Substance use linked to less participation in organized activities among urban youth

Participation in organized activities plays a key role in positive youth development. Organized activities provide opportunities to learn skills, develop self-confidence, nurture positive relationships with peers and adults. Researchers at the PRC explored the factors that may influence how youth participate over time and found that youth who use drugs and alcohol at an early age are less likely to participate in organized activities.

In a study that was published in the February issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers describe three paths, or trajectories of participation:  a low group decreasing over time, a moderate, consistent participation group and a moderate increasing group.  Researchers examined how predisposing risk, such as substance use, conflict in family, and promotive factors, such as parental support, were related to these trajectories.

This study is based on 4 years of data collected as part of the Flint Adolescent Study, a longitudinal study of youth from mid-adolescence to young adulthood. Data were collected from 850 adolescents at-risk for high school dropout at the beginning of the ninth grade in four public high schools in Flint, Michigan.

The research team analyzed youth’s self-reported participation in organized activities such as church, after-school activities and sports in relation to various risk and promotive factors. Findings suggested that incorporating programs to address risk, such as substance abuse prevention programs, may help facilitate organized activity participation over time.


Eisman, A. B., Stoddard, S. A., Bauermeister, J. A., Caldwell, C. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2015). Trajectories of Organized Activity Participation Among Urban Adolescents: An Analysis of Predisposing Factors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.