Busy, happy kids

Children with lots of after-school activities are happier and less stressed than their couch potato counterparts, concludes two recent studies. From the Washington Post:

Two studies based on data about how children spend their days show that only a minority are heavily scheduled and that organized activities are linked to positive outcomes in school, emotional development, family life and behavior.

The children most at risk have no activities at all, the studies showed.

University of Maryland’s Sandra L. Hofferth started her research believing that “lots and lots of activities are bad for children.” The data changed her mind.

A higher level of activity was not linked to such stress symptoms as depression, anxiety, alienation and fearfulness.

“We just don’t find that the children who are more active are more stressed,” she said.

Parents, however, are stressed by the challenges of managing their own lives and their children’s busy schedules, she said.

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  1. Where’s the middle ground where many of us live? where kids don’t have organized and structured activities but aren’t couch potatos?

  2. Dawn –

    From the article:

    In her research, “The Hurried Child: Myth vs. Reality,” Hofferth studied children ages 9 to 12, a group she says is most heavily involved in organized activities. The best off were the 58 percent with what she called a more balanced approach: one or two activities, for less than four hours, over the two days tracked in the study. But highly involved children, about 25 percent, did almost as well, she said.

    It appears that the middle ground is the best spot to be.

  3. I question the assertion that kids aged 9-12 are the ones most at risk of overscheduling. In my experience, the big problem with overscheduling doesn’t come until high school, when the whole college admissions frenzy leads students to pad their resumes by piling on the extracurriculars. And it’s not the activities themselves that are stressful but the tremendous pressure to outshine one’s classmates and win the coveted fat envelope.

  4. The reason that kids without any activities are stressed is because they can’t find anyone to go play with after school. One never sees any kids outside playing, organizing their own games, making up their own game rules. They all have all of their time scheduled – the parents have to sign the kids up for all of these activities.

  5. Might it be that depressed, alienated kids are the ones who don’t want to do activities?

    I’d love to know how/if they avoided selection bias in the samples.

    But of course, the Post doesn’t mention the issue at all, let alone tell me that it was designed out cleverly. (The description doesn’t make it sound like selection bias was avoided, but it’s hard to tell. I mean, how are you going to get an already depressive kid to keep a “detailed time-use diary”?)

    (I mean, seriously. Would it kill the online editions of newspapers to include links to the actual studies or polls when they do stories about studies and polls?

    It’s like they don’t think anyone’s interested in anything but their writeup – or like they think we’re stupid.)

  6. deirdremundy says:

    I can believe this. My 4 1/2 year old is in two activities. (Art and Ballet). She is CONSTANTLY agitating for more. *I’m* the one who doesn’t want to be boxed in like that….

  7. Sigivald –

    If they actually linked to the original content, it would allow their readers to come to their own interpretation. This would seriously endanger their (self-granted) status of “enlightened gatekeepers” of information by revealing how little their reporters actually know when writing articles.

    In short, fat chance.