A School-Level Analysis of Adolescent Extracurricular Activity, Delinquency, and Depression: The Importance of Situational Context

Abstract

In this article we investigate the extent to which the relationship between extracurricular activities and youth development depends on situational contexts. Using a national sample including 13,466 youths in grades 7–12 across 120 schools, we conduct school-level analyses of the association between extracurricular activities, delinquency, and depression. Three main findings are reported. First, we observe near-normal distributions across schools in the proportions of delinquent or depressed youths involved in extracurricular activities, illustrating that extracurricular activities can be positive, neutral, or negative settings for youth development. Second, within individual schools we fail to uncover consistent associations in the propensity of delinquent or depressed youth to be involved with different types of extracurricular activities. Third, standard macro-level context variables do not explain the observed variations within or between schools. The results suggest that the relationships between extracurricular activities, delinquent conduct and depressive symptoms among youth ultimately depend more upon micro-level contextual factors than the type or content of the activities themselves.

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Acknowledgements

This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth/contract.html). The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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Guest, A.M., McRee, N. A School-Level Analysis of Adolescent Extracurricular Activity, Delinquency, and Depression: The Importance of Situational Context. J Youth Adolescence 38, 51 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9279-6

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Keywords

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Delinquency
  • Depression
  • Youth development
  • Context