Afterschool recreational sport and enrichment programs are increasingly important for promoting positive youth development and supporting academic learning. While attendance is an important factor in achieving these outcomes, research suggests that youths' sense of belonging is also important (Anderson-Butcher & Fink, 2005). As such, it is critical to understand the various aspects of program quality that contribute to enhanced perceptions of belonging. The purpose of this study was to explore how seven indicators of programmatic quality predict youths' perceptions of belonging to an afterschool recreational sport and enrichment program.
This study used a survey research design with a sample of 637 Ohio youth participating in 21st Century Community Learning Centers, one type of afterschool program. The survey measured youths' perceptions of programmatic quality, including youth development, academic learning, parent/family engagement, leadership, communication, safety, and diversity, as well as their sense of belonging to the program. Linear regression analyses tested the relationships among the indicators of program quality and perceptions of belonging.
Analysis revealed that the model accounted for 63% of the variance in belonging (F (7,398)=98.15, p<.05). Youth development, academic learning, communication, and safety were significant predictors of belonging, respectively (â=.36, â=.12, â=.26, â=.13, p<.05). Belonging also was related to enhanced academic outcomes.
Results suggest the importance of certain programmatic components for fostering belonging among youth participants. Implications are drawn in relation to how program leaders, teachers, and others design quality afterschool programs. Potential directions for future research also will be shared
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