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The impact of after-school programs on the routine activities of middle-school students: Results from a randomized, controlled trial

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Research Summary

Unsupervised after-school time for adolescents is a concern for parents and policymakers alike. Evidence linking unsupervised adolescent socializing to problem behavior outcomes heightens this concern among criminologists. Routine activities theory suggests that, when youth peer groups congregate away from adult authority, both opportunity for and motivation to engage in deviant acts increase. After-school programs are a possible solution to unsupervised teen socializing during afternoon hours and are much in demand. However, empirical research has yet to test the relationship between the availability of after-school programs and youth routine activities. This study presents evidence from a multisite, randomized, controlled trial of an after-school program for middle-school students in an urban school district.

Policy Implications

Youth in the treatment group engaged in less unsupervised socializing after school than youth in the control group but not as much less as would be expected if the after-school program was providing consistent supervision to youth who would otherwise be unsupervised. Additional analyses examined why the influence of the after-school program was not more pronounced. We found that, although program attendance was related to decreases in unsupervised socializing, the program did not attract many delinquency-prone youths who were unsupervised, which suggests that the students most in need of the program did not benefit. Furthermore, data obtained from a mid-year activity survey revealed that youth in the study were highly engaged in a variety of after-school activities. The addition of the after-school program into the mixture of available activities had little effect on the frequency with which students participated in organized activities after school.
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Keywords: after-school programs; delinquency; randomized experiment; routine activities; unsupervised socializing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Doctoral candidate in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park. 2: Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. 3: Doctoral student at the University of Maryland Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 4: Doctoral student in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park. 5: Assistant professor at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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