MARIETTA, Ohio – A recent study is helping confirm that young people in 4-H learn leadership, citizenship and life skills.
The Tufts’ 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development is the first long-term study to measure the characteristics that contribute to positive youth development.
By measuring factors that influence a young person’s development, the study found that youth involved in structured programs and activities outside of school – in programs such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boys and Girls clubs – the more likely they are to experience positive youth development and contribute to their communities.
Significant benefits. This national study measuring the worth of high-quality youth development programs shows the significance of the benefits for the 300,000 young Ohioans involved in 4-H, said Ryan Schmiesing, who helps lead the program for Ohio State University Extension.
“The study confirms for us that 4-H makes a difference,” said Schmiesing, co-state 4-H leader and assistant director of Ohio State University Extension.
“For the first time, we have evidence that positive youth development can be measured, and we know what elements need to be present for that to take place. And, we know 4-H has all of those elements.”
The longitudinal study, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and conducted by Richard M. Lerner of Tufts University, followed more than 4,000 youth in 25 states to measure five characteristics of positive youth development: competence, confidence, connection, character and caring.
Resources. “The study shows that three resources must be available for youths to succeed – mentoring, long-term adult interaction and access to structured programs outside of school – and Ohio 4-H gives youths those opportunities,” Schmiesing said.
“We have a very strong volunteer core – about 30,000 volunteers throughout the state – and the study shows that they make a difference.”
Lerner measured positive youth development by examining whether children and teens selected positive, healthy goals for themselves; identified and used available opportunities to reach their goals; and how they adjusted when goals were not met.
In addition, he found that successful youth development programs:
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