The time children spend after school influences their development.1,2 Through after-school activities, children can develop social skills, improve their academic performance, and establish strong relationships with caring adults.3 Participation in club activities during middle childhood is linked to higher academic performance and self-esteem.4 Participation in sports is linked to higher social competence5 and contributes to better health and lower likelihood of obesity.6,7 After-school programs may be especially beneficial for low-income children and children with limited English proficiency.8Some research shows that children of low-income families who attend after-school programs are less likely to exhibit antisocial and problem behaviors.9 Children who regularly attend high-quality after-school programs are more likely to be engaged in school and attentive in class. They are also less likely to skip school and start drinking alcohol.10,11 Older children who consistently participate in after-school activities are more likely to attend college, vote, and volunteer later in life.12
After-school activities are also important because of their role in providing child care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69 percent of two-parent families and 71 percent of single parents report that their work schedule leaves their children in need of supervision after school.13 After-school programs can provide constructive activities for children with working parents, yet cost and availability are often critical barriers for low-income families.14 Schools are beginning to respond to the need for after-school activities by providing programs before and after school, often partnering with community agencies or universities in addition to more traditional extracurricular activities (such as sports and clubs) and child care. As schools expand after-school activities, funding, program quality, space, and accountability will all be major issues.15
Between 2001 and 2005, the percentage of students participating in clubs, community service, and sports increased. In after school sports, public schools experienced a more significant increase than did private schools. Between 2001 and 2005, sports, religious activities and arts maintained the three highest participation rates. (See Table 1)
In 2005, sports (31 percent) ranked highest amongst children who participated in after school activities, followed by religious activities (20 percent) and art activities (18 percent). Other after school activities include scouts (10 percent), community services (eight percent), academic activities (seven percent), and clubs (six percent). (See Figure 1)
Children in grades six to eight were more likely than children in kindergarten through second grade to participate in after-school activities in 2005. Students in grades six to eight had greater participation in academic activities (nine versus three percent), arts (19 versus 15 percent), clubs (nine versus two percent), community service (14 versus 3 percent), religious activities (23 versus 15 percent), and sports (34 versus 26 percent) than their Kindergarten to second grade peers. (See Figure 2)
In 2005, 7 percent of both male and female students participated in academic activities. However, female students were much more likely than male students to participate in the arts after-school, participating at twice the rate of male students (24 versus 12 percent).
State estimates for 2003 are available through the National Survey for Children’s Health at http://nschdata.org/anonymous/Dataquery/DataQuery.aspx?control=5 (Select School and Activities under State Profile)
1Mary B. Larner, Lorraine Zippiroli, and Richard E. Behrman. (1999). “When School is Out,” Future of Children, 9(2): 4-20. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol9no2Art1done.pdf.
2Jacquelynne Eccles. (1999). “The Development of Children Ages 6 to 14,” Future of Children, 9(2): 30-44. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol9no2Art3done.pdf.
3Sharon K. Junge, Sue Manglallan, & Juliana Raskauskas. (2003). “Building Life Skills through Afterschool Participation in Experiential and Cooperative Learning,” Child Study Journal, 33(3): 165-174.
4Anne C. Fletcher, Pamela Nickerson, & Kristie L. Wright. (2003). “Structure leisure activities in middle childhood: links to well-being,” Journal of Community Psychology, 31(6), 641-659.
6American Academy of Pediatrics. (2003). Prevention of Pediatric Overweight and Obesity, Pediatrics, 112(2). Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/112/2/424.full.pdf.
7Kenefick, Robert. Promoting Physical Exercise and Activity in Children. University of New Hampshire. Available at: http://ceinfo.unh.edu/Pubs/PubsFN/childexer.pdf.
8 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2003). “Effects of Child Care,” Working Families and Growing Kids: Caring for Children and Adolescents. Committee on Family and Work Policies. Eugene Smolensky and Jennifer A. Gootman, eds. Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press: Chapter 5. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309087031/html/.
11U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “School-Age Children’s Out-of-School Time: Expanding Opportunities,” Child Care Bulletin, 23. Available at:http://nccic.org/ccb/issue23.pdf.
12Zaff, Jonathan, Moore, Kristin, Romano Papillo, Angela, & Williams, Stephanie. (2003). “Implications of Extracurricular Activity Participation During Adolescence on Positive Outcomes,” Journal of Adolescent Research, 18(6): 599-623.
13Sharon K. Junge, Sue Manglallan, & Juliana Raskauskas. (2003). “Building Life Skills through Afterschool Participation in Experiential and Cooperative Learning,” Child Study Journal, 33(3): 165-174.
14Vandell, Deborah Lowe & Lee Shumow. (1999). “After-school Child Care Programs,” Future of Children, 9(2): 64-80. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol9no2Art7done.pdf.
15Dryfoos, Joy G. (1999). “The Role of the School in Children’s Out-of-School Time,” Future of Children, 9(2): 177-134. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol9no2Art10.pdf.
Children in grades K through 8 participating in one or more regularly scheduled activities that occur after school at least once a week. Home-schooled children are not included. Children who participated in more than one type of activity are included in each type of activity in which they participated.
Arts include such activities as music, dance, or painting. Clubs include activities such as yearbook, debate or book club. Academic activities include activities such as tutoring or math laboratory.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics (2006). The Condition of Education 2006 (NCES 2006-071). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Online. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2006/pdf/34_2006.pdf.
U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Before-and After-School Activities Survey of the 2005 National Household Education Surveys Program.
Child Trends Databank. (2006). After-School Activities. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=after-school-activitiesLast updated: June 2006