Out-of-School Time among Youth from Fragile Families: The Association of Breadth and Duration with Adolescent Symptomology and Psychosocial Functioning

Ryan D. Heath, Xiafei Wang, Corinne Blake

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Organized activities during out-of-school time (OST) – e.g., extracurricular and afterschool programs – are associated with psychosocial outcomes in adolescence (Vandell et al., 2015). Recent research has focused on multiple dimensions of participation, including breadth and duration. Less research has specifically addressed the OST participation of disadvantaged youth (Heath et al., 2018). Methods: Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, we examined OST participation at ages 9 and 15 by type (sports, performance, clubs, academic clubs, and religious activities), and constructed measures of breadth (0-5 activity types), change in breadth between ages 9 and 15 (-5 to +5), and duration from ages 9-15 (nonparticipants, drop-outs, late-joiners, persisters). Multiple regression was used to test whether OST measures at age 9 were associated with age 15 outcomes (internalizing and externalizing symptoms, social skills, and psychosocial functioning issues), controlling for age 9 outcomes and demographics. Results: Only certain activities at age 9 predicted outcomes at age 15. For example, sports were associated with lower functioning problems (B=-.05) and stronger social skills (B=.07), while academic clubs were associated with higher internalizing symptoms (B=.03). Greater breadth at age 9 was associated with lower functioning issues (B=-.01) and higher social skills (B=.01). Increasing breadth between ages 9 and 15 years was associated with lower internalizing (B=-.01) and externalizing symptoms (B=-.01), lower functioning issues (B=-.01) and increased social skills (B=.02). The most novel results concerned duration. Though persisting in an activity type between ages 9 and 15 associated with stronger outcomes (e.g., sports and social skills, B=.15), so was joining an activity by age 15 (e.g., sports and social skills, B=.11). Dropping out of activities yielded outcomes as poor as nonparticipation. Conclusions and Implications: This study confirms the positive associations of OST in disadvantaged youth, while also highlighting how increases in breadth and joining activities late also predicted positive outcomes. Practitioners should facilitate a breadth of activities during adolescence, when many youth limit participation to fewer activities. Likewise, adolescents should be encouraged to join activities late rather than not participate at all. School policy should better enable a consistent breadth of OST participation – especially for the most vulnerable adolescents.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Mar 4 2022
EventSociety for Research on Adolescence 2022 Biennial Meeting: Redifining Possibilities & Amplifying Marginalized Voices - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Mar 3 2022Mar 5 2022


ConferenceSociety for Research on Adolescence 2022 Biennial Meeting
Abbreviated titleSRA 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Internet address


  • Adolescence
  • Out-of-school time
  • Extracurricular programs
  • Mental health
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Positive youth development


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