Youth Motivations for Program Participation


  • Jenifer K. McGuire Department of Family Social Science University of Minnesota
  • Jodi Dworkin Department of Family Social Science University of Minnesota
  • Lynne M. Borden Department of Family Social Science University of Minnesota
  • Daniel Perkins Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education Penn State
  • Stephen T. Russell Department of Human Development and Family Sciences University of Texas at Austin



Through their participation in youth programs, young people have access to opportunities to learn and build important skills. A total of 214 youth between the ages of 10-19 (mean 15.5 years) completed an online survey about characteristics of youth programs they participated in, didn’t participate in, and had participated in but quit. We found that youth participated in activities that provided a benefit to meet personal goals or develop skills. However, our findings suggest that youth may leave activities, or never join them, based on different sets of motivations than the reasons they stay in activities. There was variability across demographic groups: Males reported more problems with past activities, sexual minority youth were more likely to endorse social problems with past and never joined activities, and ethnic minorities reported less support for personal goals and connection to adults in current activities and more logistic barriers for activities never joined.






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