After-school Hours and Activities

Hilary Levey Friedman

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
After-school Hours and Activities

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Beginning in the late 19th century, compulsory education had important consequences for the American childhood. Children experienced a profound shift in the structure of their daily lives, especially in the social organization of their time. Compulsory education brought leisure time into focus; since “school time” was delineated as obligatory, “free time” could now be identified as well. With the simultaneous rise of mandatory schooling and laws restricting child labor, worry mounted over the idle after-school hours of children, which many assumed would be filled with delinquent or self-destructive activities. Adults intervened to help organize children’s after-school hours into activities. Over the course of the 20th century, children’s after-school hours sorted themselves into three categories: work, play, and organized activities. During this time, the last category—organized activities—became ever dominant, especially among middle-class families. These organized activities (which can be recreational, educational, and/or competitive) were eventually developed for increasingly younger children and not just those in high school. While sports are a main focus, activities focused on arts and academics also exist. Children’s work (broadly defined to include paid work and housework) remains important for poorer families with children of all ages, while free play for all children has decreased over time. Uses of after-school time in the United States vary by class and gender and by type of activity. The ways in which families decide what their children will do in these after-school hours appear to influence educational aspirations and attainment, which in turn affects professional goals and ambitions. This article focuses on work by social scientists who examine what has shaped children’s after-school hours and how these hours shape them; it does not focus on work by practitioners who offer practical advice on how to manage and utilize American children’s after-school hours. The last section provides guidance to resources to those interested in after-school hours outside of the United States.

Article.  8321 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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