Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

School Extracurricular Activity Participation and Early School Dropout: A Mixed-Method Study of the Role of Peer Social Networks

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

School Extracurricular Activity Participation and Early School Dropout: A Mixed-Method Study of the Role of Peer Social Networks

Article excerpt


This longitudinal study employs a mixed-method design to study associations between participation in school-based extracurricular activities, as measured using school yearbooks, and rates of early school dropout. The role of peer social networks that surround activity participation is of particular interest. Results show that the peer social networks of adolescents overlap significantly with the particular types of extracurricular activities in which they participate over time. Processes of selection and socialization that include the use of social aggression appear to regulate changes in activity membership. When both the individual and his/her social network participate in extracurricular activities the risk of early school dropout is diminished significantly. This activity-associated reduction in dropout is pronounced for youth previously identified as highly aggressive by school personnel.

Keywords: extracurricular activities, school dropout, peer networks, aggression, developmental

1. Introduction

1.1 School Dropout

School dropout continues to be significant problem in the United States (U.S.) (Chapman, Laird, Ifill, & KewalRamani, 2011). Status dropout provides a common estimate of dropout rates in the U.S. by measuring dropout for a group of individuals between the ages of 16-24. The U.S. status dropout rate was 8.1% in 2009. Although a historic decline occurred in status dropout between 1972 (14.6%) and 2006 (9.3%), the dropout rates remain high for at-risk populations and continue to be a source of significant physical, social, and economic cost to both the individual and nation. For example, youth dropout rates for immigrants (31.3%), Hispanics (17.6%), those with disabilities (15.5%), and Blacks (9.3%) typically exceed the national average. Moreover, 2.4% and 4.4% of 16- and 17-year-olds are early school dropouts, respectively. Early school dropout represents a special problem for young people because it accelerates them into adult roles and responsibilities before adult social-cognitive capacities have developed to maturity. These individual deficits also often coincide with more limited social-economic resources compared to older students that leave school.

Dropout is costly in the U.S. (Chapman et al., 2011). Comparing average earnings of dropouts and those that complete formal schooling shows a difference of $23,000 vs. $43,000, respectively. This amounts to an approximate difference of $630,000 in lifetime earnings. Moreover, dropouts tend to experience poorer health, higher criminality, lower tax contributions, and greater reliance on Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare than high school completers. These differences contribute to an additional economic loss of $240,000 per high school dropout for the nation. When viewed as a whole, the individual and national consequences of school dropout are staggering.

1.2 Guiding Theoretical Perspective on Development

A network of internal and external aspects influences individual developmental trajectories from childhood through adulthood (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Magnusson & Stattin, 1998; Sameroff, 1983). Individual, social, and ecological aspects are fused during the course of ontogeny and work in concert over time to support individual behavior. Accordingly, single aspects of the developmental systems are functionally related to one another and with the individual's history of prior developmental experiences.

In this view, individuals function as holistic, integrated organisms. Because features of the developing systems are interrelated, the functioning of any one aspect affects the operation of other elements or sub-systems. This co-action between components of the system constrains possibilities for the overall functioning of the system. In other words, the operation of the system at one point in development exerts a "constraining inertia" with respect to probable patterns of relations between aspects of the system in the future. …

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