Purpose: This study examines (1) the association of nonparental care with educational outcomes and school-based victimization, and (2) whether extracurricular participation moderates the association of nonparental care with the outcome variables.
Methods: Data was drawn from four waves of the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (n=11,434 high school sophomores). The independent variables measured at baseline included nonparental care (0=no, 1=yes), extracurricular type (sports, performance, academic, service clubs; 0=no, 1=yes), breadth (number of activity types: 0-4), and intensity (number of participation hours per week; 0-21). School-based victimization included ever having something stolen, being physically threatened, or being hit (0=no, 1=yes) at baseline and two years later. Educational outcomes included hours of homework completed per week, educational expectations, and high school GPA two years later, and educational attainment measured four and eight years later. Multiple regression assessed relationships between nonparental care and outcome variables, as well as interaction analyses between extracurricular participation and nonparental care. Regression analyses incorporated survey weights and controlled for race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, academic history, family factors, and school urbanicity.
Results: The majority of respondents (83%) participated in at least one extracurricular programs. Youth in nonparental care, however, were significantly less likely to participate in any type of extracurricular program or for as many hours as their peers in parental care (p<.001), Students in nonparental care had significantly lower educational expectations, fewer hours of homework completed, lower GPAs, and lower educational attainment, but higher levels of all types of victimization (p<.01). Despite these negative outcomes of youth in nonparental care, when extracurricular participation was incorporated into regression models, the associations of nonparental care with lower educational outcomes and victimization were no longer significant. This trend was generally consistent across measures of extracurricular type, breadth, and intensity, and across outcomes two, four, and eight years later (p<.001). Lastly, analyses found no interaction between extracurricular participation and nonparental care for any of the outcome variables.
Implications: This study found that nonparental care is associated with higher victimization and poorer educational outcomes, while extracurricular participation is associated with lower victimization and stronger educational outcomes. The lack of evidence of an interaction between nonparental care and extracurricular participation suggests that although extracurricular participation may not be more beneficial for youth in nonparental care, these youth may benefit from these programs just as much as their peers. Extracurricular participation may serve as a proxy or connection to other necessary services or supports, and even outweigh any risks associated with nonparental care. Thus, school social workers and child welfare staff should ensure this vulnerable group has access to extracurricular opportunities.