Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Do School Friends Participate in Similar Extracurricular Activities?: Examining the Moderating Role of Race/Ethnicity and Age

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Do School Friends Participate in Similar Extracurricular Activities?: Examining the Moderating Role of Race/Ethnicity and Age

Article excerpt

Adolescents' participation in high-quality, school-based extracurricular activities during their leisure time is related to positive adjustment, such as high school graduation, civic engagement, and continued participation in similar leisure activities into adulthood (for a review, see Mahoney, Vandell, Simpkins, & Zarrett, 2009). School-based extracurricular activities include a variety of activities, such as band, sport teams, and student council. Extracurricular activities could play a particularly important role during adolescence because they provide a context to build social capital at one's school by supporting relationships with peers and adult role models (Coleman, 1988). Although a great deal of research has documented the benefits associated with adolescents' participation in extracurricular activities, less research has addressed the processes surrounding participation (e.g., predicting participation, program retention). Understanding what predicts participation is particularly important during adolescence because many programs struggle to recruit and retain middle and high school youth (Deschenes et al., 2010).

A recent policy report examining the factors that promote participation noted that supporting positive interactions among friends and among peers during activities was one promising practice that should bolster participation for middle school adolescents (Deschenes et al., 2010). Recent qualitative work has found that spending time with friends is consistently mentioned as one of the main reasons adolescents participate in organized activities (Hirsch, 2005; Patrick et al., 1999). Although this qualitative work provides evidence for the importance of friends in adolescents' activity participation, how associations between friends and activity participation generalize to larger samples of adolescents and varies across age and race is not well understood. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test whether school friends' extracurricular activities predicted adolescents' activities using a nationally representative dataset, and to examine whether this relation was stronger for particular subgroups based on adolescents' race/ ethnicity and age.

Theoretical Framework

Bioecological theory provided the theoretical foundation for the current investigation. Bioecological theory posits that individuals' development is the direct result of proximal reciprocal interactions between individuals and their immediate contexts. Furthermore, the effect of these proximal interactions varies systematically based on the characteristics of the individual and five larger environmental systems in which the interactions take place (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). The microsystem is the most immediate system and is comprised of settings that adolescents have direct contact with, such as families, friendships, and extracurricular activities. The next most immediate system, the mesosystem, looks beyond a single microsystem to the interactions among multiple microsystems. The microsystem and mesosytem are embedded within three larger systems: the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. The exosystem includes settings that the adolescent does not have direct contact with, such as parents' work. The macrosystem includes the socio-cultural context, such as society's cultural beliefs and attitudes about race/ethnicity. The chronosystem denotes that all of the other systems as well as relations among those systems change as adolescents age. Furthermore, Bronfenbrenner and Morris (2006) theorized that the larger systems (e.g., macrosystem and chronosystem) influence all of the nested subsystems (e.g., mesosystem and microsystem).

According to bioecological theory, adolescents' friendships and participation in extracurricular activities are microsystems. The associations between adolescents' friendships and activity participation are one aspect of the mesosystem. Furthermore, adolescents' friendships and activities, as well as the associations between them, should be shaped by the larger macro- and chronosystems. …

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