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Is the Scoutreach Initiative of Boy Scouts of America Linked to Character Development among Socioeconomically, Racially, and Ethnically Diverse Youth?: Initial Explorations

Abstract

Youth development programs represent key tools in the work of youth-serving practitioners and researchers who strive to promote character development and other attributes of youth thriving, particularly among youth who may confront structural and social challenges related to their racial, ethnic, and/or economic backgrounds. This article conducts secondary analyses of two previously reported studies of a relatively recent innovation in Boy Scouts of America (BSA) developed for youth from low-income communities, Scoutreach. Our goal is to provide descriptive and admittedly preliminary exploratory information about whether these data sets—one involving a sample of 266 youth of color from socioeconomically impoverished communities in Philadelphia (M age  = 10.54 years, SD = 1.58 years) and the other involving a pilot investigation of 32 youth of color from similar socioeconomic backgrounds in Boston (M age  = 9.97 years, SD = 2.46 years)—provide evidence for a link between program participation and a key indicator of positive development; that is, character development. Across the two data sets, quantitative and qualitative evidence suggested the presence of character development among Scoutreach participants. Limitations of both studies are discussed and implications for future longitudinal research are presented. We suggest that future longitudinal research should test the hypothesis that emotional engagement is key to creating the conditions wherein Scoutreach participation is linked to character development.

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Notes

  1. Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

  2. Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the work of project directors and research assistants (including graduate and undergraduate students) to conduct the studies used in the present research. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the participation of youth and program leaders across the two studies, which made the present research possible.

Funding

The preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant to Richard M. Lerner by the John Templeton Foundation and by an award to Robey B. Champine from the Society for Research in Child Development.

Author Contributions

J.W. participated in the study’s design and coordination, performed the secondary analyses, and drafted the manuscript; R.B.C. participated in the study’s design, performed the analyses, and drafted the manuscript; K.A.F. participated in the data analyses and writing of the manuscript; R.M.H participated in the study’s design, data analyses, and editing of the manuscript; D.J.W. participated in the study’s design, data collection, and editing of the manuscript; B.M.B. participated in data collection and editing of the manuscript; S.S. participated in data collection, data analyses, and editing of the manuscript; R.M.L. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jun Wang.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

This research used secondary data based on studies conducted at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, all of which received approval from the Internal Review Board at Tufts University.

Informed Consent

All eligible participants for the studies used in the current research were fully informed about their voluntary participation. If youth wished to refrain from participation, or if their parents disagreed with their children’s participation, they were free to do so. Only youth who provided permission or assent to participate, and who had parental permission to participate, were involved in the studies.

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Wang, J., Champine, R.B., Ferris, K.A. et al. Is the Scoutreach Initiative of Boy Scouts of America Linked to Character Development among Socioeconomically, Racially, and Ethnically Diverse Youth?: Initial Explorations. J Youth Adolescence 46, 2230–2240 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0710-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0710-8

Keywords

  • Youth development programs
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Character development
  • Scoutreach
  • Youth of color
  • Poverty