Because club attendance is voluntary, some children come more frequently than others. They freely choose among recreational activities (such as playing basketball), academic assistance, and life skills classes. This study simply counted time spent at the club, and not children's specific activities.
The study revealed that the more children participated in the club, the stronger their sense of self. Participation in the club boosted their social skills, as well as the positive reinforcement they felt they received from their community.
Children who experienced all these benefits were less likely to engage in problem behaviors.
"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," Anderson-Butcher said.
This study is the latest in a series of studies in which Anderson-Butcher has examined the benefits of youth clubs. She frequently works with federally funded programs including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. All such clubs offer free educational programs that are meant to help children better themselves.
Her previous studies have shown that just getting children off the streets and into the clubs benefits them greatly. But children who participate in the educational programs gain an even stronger benefit. So do children who form strong bonds with adults who work there.
Based on this latest study, the researchers suggested that clubs target self concept as a core component of their educational programs. Getting adequate funding for programs is always a challenge for these clubs, Anderson-Butcher said. So is getting children to attend the programs.
"If a kid has to choose between playing basketball or going to a life skills class, which are they goi
|Contact: Dawn Anderson-Butcher|
Ohio State University