky behaviors. According to the study's authors, extracurricular activities may help prevent delinquency by offering students a structured time with which to form peer relationships and view acceptable behavior. They suggest that in some cases, girls may form more positive relationships through their involvement with sports than male athletes, and the same may be true of boys active in school and community organizations. More research is necessary in order to clarify this association, examining how gender affects students' experiences with these activities.

Other studies have also provided evidence of the association between positive behaviors and sports or other activities, and while this study illustrates that the relationships may be complex, further research is called for and could identify the best ways of helping troubled students. And, as the researchers explain, juvenile delinquency exists in many different populations, not only in urban areas, and research in these different areas may allow us to apply these benefits most effectively to students in need.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy