Parents who work may worry about their children being in an afterschool program, but they shouldn’t. Children in afterschool programs are less likely to report emotional problems and have more of a connectedness with their peers.
Emilie Phillips Smith, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State studied elementary age children in three different areas of south central Pennsylvania. Children in grades two through five were asked to complete questionnaires about how connected they felt toward the other children in the program, their willingness to get involved if another child was misbehaving, and the types of problem behaviors they had participated in.
Girls were more likely to feel connected to their peers and to intervene if something was wrong. They also had fewer incidents of problem behavior.
"Encouraging your friends to do something positive or to not misbehave may start from selfishness because you want your group to earn a certain activity or privilege, but it turns into working together as a team," said Dr. Smith.
Younger children were more likely to act out than older children and less likely to report feeling connected. The most commonly reported problem behavior was purposely breaking and damaging property that belonged to someone else.
"This shows us that afterschool programs are an excellent opportunity to help prevent problem behavior while children are young,” concludes Dr. Smith. “We are working with afterschool programs to include practices that support engagement and involvement, thereby fostering positive youth development."
Emilie Phillips Smith, D. Wayne Osgood, Linda Caldwell, Kathryn Hynes, Daniel F. Perkins. Measuring Collective Efficacy Among Children in Community-based Afterschool Programs: Exploring Pathways toward Prevention and Positive Youth Development. American Journal of Community Psychology, September 2013