The popularity, demand, and increased federal and private funding for after-school programs have resulted in a marked increase in after-school programs over the past two decades. After-school programs are used to prevent adverse outcomes, decrease risks, or improve functioning with at-risk youth in several areas, including academic achievement, crime and behavioral problems, socio-emotional functioning, and school engagement and attendance; however, the evidence of effects of after-school programs remains equivocal. This systematic review and meta-analysis, following Campbell Collaboration guidelines, examined the effects of after-school programs on externalizing behaviors and school attendance with at-risk students. A systematic search for published and unpublished literature resulted in the inclusion of 24 studies. A total of 64 effect sizes (16 for attendance outcomes; 49 for externalizing behavior outcomes) extracted from 31 reports were included in the meta-analysis using robust variance estimation to handle dependencies among effect sizes. Mean effects were small and non-significant for attendance and externalizing behaviors. A moderate to large amount of heterogeneity was present; however, no moderator variable tested explained the variance between studies. Significant methodological shortcomings were identified across the corpus of studies included in this review. Implications for practice, policy and research are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)