American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 285-293

First online:

Developing and Improving After-School Programs to Enhance Youth’s Personal Growth and Adjustment: A Special Issue of AJCP

  • Joseph A. DurlakAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago Email author 
  • , Joseph L. MahoneyAffiliated withDepartment of Education, University of California
  • , Amy M. BohnertAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago
  • , Maria E. ParenteAffiliated withDepartment of Education, University of California


Participating in after-school programs (ASPs) has become a common experience for children. This special issue provides a perspective on the current status of research on ASPs. This introductory article overviews the historical and current context of ASPs and then describes a developmental ecological model to guide research in this area. The model offers a framework from which to organize and synthesize the research presented in this issue. Key principles include a holistic view of development that recognizes interrelations between multiple domains of youth adjustment, attention to multiple, relevant factors within and outside of youth that affect development, examining the dynamic interplay between persons, program features, and other contexts over time, and understanding the active role of youth in affecting their own development. These principles are examined in relation to five main areas: youth characteristics, social ecologies, program features, participation, and short- and long-term outcomes. Recommendations for future research are discussed.


After-school programs Ecological perspective Youth development Program quality Outcomes