It's the hard work that fosters responsibility in teen programs

Feb 06, 2009

Millions of American teenagers participate in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, and other programs designed to develop responsibility in young people. A new study suggests that it's not the fun and games of these programs, but the tough tasks—those that ask young people to make sacrifices and do difficult things for the good of the group—that are most likely to foster responsibility and self-discipline.

The study, conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, appears in the January/February 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers surveyed more than 100 high schoolers who took part in 11 different summer and after-school programs. Many teens spontaneously reported that developing responsibility was a goal of their participation in the program. They said they achieved this goal by having important official roles, investing time, and being committed to the adults and other youths in the program.

These young people also said the program helped them develop responsibility by asking them to carry out demanding tasks, from caring for pigs in an FFA agricultural program to forgoing time with friends to attend rehearsals of a school play. Programs that were deemed most successful in increasing teens' responsibility were those that gave young people ownership for their ideas, were highly structured, held teens accountable for their work, and expected a lot of the participants.

"Although the teenagers we interviewed generally enjoyed their program experiences overall, it is the programs in which young people are called to perform tasks that are boring, difficult, or obligatory that are most likely to help them develop characteristics like responsibility and self-discipline," according to Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, who led the study.

Reference: Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 1, How Adolescents Come to See Themselves as More Responsible Through Participation in Youth Programs by Wood, D (Wake Forest University), Larson, RW, and Brown, JR (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Explore further: German Merck to buy St. Louis-based Sigma-Aldrich

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Misuse of Vicks VapoRub may harm infants and toddlers

Jan 13, 2009

Vicks® VapoRub®, the popular salve used to relieve symptoms of cough and congestion, may be harmful for infants and toddlers. New research appearing in the January issue of Chest, the peer-reviewed journal of the Americ ...

Recommended for you

German Merck to buy St. Louis-based Sigma-Aldrich

8 hours ago

German drug company Merck says it has agreed to buy St. Louis-based chemical firm Sigma-Aldrich Corp. for $17 billion in a deal Merck says will strengthen its business in chemicals and laboratory equipment.

The human race evolved to be fair for selfish reasons

Sep 19, 2014

"Make sure you play fairly," often say parents to their kids. In fact, children do not need encouragement to be fair, it is a unique feature of human social life, which emerges in childhood. When given the o ...

User comments : 0