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The Scientific Evidence Relating to the Impact of Recreation on Youth Development

Key Message

"Park and recreation department out of school time programs can make significant contributions in nine areas . They can:
1 . contribute to reducing juvenile delinquency
2 . contribute to increasing positive and reducing negative behaviors
3 . expose youth to less violence
4 . improve children’s educational performance and thus impact the quality of the future work force and the national economy
5 . help decrease health care costs related to childhood obesity
6 . increase the economic contributions of young people to society when they become adults
7 . help youth develop self-confidence, optimism, and initiative
8 . increase civic responsibility and participation
9 . help reduce parental stress and thus affect health care costs and lost job productivity " (p. 35)
 

Source

Witt, Peter A and Cladwell, Linda L. (2010).The Scientific Evidence Relating to the Impact of Recreation on Youth Development, in The Rationale for Recreation Services for Youth: An Evidenced Based Approach. Ashburn, Virginia: National Recreation and Parks Association.

Purpose

This chapter provides the scientific evidence that supports advocacy and funding efforts . In an era of fiscal restraint, paying for recreation programs is problematic . Many foundations have reduced funding levels; states and municipal governments in many states are curtailing spendin

Evidence

Out of School Time (OST) programs can contribute to reducing juvenile delinquency.

"After-school recreational programs are a logical and inexpensive way to address crime. One California district was able to keep 231,405 youth busy on evenings and weekends by using a court grant of $13,000 in 1996." (p.36)

"The City of Fort Myers, Florida police claim a 28% drop in juvenile arrests since the inception of the award-winning STARS Program--Success through Academic and Recreational Support. Held at an expansive recreation complex built in the heart of the city’s minority community, STARS provides area youth much needed recreational and artistic outlets." (p. 36)

"Some 57% of all violent crimes by juveniles occur on school days, and 19% are in the hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. On the other hand, students who participate in one to four hours per week of extracurricular activities are 49% less likely to use drugs and 37% less likely to become teen parents than students who do not participate." (p. 37)

OST programs can contribute to increasing positive and reducing negative behaviors.

"Youth programs sponsored by park and recreation departments can play a sig- nificant role in helping young people develop the 40 Developmental Assets outlined by the Search Institute . Search Institute research indicates that the more developmental assets that young people experience, the more they will demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors (e .g ., exhibiting leadership, maintaining good health, and succeeding in school) . Conversely, the fewer assets young people experience, the more they demonstrate problem behaviors such as abuse of alcohol, violence, illicit drug use, and sexual activity."(p. 38)

Community provision of OST programs can lead to less youth exposure to violence.

"Studies have found that community violence occurs less frequently among youth who live in neighborhoods rich in youth-serving organizations." (p. 38)

OST programs can help improve children’s educational performance and impact the quality of the future work force and the national economy.

“Quality after-school programs provide time for students to take school-based learning to a deeper and more individualized level, as well as filling many existing gaps in the typical school curriculum in the arts, sports, foreign language, and service learning.” (p. 39)

OST programs can help decrease health care costs related to childhood obesity.

"Youth who engage in adequate amounts of physically active recreation are more likely to be at an ap- propriate weight and a reduced risk for later weight-related health problems." (p. 40)

OST programs can increase the economic contributions of young people to society when they become adults.

"Given the potential of OST programs to positively affect educational levels, participation in them can make a difference in annual earning levels and lifetime income . For example, based on 2006 statistics, an individual with less than a high school education will have average earnings of $22,000 per year, while a high school graduate will earn $29,000 per year, someone with a bachelor’s degree $43,500, and a person with at least a master’s degree, $50,000." (p. 40)

OST programs can help youth develop self-confidence, optimism, and initiative.

"A study of youth participants in OST settings found that successful youth avoid “self-destructive assessments” and feel more positively about having a job they will enjoy, believe they can do things as well as others, and feel that plans they make will work out . Optimism is related to strong feelings of initiative, autonomy, and hopefulness" (p. 41)

OST programs can increase civic responsibility and participation.

"Youth involved in OST programs are more likely than non-involved youth to do volunteer work and feel that they can undertake activities to make life better for other children and youth growing up in their community." (p. 43)

OST programs can help reduce parental stress and affect health care costs and lost job productivity.

"Parents may miss up to five days of work per child and it is estimated that PASS (parental After School Stress) is costing companies from $50-$300 billion in health care and lost job productivity each year." (p. 43

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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