Original Paper

American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 325-337

First online:

Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance

  • David J. ShernoffAffiliated withDepartment of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, Northern Illinois University Email author 

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Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance? Middle school students (N = 196) attending eight programs in three Midwestern states reported a total of 4,970 randomly sampled experiences in and out of after-school programs during 1 week in the fall and spring of the 2001–2002 academic year. Engagement during after-school hours partially mediated the relationship between participation in after-school programs and social competence. In addition, relative perceptions of engagement, challenge, and importance when in after-school programs compared to elsewhere after school predicted higher English and math grades. Results suggest that the quality of experiences in after-school programs may be a more important factor than quantity of experiences (i.e., dosage) in predicting positive academic outcomes.


Engagement Middle school After-school programs Social competence Academic performance Outcomes Adolescence Subjective experience Experience Sampling Method (ESM) Flow Mediation