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Extracurricular activities for social engagement

Health Factors: Family & Social Support
Decision Makers: Educators Local Government State Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Extracurricular activities include any organized social, art, or physical activities for school-aged youth that occur during out-of-school time, usually before- or after-school or during the summer. Extracurricular activities can be offered through school, community, or religious organizations. Examples include clubs, school newspapers, music groups, student councils, debate teams, theater, volunteering programs, sports, and youth groups; programs sometimes include academic components.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased self-esteem
Improved youth behavior
Increased self-confidence
Improved social skills
Improved social networks

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that extracurricular activities increase self-esteem and positive social behaviors among children and adolescents (Durlak 2010, HFRP-Little 2008, YG-Afterschool). Extracurricular activities are also a suggested strategy to increase social support systems, develop social skills and relationships, and enhance neighborhood cohesion (Anderson 2003a, Urban-Moore 1999). There are a variety of these types of activities and programs, however, and some are more effective than others (Farb 2012).

Creative extracurricular activities such as music, dance, drama, and visual arts can increase participants’ self-confidence, self-esteem, and positive behaviors (Bungay 2013). After-school activities appear to improve school belonging, motivation, and academic achievement among immigrant high school students (Camacho 2015). Elementary school students appear to have greater social engagement benefits when they are highly engaged in after school programming than when they are less engaged (Grogan 2014).   

Extracurricular activities with academic components can modestly improve grades, test scores, and academic proficiency along with social benefits (Grogan 2014, Durlak 2010, Farb 2012, RAND-Bodilly 2005, HFRP-Little 2008, Vandell 2007). Some studies indicate that participation in extracurricular activities may decrease problem behaviors such as alcohol use, risky sexual activity, and delinquency (Farb 2012, Durlak 2010, Vandell 2007, CSPV-After school), while others suggest no effect on such behaviors (Taheri 2015, Kremer 2015).

Students’ attendance at extracurricular activities may be enhanced by supportive environments, age-appropriate structures, positive relationships between participants and staff, and diverse activities that foster child development and engage participants. These characteristics can also improve student outcomes (Leos-Urbel 2015, Vandell 2013, ASA).


United States

Examples of extracurricular programs include Triple Play, offered at over 4,000 Boys and Girls Clubs across the country (Triple Play); Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program, offered in 1,500 clubs in rural, urban, and suburban settings in 32 states and Washington DC (TOP); 4-H Afterschool, nationally implemented through public universities and Cooperative Extension (4-H); After-School All-Stars, serving low income and at-risk youth in 12 states (ASAS); and WINGS, providing social and emotional learning programs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia (WINGS).

California’s Proposition 49, the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002, expanded after-school programs and extracurricular activities to benefit children; sports to increase physical fitness, tutoring to improve academic performance, and youth development programs to enhance social skills and responsible behavior (CA-After school) .

Implementation Resources

ASA - Afterschool Alliance (ASA). Keep kids safe and inspire them to learn. Accessed on February 1, 2016
CSPV-Elliott 2000 - Elliott DS, Grady JM, Shaw TE, Aultman-Bettridge T, Beaulieu MT. Safe communities ~ Safe schools planning guide: A tool for community violence prevention efforts. Boulder: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV); 2000. Accessed on December 14, 2015
HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA). Accessed on May 9, 2017
IES WWC-Beckett 2009 - Beckett M, Borman G, Capizzano J, et al. Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education (US ED); NCEE 2009-012. Accessed on August 7, 2018

Citations - Evidence

Anderson 2003a - Anderson LM, Scrimshaw SC, Fullilove MT, Fielding JE, Task Force on Community Preventive Services. The Community Guide’s model for linking the social environment to health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003;24(3S):12–20. Accessed on March 7, 2018
ASA - Afterschool Alliance (ASA). Keep kids safe and inspire them to learn. Accessed on February 1, 2016
Bungay 2013* - Bungay H, Vella-Burrows T. The effects of participating in creative activities on the health and well-being of children and young people: A rapid review of the literature. Perspectives in Public Health. 2013;133(1):44–52. Accessed on November 30, 2015
Camacho 2015* - Camacho DE, Fuligni AJ. Extracurricular participation among adolescents from immigrant families. Empirical Research. 2015;44(6):1251-1262. Accessed on January 27, 2016
CSPV-After school - Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV). Safe Communities Safe Schools fact sheet: After school programs. Boulder: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV), University of Colorado at Boulder; 2001:FS-SC12 Accessed on March 7, 2018
Durlak 2010* - Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Pachan M. A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2010;45(3-4):294–309. Accessed on December 15, 2015
Farb 2012* - Farb AF, Matjasko JL. Recent advances in research on school-based extracurricular activities and adolescent development. Developmental Review. 2012;32(1):1–48. Accessed on November 9, 2015
Grogan 2014 - Grogan KE, Henrich CC, Malikina MV. Student engagement in after-school programs, academic skills, and social competence among elementary school students. Child Development Research. 2014:498506. Accessed on January 27, 2016
HFRP-Little 2008 - Little PMD, Wimer C, Weiss HB. After school programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it. Cambridge: Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP); 2008: Brief Number 10. Accessed on March 7, 2018
Kremer 2015* - Kremer KP, Maynard BR, Polanin JR, Vaughn MG, Sarteschi CM. Effects of after-school programs with at-risk youth on attendance and externalizing behaviors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 2015;4(3):616-636. Accessed on January 27, 2016
Leos-Urbel 2015* - Leos-Urbel J. What works after school? The relationship between after-school program quality, program attendance, and academic outcomes. Youth Society. 2015;47(5):684-706. Accessed on February 1, 2016
RAND-Bodilly 2005 - Bodilly S, Beckett MK. Making out-of-school-time matter: Evidence for an action agenda. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2005. Accessed on May 20, 2016
Taheri 2015* - Taheri SA, Welsh BC. After-school programs for delinquency prevention: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Criminology & Penology. 2015:1-19. Accessed on January 27, 2016
Urban-Moore 1999 - Moore K, Ehrle J. Children’s environment and behavior: Participation in extracurricular activities. Washington, DC: Assessing the New Federalism (ANF), Urban Institute; 1999. Accessed on May 20, 2016
Vandell 2007 - Vandell DL, Reisner ER, Pierce KM. Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of promising afterschool programs. Irvine: University of California, Irvine, Department of Education; 2007. Accessed on March 7, 2018
Vandell 2013 - Vandell DL. Afterschool program quality and student outcomes: reflections on positive key findings on learning and development from recent research. In: Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success. Expanded Learning & Afterschool Project; 2013:10-16. Accessed on February 1, 2016
YG-Afterschool - (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Afterschool programs. Accessed on January 6, 2016

Citations - Implementation

4-H - The Cooperative Extension System, 4-H National Headquarters, National 4-H Council. 4-H Afterschool. Accessed on January 27, 2016
ASAS - After-School All-Stars (ASA). Comprehensive after-school programs. Accessed on January 27, 2016
CA-After school - California Department of Education. After school education & safety program. Accessed on January 27, 2016
TOP - Wyman Teen Outreach Program (TOP). Teen Outreach Program: Help transform teens and change communities. Accessed on January 27, 2016
Triple Play - Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Triple Play: A game plan for mind, body, and soul. Accessed on January 27, 2016
WINGS - WINGS for Kids (WING). WINGS: Helping kids soar. Accessed on January 27, 2016

Page Last Updated

August 15, 2016

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