The relationship between school-aged children's extracurricular participation, emotional well-being and academic functioning

Deborah C. Dunklee Cheshire (2006)

The relationship between levels of weekly extracurricular participation and emotional well-being and academic functioning of third and fifth graders was examined. The sample included 76 seven- to eleven-year olds who attended school in a working class community in southeastern Vermont. The sample was predominantly Caucasian. Emotional well-being was assessed using the Piers-Harris 2 Children's Self-Concept Scale (Piers-Harris 2; Piers, Harris, & Herzber, 1999); academic functioning was defined by aggregate grades from reading and math for the final quarter of the school year. Amount of extracurricular participation was measured using a time enumeration survey designed by the researcher and completed by the children and their parents. No consistent relationship between academic functioning and extracurricular participation was evident in the data. Involvement in fifteen or more hours of extracurricular activities was associated with higher scores on the Behavioral Adjustment subscale of the Piers-Harris 2. These scores indicate self-reports of few behavior problems at home and at school. Self-reported feelings of anxiety, degree of popularity, happiness, and an overall sense of self-esteem were variable throughout the sample regardless of participation level; consequently, a significant relationship was not evident between level of extracurricular participation and the Piers-Harris 2 subscales that measured those concepts. The relationship between extracurricular participation, emotional well-being, and academic functioning was examined from Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) in order to incorporate the context of a child's life versus singularly examining specific activities. Middle childhood is a time in development when children are increasingly exposed to a variety of extracurricular opportunities. Each child is unique, with his or her own interests, desires, and talents. Children are also unique in how they respond to scheduled extracurricular commitments. Guidance from parents and teachers to balance new-found interests with academic and family commitments is recommended in lieu of a specific optimum threshold of participation.