Leisure contexts in adolescence and their effects on adult outcomes
(2005) Leon Feinstein, John Bynner and Kathryn Duckworth
Wider Benefits of Learning Research Report No.15
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This research has been undertaken by WBL for the government's Strategy Unit as part of the development of an evidence-base to inform government thinking on provision for young people. It examines the kinds of background and personal characteristics that predict participation. We look at which children are taking part in different types of age 16 leisure contexts and then consider the apparent implications of these contexts on later outcomes, measured in the same cohort at age 30.
The research is based on a preliminary analysis of the relevant data, so conclusions from the study are tentative. However, a clear finding is that the contexts in which adolescents spend their out-of-school time are important aspects of their pathways into adulthood and carry strong signals about future life chances. We conclude that the provision offered in these contexts is an important and hitherto under-valued and under-resourced component of the infrastructure for young people. Structured activities at around age 16 can make a big difference to the life paths of adolescents.
Yet the contexts in which young people congregate bring risks as well as opportunities. The expansion of funding for out-of-school contexts cannot be made without assessment of the quality of that provision. Peer group effects mean that there are unlikely to be positive long-term effects for children if no structure is provided but successful mediation of these risks can bring lasting benefits. However, it is the young people who need targeted provision and support that are most likely to be found in unstructured settings. These are precisely the settings where adult facilitation and investment is needed.
From a perspective of equality of opportunity, the big policy challenge is to develop leisure settings in which young people who are most at risk of adult social exclusion will engage, while at the same time building in the elements of curriculum and structure that this analysis has identified as supportive of subsequent social inclusion.
Please note, this report is only available in electronic format.