UNIVERSITY PARK – A pair of studies – one conducted in Pennsylvania and the other nationally – suggest that young people who participate in 4-H develop enhanced life skills, become better leaders and give back to their local communities.
Over the last four years, researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences evaluated the life skills of about 1,200 Pennsylvania youth before and after their participation in 4-H programs.
They found a strong association between 4-H participation and increases in the youths’ abilities in decision making, critical thinking, communication, goal setting and problem solving.
“For instance, participants’ communication skills increased by 10 percent and their goal-setting skills increased by 11 percent,” says Dr. Claudia Mincemoyer, associate professor of 4-H youth development and co-author of the Pennsylvania study.
“Previous studies have demonstrated that these and other life skills are directly linked to academic success and positive behaviors such as giving back to the community,” Mincemoyer says. “Youth who develop these skills are more likely to be productive, contributing members of society as young people and later as adults.”
The results of the Pennsylvania research are consistent with those of a larger study being conducted in 25 states by Tufts University, according to Dr. Daniel Perkins, professor of family and youth resiliency and policy, who co-authored the Penn State report. “Taken together, these two studies are strong evidence that 4-H programs provide an important venue for youth to learn new concepts and build their life skills,” he says.
The Tufts 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development is a first-of-its-kind, longitudinal study measuring the impact that personal and social factors have on youth as they develop. The study, segments of which have been reported in several refereed academic journals, has found that all youth have the capacity to thrive, regardless of where they live, their family situations, socioeconomic status, races or genders.
“The research also shows that access to high-quality, structured, out-of-school programs such as 4-H — when combined with sustained adult interaction and mentoring — benefits both the youth and their communities,” says Perkins, who serves on the advisory board for the Tufts study. “Not only are young people who participate in these programs more likely to exhibit positive behaviors, they are less likely to engage in risk behaviors such as underage drinking, smoking and bullying.
“What these studies tell us is that in order to ensure the ability of the next generation to make sound decisions and assume leadership positions within our communities, it’s critical that we commit to providing youth with positive opportunities, such as 4-H, to make a difference in their lives,” Perkins says.
4-H is a youth-development program administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Cooperative Extension. More than 100,000 Pennsylvania youth between the ages of 8 and 19 participate in 4-H projects, activities and school-enrichment programs in subjects ranging from animal, plant and environmental sciences to photography, nutrition and citizenship.
More information about Pennsylvania 4-H is available online. To learn more about 4-H locally, contact Jana Davidson at Clearfield County Cooperative extension at 814-765-7878 Ext.3