Participation in Boys and Girls Clubs and relationships to youth outcomes



Participation is a key issue in youth development organizations. In fact, research suggests that youths who attend the programs offered by these agencies will experience numerous benefits. One such youth development organization is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Much of the research pertaining to the BGCA examines the importance of participation in structured prevention and educational programs such as Project SMART and Project Learn. The everyday Club participant, however, does not necessarily attend these structured programs. As such, the present study was designed to gain a better understanding of “typical” Club participation and how overall attendance at the Club is related to positive outcomes among youth. A total of 139 youths (aged 10 to 18 years old) participated in the study. Overall participation in the Club and age were both independently related to enhanced academic achievement, as well as increased substance use. Additionally, significant age and participation interaction effects point to the importance of Club participation at nullifying risks and problem behaviors associated with increasing age, particularly in relation to academic outcomes. Implications are discussed pertaining to program strategies that may serve as hooks or magnets that sustain youths' interest and continued involvement in BGCA activities and other youth development programs. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.