Youth Clubs Build Confidence, Reduce Problem Behaviors
Would you like your child to have more confidence and stay out of trouble? An Ohio State University study reveals that children who belong to youth clubs develop a better self concept and are less likely to engage in problem behaviors.
Most people will admit that it’s tough being a kid today, and strong, positive support systems can help make the journey a little easier. Dawn Anderson-Butcher, an associate professor of social work at Ohio State, conducted a study in which she found that kids can get a great deal of needed support from a youth club.
She noted that “The more kids participate in these clubs, the better self concept they have. And then that self concept makes children less vulnerable to engaging in problem behaviors.”
Anderson-Butcher and her associate, Scottye Cash, also an associate professor of social work at Ohio State, surveyed nearly 300 children ages 9 to 16 who resided in a city in Utah. Approximately 75 percent of the children belonged to a local branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the remaining children were not members but lived in the same area.
All the children completed a survey, the Utah Division of Substance Abuse Needs Assessment Survey, which measures how attached children feel to their family, neighborhood, and school; their self-perception of who they are and strong self-esteem; their grades in school; and whether they feel they receive positive reinforcement from the community when they behave well. It also asks about any problem behaviors, such as alcohol, marijuana, or cigarette use, academic failure, and gang involvement, the children may have been involved in within the last 30 days.
When Anderson-Butcher and Cash reviewed the survey data with the previous six months of the children’s attendance records from the club, they found that children who participated more at the club had a stronger sense of self. Their participation in club activities boosted their social skills and the positive reinforcement they felt they got from their community. Children who experienced these benefits were less likely to be involved in problem behaviors.
Daily attendance at youth clubs is not necessary for children to benefit, however. “We’re finding that daily attendance isn’t as important as whether the kids feel attached to the organization and have a good relationship with a staff member.” Both of these factors, noted Anderson-Butler, predict the best outcomes for the children and reduce the children’s vulnerability to negative influences, such as drug use and gangs.
Based on previous work by Anderson-Butler, children who participate in educational programs can experience even greater benefits, as do kids who form a strong bond with adults who work at the youth clubs. However, attracting children to educational programs is tough when there are sports activities, which tend to attract them more.
Anderson-Butler also pointed out that it takes time for children to establish a trust and bond with an adult whom they see regularly, and to develop a sense of commitment for the club. “With that commitment comes the adoption of norms and positive behaviors,” she said.
Parents who can get their children to join a youth club have a good chance of witnessing an improvement in their child’s confidence, self concept, and social skills, while also avoiding problem behaviors. Youth clubs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, as well as programs that are part of the YMCA and the YWCA, and youth programs run by church groups, communities, and nonprofits, may provide children with the positive reinforcement and encouragement they need.
Ohio State University