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Extracurricular Participation and Course Performance in the Middle Grades: A Study of Low-Income, Urban Youth

  • Original Article
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American Journal of Community Psychology

Abstract

The transition to middle/junior high school is associated with declines in students’ academic performance, especially among low-income, urban youth. Developmental psychologists posit such declines are due to a poor fit between the needs of early adolescents—industry, identity, and autonomy—and the environment of their new schools. Extracurricular participation during these years may act as a buffer for youth, providing a setting for development outside the classroom. The current study examines participation within and across activity settings among low-income, urban youth in New York City over this transition. Using the Adolescent Pathways Project data, this study explores how such participation relates to course performance. We find that a large percentage of youth are minimally or uninvolved in extracurricular activities during these years; that participation varies within youth across time; and that the association between participation and course performance varies by activity setting. Youth who participate frequently in community or athletic settings or have high participation in two or more settings are found to have higher GPAs in the year in which they participate and youth who participate frequently in the religious setting are found to have lower GPAs. High participation in more than two settings may be detrimental.

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Acknowledgments

This research is supported in part by Grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH43084) and the Carnegie Corporation (B4850) awarded to Edward Seidman, J. Lawrence Aber, LaRue Allen, and Christina Mitchell. We would like to express our appreciation to the children and schools whose cooperation made this study possible.

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Correspondence to Kate Schwartz.

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Schwartz, K., Cappella, E. & Seidman, E. Extracurricular Participation and Course Performance in the Middle Grades: A Study of Low-Income, Urban Youth. Am J Community Psychol 56, 307–320 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-015-9752-9

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