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Breadth of Participation in Organized and Unstructured Leisure Activities Over Time and Rural Adolescents’ Functioning

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Abstract

Discretionary time outside of school offers a distinct context that can promote adolescent development; however, potential for growth depends in part on how this time is used. In this study, person-centered analyses were used to examine patterns of breadth of participation in both organized and unstructured leisure activities among rural adolescents (N = 276, 49 % female) across grades 7, 8, and 10. Adjusting for self-selection factors, the study associated these patterns with 10th grade outcomes. Three profiles of participation emerged: consistently low breadth, consistently average breadth, and consistently high breadth of involvement in both organized and unstructured leisure activities over time. The most popular activity types across profile groups were hanging out with friends, team sports, and outdoor activities. Adolescents involved in a greater breadth of organized activities reported the greatest breadth of involvement in unstructured leisure and the best functioning. Adolescents with low breadth of involvement in both organized and unstructured leisure activities consistently showed poorer outcomes. Adolescents in the high breadth of involvement profile were engaged in all activity types at higher rates than adolescents in the average and low breadth of involvement profiles. We advocate for continued efforts to increase adolescent participation in a variety of different types of out-of-school activities.

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Acknowledgments

Support of the Rural Youth Study is provided by the National Science Foundation (#155797), the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. This work relies also on the generous participation of the respondents, teachers, school officials, and the communities involved in the study. Special thanks go to our project manager, Dr. Eleanor M. Jaffee, and to the UNH graduate and undergraduate student research assistants, especially Meghan Mills, who have been crucial to the success of this project.

Authors contributions

EHS conceived of the manuscript aims, drafted the manuscript and coordinated all aspects of the paper; CJT participated in the conceptualization of the study, drafting sections of the manuscript, and assisting with revisions; MB conducted the LTA analyses and assisted in writing up those results; KTV and CJR participated in the initial design of the longitudinal study including measure selection and provided feedback on the drafted manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Erin Hiley Sharp.

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Sharp, E.H., Tucker, C.J., Baril, M.E. et al. Breadth of Participation in Organized and Unstructured Leisure Activities Over Time and Rural Adolescents’ Functioning. J Youth Adolescence 44, 62–76 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0153-4

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