After school activities and youth clubs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have more benefit than just keeping kids out of trouble after school and developing their social skills. A new study, recently published in Children and Youth Services Review, has illustrated that participation in youth clubs has a direct impact on individual student’s sense of self-image and self-identity. The study was conducted in a Utah city by researchers from Ohio state. They looked at 300 kids, ages 9-16, to gauge their level of participation in the local Boys and Girls Club, as well as other factors such as family relationships and school performance.
What they found was that the kids who participated in youth clubs had higher rates of self-image, as well as lower rates of problem behavior (defined as drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; gang involvement; and academic failure), even if they just chose to play basketball every day they attended. Students who opted for life skills classes and other educational activities fared even better. The study also showed that kids didn’t need to attend every day to reap the benefits, although regular attendance makes those benefits stronger; as long as students had come enough to have a positive relationship with a staff member and feel some sense of ownership in the group, their self-image was more developed.
The study’s researchers explain that a more developed self-concept helps kids stay out of trouble because they are more rooted in who they are, and what kinds of things they do. They’re less susceptible to peer pressure and less likely to seek reinforcement from negative influences. Youth clubs and programming, thus, serve social and academic purposes but impart a secondary benefit, almost akin confidence counseling that they don’t notice because they’re playing games and having fun. The more kids participate and get involved, the greater benefit they receive.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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