ERIC Identifier: ED455975
Publication Date: 2001-09-00
Author: Patten, Peggy - Robertson, Anne S.
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Focus on After-School Time for Violence Prevention. ERIC
An estimated eight million school-age children are home alone after school
(U.S. Department of Education, 2001). These are the hours when violent juvenile
crime peaks and when youth are most likely to experiment with alcohol, tobacco,
drugs, and sex (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). Although many older children care
for themselves after school for an hour or two until a parent comes home,
research suggests that some of these children are at risk for poor grades and
risky behavior (Pettit et al., 1997, p. 517; National Institute on Out-of-School
Time, 2001, p. 2; Dwyer, et al., 1990). This Digest discusses the role of
after-school programs, adult-child relationships, and parental monitoring in
violence prevention for middle and high school youth.
AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS AND CRIME REDUCTION
programs help to reduce juvenile crime and violence because they offer
alternative activities for children and youth during their out-of-school time.
Several studies support the hypothesis that participation in youth development
programs decreases involvement in unhealthy and high-risk activities (Quinn,
1999, pp. 111-112). Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of
police chiefs, sheriffs, police association presidents, prosecutors, and crime
survivors, draws on outcome data from high-quality youth development programs to
encourage public investment in high-quality after-school and summer programs for
youth. This anti-crime organization reports that high-quality youth development
programs provide "responsible adult supervision, constructive activities, and
insulation from deleterious pressure from peers and older children during
high-risk hours" (Fox & Newman, 1997, p. 4).
ADULT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS AND CRIME REDUCTION
to helping youth make constructive use of after-school hours, after-school
programs provide teens with opportunities to develop caring relationships with
adults. Supportive adult-child relationships are a central component of
high-quality after-school programs (Roth et al., 1998, pp. 435-436). Research on
resilience (often defined as the ability to face, overcome, and be strengthened
by adversity) in children identifies "protective factors" in the family, school,
and community environments that can help reverse or minimize what otherwise
might be poor outcomes for children (Bushweller, 1995). Caring and supportive
relationships are cited as a critical protective factor for youth (Masten & Coatsworth, 1998).
Other research has found similar effects of constructive adult-child
relationships. In surveys of more than 100,000 youth in 200 communities, the
SEARCH Institute found that high-quality relationships with parents and other
adults, accompanied by constructive uses of time, are critical for healthy youth
development. Relationships were among the 40 critical factors, or "assets,"
identified by SEARCH in its surveys, that appeared to help prevent risky
behaviors among youth (Benson et al., 1998; Roehlkepartain, 1998). A study of
Chicago neighborhoods also showed benefits of reduced overall violence, even in
poor neighborhoods, when community residents increased their level of positive
involvement with children (Sampson & Morenoff, 1997).
OPTIONS FOR AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMMING
programming can range from a group of teens hanging out at a friend's house and
playing basketball when a parent or other responsible adult is home, to more
formal after-school activities, including "drop-in" programs that are provided
by community organizations, licensed programs with highly structured curricula
offered through schools, and neighborhood programs that integrate school and
community resources (Gootman, 2000). Increased federal support for after-school
programs through the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community
Learning Centers initiative has greatly expanded the number of after-school
programs in public school settings around the country (U.S. Department of
After-school programs for youth are sponsored by a diverse array of
organizations and may be difficult for parents to find. Public libraries, YMCAs,
Boys and Girls Clubs, and local child care resource and referral agencies
(CCR&Rs) can help parents find after-school options in their community.
CCR&Rs also often have information on how to know when a child is ready for
self-care and can suggest resources to prepare a child to be on his or her own.
To find local CCR&Rs, parents can call Child Care Aware at 1-800-424-2246.
PARENTAL MONITORING AND CRIME REDUCTION
potential benefits of after-school programs, there are many reasons why parents
do not use them. Programs may be unavailable, unaffordable, or of poor quality
(Larner et al., 1999). Older children and young teens may refuse to attend
programs that resemble child care. Parents may feel uncertain about how much
freedom is appropriate for children and youth who are beyond the traditional
child care years. The Research Institute on Addictions suggests that children
raised in a family that is emotionally supportive and that actively monitors its
children will have lower levels of problem behaviors (Barnes, 1995, p. 1). High
levels of parental monitoring-defined as "parents' knowledge of their child's
whereabouts, activities, and friends" (Jacobson & Crockett, 2000, p. 66)-are
associated with greater academic achievement, lower levels of depression, lower
levels of antisocial or delinquent behavior, and lower levels of sexual behavior
(Jacobson & Crockett, 2000, p. 90). In situations where older children are
home alone, studies indicate that when parental monitoring is provided, children
in self-care are less likely to participate in risk-taking behaviors (Roth &
Brooks-Gunn, 2000, p. 6). Parental monitoring does not mean that parents have to
be a constant physical presence in their child's world. Consistent, firm control
and monitoring can occur from a distance (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2000, p. 6).
If older children are at home alone after school, it is important that a parent
is available to provide remote supervision with phone calls or regular
discussions of after-school plans (Steinberg & Levine, 1997).
Although middle and high school youth may think they are autonomous and rebel
at times against parental monitoring, parents remain responsible for supervising
their teenagers (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2000, p. 6). In a series of group
interviews commissioned by the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, young
people reported wanting safe places to be with caring adults and other young
people (Quinn, 1999, p. 97). This preference for "learning, growth, structure,
and safety" was also voiced by 800 teens in the Community Counts Project, a
study of 120 youth-based organizations in 34 cities (DeAngelis, 2001, p. 61).
After-school hours are prime times for youth to
be victims or perpetrators of juvenile crime and to experiment with
health-compromising behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use, and
early sexual activity (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999; Fox & Newman, 1997).
Supervised after-school programs can reduce juvenile crime and involvement in
risk-taking behaviors by providing youth with constructive activities and
opportunities to develop healthy relationships with adults. It is especially
helpful when parents remain psychologically available to monitor their
teenagers' activities and friends even when older youth are ready to be home
alone after school hours (Jacobson & Crockett, 2000). Beneath the cool
veneer of many adolescents is the need to feel connected to and cared about by
their parents and other significant adults. Research supports the effectiveness
of these strategies in protecting middle and high school youth from risk and
from harm (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2000).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Barnes, G. (1995). Parents can help
prevent teen alcohol, drug use. Support, monitoring key to prevention, study
finds. RESEARCH IN BRIEF [Online]. Available: http://www.ria.org/
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