Bidirectional Associations Between Valued Activities and Adolescent Positive Adjustment in a Longitudinal Study: Positive Mood as a Mediator
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Although activity involvement has been linked to positive youth development, the value that adolescents place on these activities (i.e., how much they enjoy the activities, find them important, and spend time on them) has received less attention. The purpose of the present study was to examine the bidirectional longitudinal association between engagement in valued activities and adolescent positive adjustment (optimism, purpose in life, and self-esteem), as well as investigate a possible underlying mechanism for this link. High school students (N = 2,270, 48.7 % female) from Ontario, Canada completed questionnaires annually in grades 10, 11, and 12. Auto-regressive cross-lagged path analyses were conducted over time, controlling for gender, parental education, and academic grades. Greater engagement in valued activities predicted higher optimism, purpose, and self-esteem over time. Importantly, the results did not support an alternate hypothesis of selection effects, in that adolescents who were better adjusted were not more likely than their peers to engage in valued activities over time. We also found that the longitudinal associations between valued activities and positive adjustment may be due partly to an underlying effect of increased positive mood. Thus, engagement in valued activities appears to be important for adolescent positive adjustment, and may help to foster thriving. Communities, educators, and parents should actively support and encourage adolescents to develop valued activities, and seek to ensure that there are ample opportunities and resources available for them to do so.
KeywordsValued activities Adolescent adjustment Mediation Positive youth development
Funding for this longitudinal project was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Teena Willoughby.
AD conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; TW participated in the conception, design, statistical analyses, and drafting of the manuscript, as well as collected the data. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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