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Youth Clubs Help Kids’ Self-Image

Youth Clubs Help Kids Self-ImageA new study finds that youth club membership helps children gain a stronger sense of self. Researchers believe that even small improvements in self-concept go a long way toward keeping children out of trouble.

“The more kids participate in these clubs, the better self-concept they have,” said Dawn Anderson-Butcher, an associate professor of social work at Ohio State University.

“And then that self-concept makes children less vulnerable to engaging in problem behaviors.”

Even children who don’t attend a club every day still benefit, she added.

“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. Those two things predict the best outcomes and the least amount of vulnerability.”

This study, which appears in a recent issue of Children and Youth Services Review, surveyed nearly 300 children from age 9 to 16 in a city in Utah. About three fourths of the children were members of a local branch of Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The rest were children who weren’t members, but lived in the surrounding community.

The children filled out the Utah Division of Substance Abuse Needs Assessment Survey, which gauges how attached children feel to their family, neighborhood, and school; whether they have a strong sense of who they are, and strong self-esteem; whether they earn good grades; and whether they feel that they receive positive reinforcement for good behavior from their community.

It asks whether they have engaged in problem behaviors in the last 30 days. Problem behaviors include alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use; academic failure; and gang involvement.

Anderson-Butcher and Scottye Cash, also an associate professor of social work at Ohio State, compared the survey data with the last six months of the children’s attendance records from the club to see if there was any association.

Because club attendance is voluntary, some children come more frequently than others. They freely choose among recreational activities (such as playing basketball), academic assistance, and life skills classes. This study simply counted time spent at the club, and not children’s specific activities.

The study revealed that the more children participated in the club, the stronger their sense of self. Participation in the club boosted their social skills, as well as the positive reinforcement they felt they received from their community.

Children who experienced all these benefits were less likely to engage in problem behaviors.

“As kids’ self-concept improves, it reduces their vulnerability to negative influences, which in turn decreases their likelihood of using drugs and alcohol, joining gangs, or failing in school,” Anderson-Butcher said.

This study is the latest in a series of studies in which Anderson-Butcher has examined the benefits of youth clubs. She frequently works with federally funded programs including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. All such clubs offer free educational programs that are meant to help children better themselves.

Her previous studies have shown that just getting children off the streets and into the clubs benefits them greatly. But children who participate in the educational programs gain an even stronger benefit. So do children who form strong bonds with adults who work there.

Based on this latest study, the researchers suggested that clubs target self-concept as a core component of their educational programs.

Getting adequate funding for programs is always a challenge for these clubs, Anderson-Butcher said. So is getting children to attend the programs.

“If a kid has to choose between playing basketball or going to a life skills class, which are they going to choose?” she asked. “Engagement techniques are key to helping children join these educational programs and stick with them.”

Employee retention is another critical issue. When children get to bond with an adult whom they see regularly, they build a stronger affinity for the club. That in turn leads to positive changes in their lives.

“Strong relationships are built over time,” Anderson-Butcher said.

“It takes time for the children to develop an attachment for the club — to feel committed to it, like they have ownership of it. And with that commitment comes the adoption of norms and positive behaviors.”

Source: Ohio State University

Youth Clubs Help Kids’ Self-Image

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Youth Clubs Help Kids’ Self-Image. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/06/15/youth-clubs-help-kids-self-image/14574.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.