Academic journal article High School Journal

Adolescent Overscheduling: The Relationship between Levels of Participation in Scheduled Activities and Self-Reported Clinical Symptomology

Academic journal article High School Journal

Adolescent Overscheduling: The Relationship between Levels of Participation in Scheduled Activities and Self-Reported Clinical Symptomology

Article excerpt

The past 20 to 30 years has seen an increase in the time children and adolescents spend in structured activities outside of the regular school day. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of free time children and youth have for leisure time activities. While much discussion has been given to this topic in the popular press, little systematic research has been conducted addressing this issue. The purpose of this study was to identify whether there is a relationship between the number of regularly scheduled activities in which adolescents are involved, the amount of time adolescents spend participating in these activities, and self-reports of anxiety, depression, and physical complaints. Results indicated that the greater the amount of time students reported participating in activities both at the time of the study and for the entire year, the higher their self-reported level of anxiety tended to be. Similar results were not observed for depression or somatization.

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With schools, parents, and adolescents all having input into how adolescents spend their leisure time, overscheduling is becoming more common. The amount of attention increasingly given to the topic of overscheduling in the media, newspapers, and magazines indicates the growing concern of many (Fletcher, 2000; Gilbert, 1999; Morse, 2000). Some believe that "busyness has become a status symbol" (Fletcher, p. W.1). Many parents are complaining that they are so busy carpooling their children to various activities, their home life is disrupted.

Parents across the country have expressed concern over the increasingly hectic schedules of their children. A group of parents self-labeled "Family Life 1st" in the town of Wayzata, Minnesota took on the challenge of reducing the "ever-tightening grip" of extracurricular activities (Morse, 2000; Fletcher, 2000). They spoke with instructors and group leaders requesting that they decrease practice time and increase schedule flexibility so that children could eat meals with their families and participate in more family vacations. In Ridgefield, New Jersey parents decided they were not spending enough time with their families because of overscheduling of their children. March 26, 2002 was scheduled as "Family Night." It took parents 1 year to schedule a night of setting aside all activities (e.g., homework, soccer, etc.) to spend one night with their families. Articles in Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Boston Globe, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Toronto Globe and Mail, and even the Times of London have addressed this issue. However, to date, little systematic research has been conducted addressing this issue.

In general, adolescents respond well to structured activities, and students who are not involved in meaningful activities after school may miss out on opportunities for self-improvement (Jordan & Nettles, 1999). However, many, including parents and child therapists, wonder how many structured activities are enough, and how many are too much (Gilbert, 1999). Concerns have also been reported about the amount of time devoted each week to these activities and about the pressure and expectations to succeed in each activity from parents, coaches, and often children and adolescents themselves (Gilbert).

Physically, increasing obligations may cause changes in sleep patterns, as well as the amount of sleep obtained. A survey of adolescents in New England revealed that high school students who worked 20 hours or more per week reported later bedtimes, shorter sleep times, more frequent episodes of falling asleep in school, and more frequent oversleeping and arriving late for school than students working less than 20 hours per week (Carskadon, 1999). Many adolescents are getting less sleep despite the fact that they require 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 hours of sleep per night (National Sleep Foundation, 2005). …

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