ORMSKIRK, England — Between music lessons and band practice, after school sports, student clubs and other activities, children are soaking in skills to help mold them into responsible, sociable adults. At the same time, many are being overworked. A new study delving into the effects of children’s extracurricular activities on family life reveals an unprecedented strain on families.
Researchers from Edge Hill University and the University of Chester interviewed 50 families with children enrolled in twelve primary schools in Northwest England. They found that 88 percent of the children in these families participated in after-school activities four or five days a week. Fifty-eight percent of the children participated in more than one extracurricular activity on a given night.
Many families reported their energy and money reserves were dwindling as a result of their children’s numerous obligations. One mother in the study admitted she’d feel “sadly, over the moon” whenever her child’s activities were canceled.
“We know that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life. Parents initiate and facilitate their children’s participation in organized activities as it shows that they are ‘good’ parents. They hope that such activities will benefit their children in both the short-term (by keeping them fit and healthy, and helping them to develop friendship groups) and longer-term (by improving their job prospects),” explains Dr. Sharon Wheeler, the study’s lead author, in a statement.
“However,” she adds, “our research highlights that the reality can be somewhat different. While children might experience some of these benefits, a busy organized activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents’ resources and families’ relationships, as well as potentially harm children’s development and wellbeing.”
Wheeler says that awareness of the problem can push concerned parents to feel secure in finding ways to build a far-less strenuous schedule for their children and families. Otherwise, the stress will grow, and the benefits of having active children may dwarf the burden placed on the family as a whole.
The full study was published May 11, 2018 in the journal Sport, Education, and Society.