Protect, Prepare, Support, and Engage

The Roles of School-Based Extracurricular Activities in Students’ Development

Authored by: Bonnie L. Barber , Margaret R. Stone , Jacquelynne S. Eccles

Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development

Print publication date:  May  2010
Online publication date:  June  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805859485
eBook ISBN: 9780203874844
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283872


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Going to school involves much more than formal classroom education for the majority of students. The broader school environment can offer a range of opportunities for students to find their niche and invest their energies in endeavors such as sports, music, or student government. The earliest examinations of the effects of such participation comprised research in sociology and leisure studies concerned with the apparent benefits of extracurricular activities for future educational attainment (e.g., Hanks & Eckland, 1976; Holland & Andre, 1987; Otto & Alwin, 1977; Spady, 1970), with little attention to the processes whereby activity participation enhanced development for students (Brown, 1988). Though relatively neglected in studies of child and adolescent development, schoolbased extracurricular activities have attracted increasing attention in research (Mahoney, Larson, & Eccles, 2005). Current investigations are exploring the factors that attract young people to participate, the barriers they encounter and overcome in order to persist, and the array of benefits out-of-school activities provide. There is growing interest in the developmental consequences of extracurricular activities for youth, fueled by increasing recognition of the possible role of such activities in both promoting school achievement and preventing school dropout and school disengagement (Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003). However, recent reviewers have observed that the scientific research base pertaining to school-based activity participation has been limited (Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Feldman & Matjasko, 2005). There has been far less research on the developmentally facilitative processes one might find in constructive leisure activities than on those manifest in other contexts such as family and school. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that structured leisure activities are important, with mounting evidence that participation in school and community-based activity facilitates healthy development (e.g., Eccles & Barber, 1999; Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Larson, 2000; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997; Marsh & Kleitman, 2002; Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murray, & Foster, 1998; Youniss & Yates, 1997).

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