Leisure provides adolescents with unique developmental opportunities. Unlike other social contexts, most notably school (Eccles, Lord, & Buchanan, 1996), leisure is a context in which adolescents are encouraged to manage their own experiences by exerting personal control over their environments and acting autonomously (Brown & Theobald, 1998; Silbereisen & Eyferth, 1986). Leisure also provides opportunities for identity exploration and skill building (Kleiber, 1999) as well as both social differentiation and integration. This paper examines one class of adolescent leisure: school-based extracurricular activities. School-based extracurricular activities provide highly structured leisure environments, in which adolescents can exert control and express their identity through choice of activity and actions within the setting, but which do not normally facilitate experimentation with roles and activities that are not sanctioned by adults. Because of these characteristics, participation in school-based extracurricular activities provides many of the positive developmental opportunities offered by other forms of leisure, but may provide more protection against experimentation with problematic activities such as drug or alcohol use than unstructured social leisure settings (Caldwell & Darling, 1999; Shann, 2001). In addition, participation in school-based extracurricular activities may provide adolescents access to social networks, activities, resources, and equipment that would be otherwise unavailable to them.
Mahoney and Stattin (2000) characterize highly structured activities as including "regular participation schedules, rule-guided engagement, direction by one or more adult activity leaders, an emphasis on skill development that is continually increasing in complexity and challenge, activity performance that requires sustained active attention, and clear feedback on performance" (pp. 114-115). These characteristics, according to Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) and Larson (2000), facilitate the development of initiative and lead to healthy adolescent development. Many school-based extracurricular activities, such as sports, student publications, radio stations, or performing groups, can be characterized as highly structured activities. Although outside of the narrowly defined academic curriculum (e.g., math, science, social studies, and English), extracurricular activities have traditionally been offered by schools as a way to offer developmental and leadership opportunities for youth, and to build school spirit (see, for example, Dewey, 1916). Extracurricular activities are seen as a way of offering academically gifted students a way of excelling within the school environment, a way for academically challenged students to achieve within the school setting, and as a way of creating a sense of shared community within schools. The positive impact that "extracurricular" activities can have on a school's academic mission is sometimes emphasized by use of the term "co-curricular" to describe nonacademic school-based activities (e.g., Hovet & Vinton, 1993; Kezar & Moriarty, 2000; Wren, 1997), although the term "co-curricular" is sometimes limited to activities outside of the classroom explicitly designed to complement student learning.
Extracurricular activities have been touted by their proponents as enabling youths to socialize with peers and adults, set and achieve goals, compete fairly, recover from defeat, and resolve disputes peaceably (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1992; Danish & Gullotta, 2000). At the psychological level, Dworkin, Larson, and Hansen (2003) argue that extracurricular activities stand out from other aspects of adolescents' lives at school because they provide opportunity for identity work, develop initiative, and allow youth to learn emotional competencies and develop new social skills. At a more macro level, they argue that activity participation also allows youth to form new connections with peers and acquire social capital. In addition, extracurricular activities are one of the few contexts in which adolescents regularly come in contact with unrelated adults outside of the classroom (for review, see Darling, Hamilton, & Shaver, 2003).
The benefits of participating in structured leisure activities are certainly not limited to school-based extracurricular activities. However, school-based extracurricular activities are unique in several ways. First, they are one of the few aspects of leisure actively promoted by schools and are thus amenable to programmatic and social policy initiatives. For example, requirements for art, music, and physical education may expose youth to experiences that they may not have at home, encourage them to enroll in school-based extracurricular activities such as band, theater, or sports, and enrich their leisure outside of school. Many courses outside the traditional academic curriculum are designed specifically to provide youth with skills that will last a lifetime. Voluntary participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities provides similar advantages. Although most extracurricular activities are offered after school, sometimes as part of an extended-care initiative for older youth, some schools allow students to participate in teacher-sponsored extracurricular activities during what would otherwise be traditional study halls (e.g., Butler & Manning, 1998). These "exploratories" allow students to engage in activities such as reading, magic, juggling, model building, knitting, or woodworking. Second, and most importantly for the purpose of this investigation, there are strong theoretical reasons for arguing that expanding adolescents' ties to the school through participation in extracurricular activities will enhance students' bonds to their school as an institution, increase social control over the individuals involved, and increase positive network ties to both teachers and to students (see, McNeal (1995) for a full discussion of this topic).
In sum, structured leisure experiences offer many potential benefits to youth. There may be logistical and practical advantages to offering youth the opportunity to participate in structured leisure in the context of school-based extracurricular activities. In addition, participation in leisure activities in the school setting may help foster additional emotional bonds to the school, create opportunities for emotional bonding to teachers and other school-associated adults in a context outside of the classroom, and thus increase students' emotional commitment to school and the adult-sanctioned values associated with schools (Hirschi, 1969). Extracurricular activities also provide youth the opportunity to associate with peers different from those they encounter at home and in the classroom.
Recent studies have documented the association of participation in school-based extracurricular activities with higher levels of academic commitment and better academic performance (Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Jordan & Nettles, 1999), lower rates of high school dropout (Davalos, Chavez, & Guardiola, 1999; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997; Mahoney & Stattin, 2000; McNeal, 1995), and lower levels of delinquency and arrests (Cooley, Henriksen, Van Nelson, & Thompson, 1995; Eccles & Barber, 1999; R. Larson, 1994; Mahoney, 2000; Mahoney & Stattin, 2000). Participation in extracurricular activities also facilitates the development of positive social relations across ethnic groups (Khmelkov & Hallinan, 1999), particularly for boys. These results are consistent with Holland and Andre's (1987) review of more than thirty earlier studies of extracurricular activities. Although some researchers and policymakers (e.g., Brown & Theobald, 1998; Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1992; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997) have advocated school-based extracurricular activities as a context that both promotes positive youth development and protects youth from risks associated with unsupervised free time, this context has received little attention from researchers interested in the broader issue of leisure in the lives of adolescents. The lack of a strong theoretical foundation for the roles of activities and leisure within developmental psychology in the United States (Silbereisen & Eyferth, 1986) and the marginal place of extracurricular activities within educational research (Brown & Theobald, 1998) have also contributed to this neglect. In addition to its theoretical interest, research documenting the benefits of extracurricular activities and other leisure-related courses are critical at a time when many school administrators are facing strong pressure to cut all activities that do not directly contribute to the core academic curriculum (for example, see Deasy, 2003). In addition to financial concerns, increasing paperwork loads and emphasis on standardized test performance have created time pressure on teachers and worries that "frills" will distract students from academics.
Critics of the extant literature on the association of extracurricular activity participation and adolescent development have noted two important limitations. First, much of this research is cross-sectional and thus the observed relationship between extracurricular activity participation and positive adolescent outcomes could result from selective participation, rather than from participation per se. For example, youth who are more positively oriented toward adult values, such as school success, are more likely to choose to participate in extracurricular activities (Rigsby & McDill, 1975). In addition, to the extent that participation is dependent upon auditions, tryouts, minimum GPA, cost, or other restrictions, students who participate in extracurricular activities are likely to evince more positive outcomes than their non-participating peers (Burnett, 2000). Second, the effect sizes observed are small (Holland & Andre, 1987). Although the literature has consistently documented positive outcomes associated with participation in school-based extracurricular activities, the magnitude of the difference between participants and non-participants is quite small.
This study addressed five questions relevant to these two limitations: (1) Is participation in school-based extracurricular activities associated with indicators of adolescent adjustment? (2) Can the association between participation in extracurricular activities and adolescent outcomes be documented controlling for such selection factors as demographic characteristics and prior adjustment? (3) Is participation more beneficial for some demographic groups than for others and for those who are at relatively higher risk for difficulties in adjustment? (4) Is participation in sports associated with the same benefits as participation in non-sport activities? and (5) Is the association of extracurricular activity participation with adjustment mediated through characteristics of the adolescent peer group?
Three indicators of positive adolescent adjustment (grades, attitude toward school, and academic aspirations) and two indicators of problematic adjustment (alcohol use and marijuana use) were assessed. These indicators were chosen to represent the protective functions attributed to extracurricular activities as well as their positive potential to bind youth to the school. The goal of the first two research questions was to address the issue of selective participation. Because variability in individuals and activities may help to explain the small observed effect sizes, Questions 3 and 4 are designed to assess whether the association between participation and indicators of adjustment are uniform across individuals with different characteristics and in different social contexts and whether the association is the same for different types of activities. Question 5 was designed to illuminate the process through which extracurricular activity participation may influence adolescent development. Literature related to these questions will be reviewed in the next section.
Questions 1 and 2: Selection
Can the association between participation in extracurricular activities and adolescent adjustment be documented over and above factors that predispose adolescents to participate? Perhaps one reason that extracurricular activity participation has received less attention from researchers than might be warranted is that it is clear that adolescents who choose (and are chosen) to participate in school-based extracurricular activities differ from non-participants, making causal connections difficult to establish. Adolescents who participate …