After-school programmes (ASPs) are organised activities targeted at children and young people who would otherwise be unoccupied or unsupervised. These programmes are often voluntary and can include recreation-based activities, drop-in-clubs, and tutoring services delivered after-school.
This narrative is based on one systematic review covering 12 studies. 10 of the primary studies in the review were based on evidence from the U.S, 1 from Canada and 1 from Sweden.
There is some evidence that After-school programmes (ASPs) have either increased or reduced crime, but overall they have not had a statistically significant effect on crime.
The results of the meta-analysis show that ASPs had a non-significant effect on crime when measured by self-reports, police records, and teacher/parent reports of arrests and incidences of delinquent behaviour.
Three primary studies found that ASPs led to a reduction in delinquent behaviour, 2 reported an increase, and 7 showed no significant differences between young people who attended ASPs compared to those who did not.
After analysing the effect of different types of activity (academic, recreational, and skills training/monitoring) on crime, the authors found that the type of ASP had no discernible effect on delinquency.
The review was sufficiently systematic that most forms of bias that could influence the study conclusions can be ruled out.
This evidence is taken from a systematic review covering 12 studies, which demonstrated a high quality design in terms of having a transparent and well-designed search strategy, featuring a valid statistical analysis, sufficiently assessing publication bias, the risk of bias in the analysis and considering the validity of the way outcomes are measured and/or combined. The review did not, however, quantify an overall effect for unanticipated outcomes or conduct a separate analysis for different research designs.
The review suggested two mechanisms by which ASPs might have an effect on crime.
First, the formal supervision of young people in a controlled environment with structured activities can reduce opportunities for delinquent behaviour.
Second, programmes that include structured activities targeted at a particular skill set provide children with additional resources and time to develop positive attributes, knowledge, and social networks that may also act as protective factors against delinquency. In other words, the purpose of ASPs is not solely to reduce unstructured time, but rather to dedicate time to educational or recreational activities.
However, neither of these potential mechanisms were empirically tested.
The review tested whether the effects of ASPs might be moderated by a number of factors:
Variation in the effect of ASPs cannot be explained by these factors as the findings of the analysis were non-significant in all cases.
The review gave no account of how the intervention was implemented, or of any implementation challenges which the primary studies encountered.
There is no mention of costs or benefits of the intervention in the review, and no formal economic analysis was provided.
After-school programmes (ASPs) are expected to reduce delinquency by increasing formal supervision, providing academic support, and promoting social skills to young people. There is some evidence that ASPs have either increased or reduced crime, but overall such programmes have not had a statistically significant effect on young people’s offending. There was no evidence that the duration or context of the programme, or the risk or age of the young people moderated the effect of ASPs. Additional evidence is required to identify implementation issues and analysis of costs.
Review 1: Taheri, S. and Welsh, B. (2016). After-School Programs for Delinquency Prevention. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. Vol. 14(3) 272-290.
This narrative was prepared by UCL Jill Dando Institute and was co-funded by the College of Policing and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). ESRC Grant title: 'University Consortium for Evidence-Based Crime Reduction'. Grant Ref: ES/L007223/1.