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A Comparison of Hobbies and Organized Activities among Low Income Urban Adolescents

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Youths’ participation in organized activities has been repeatedly associated with better psychosocial adjustment. However, youth living in more disadvantaged contexts (e.g., lower-income, dangerous neighborhoods) have less access to organized activities. The current study aimed to compare hobbies and organized activities, in terms of their accessibility and associations with social functioning with peers, using a social ecological framework. We also examined the conditional effects of family and neighborhood disadvantage for the associations between activity engagement and peer functioning.


Participants were 91 predominantly African American, urban-dwelling middle school girls (Mage = 12.43) and their primary caregivers. Dyads completed separate interviews and questionnaires on activity engagement, family and neighborhood disadvantage, and social functioning with peers.


Results suggest that hobbies are a distinct facet of activity engagement that might be more widely accessible than organized activities. Greater involvement in hobbies and organized activities showed unique associations with indices of better peer functioning. Moreover, some of these associations were stronger for youth living in more disadvantaged contexts.


This study advances the understanding of an important yet neglected topic within the adolescent development literature on activity research, namely differential access to opportunities among ethnic minority youth. Results suggest that hobby engagement is an important aspect of activity engagement with social benefits, especially for youth living in more disadvantaged contexts. Further investigation is warranted to understand the range of potential benefits of youths’ hobby involvement.

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This study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to Valerie Simon (HD61230).

Author Contributions

D.B.S. collaborated with the design of the study, completed with the data analyses, and wrote the paper. V.A.S designed and executed the study, collaborated with the data analyses, writing, and editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Davia B. Steinberg.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study described received full IRB approval through Wayne State University and the sample was treated in compliance with APA ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Steinberg, D.B., Simon, V.A. A Comparison of Hobbies and Organized Activities among Low Income Urban Adolescents. J Child Fam Stud 28, 1182–1195 (2019).

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