Scientists (2014) state that “Interpersonal competency is linked to a number of other cognitive and socioemotional skills, such as language processing, empathy, theory of mind, visual processing of relational cues, and working memory (De Pisapia et al., 2014, pp.1263). Interpersonal competence can be measured along five different aspects; “initiation of self for the purpose of forming relationships, autonomy to make your own decisions, ability to self-disclose personal information, how empathic one is and displays, and how one handles conflicts that arise (Coroiu, Meyer, Comez-Garibello, Brahler, Hessel, & Korner, 2015, pp. 272). Essentially, it relates to how people communicate with others. There are different types of relationships in which one engages in throughout the lifespan, such as relationships with parents, friends, co-workers, professors, and more. Interpersonal skills have an association with a better quality of life, especially among teenagers (Rodriguez, Donenberg, Emerson, Wilson, & Jaydani, 2015, pp.952). It leads to better effectiveness in coping against issues that may arise during adolescents, such as depression (Rodriguez et al., 2015, pp.953).
Interestingly, the characteristics and symptoms of someone with a lack of interpersonal skills is seen within certain personality disorders. As cited by Nolen-Hoeksema (2017), Linehan predicts the underdevelopment of certain interpersonal skills leads to their manipulative and impulsive manner (pp.261). Nolen-Hoeksema (2017), mentions manipulative behavior rising from the underdevelopment of certain interpersonal skills in regards to someone with borderline personality disorder. All in all, social contact with others improves interpersonal skill, such as empathy and assertiveness (Kinard, 1999, pp. 473).
Extracurricular activities are offered usually after school hours. They promote the formation of friendships exercise, and can help broaden specific skills and talents (i.e. drawing, playing the piano, dancing, acting) that the teenagers may have. Often times during high school, students are encouraged to participate in an activity for college purposes. As stated by Rubin, Bommer, and Baldwin (2002) “career counselors, student advisors and recruiters commonly impress on students the importance of being ‘well-rounded’ and the dangers of being perceived by recruiters as one dimensional or ‘book smart’” (pp.441). While some may disagree and find the participation in extracurricular activities as of non-importance to the adolescent and the attainment interpersonal competence. In adolescence, social connectedness is important, therefore it is key to understand how it works in an extracurricular activity setting.
Extracurricular Activities Influence on Adolescents
There are a vast amount of organized activities offered within schools. Most schools offer homework-support clubs, interscholastic league sports, leadership clubs, art, music, dance, chess clubs, and much more school-based activities (Fauth, Roth, and Brooks-Gunn, 2007, pp.761). Within these organized clubs, a teen is surrounded by peers with similar interests. (Fujimoto and Valente, 2013, pp. 1085) states “School-sponsored organized activities provide a forum for adolescents to identify with peer groups formed within peer crowds (p.1085). As mentioned by (Fredricks and Eccles, 2006, pp.699), Marsh highlights the fact that extracurricular participation had a signification with school related success. Such as, higher self-esteem, higher grades, college enrollment, occupational aspirations, more likely to do homework, etc., although the effect size was small. It is a common belief that participation in these extracurricular activities lead to a more optimized academic success and a less chance to be involved in behaviors that compromise your academics (Fujimoto and Valente, 2013, pp.1085). This is consistent with the findings conducted by Mahoney, Cairns, and Farmer (2003), who found a positive link between extracurricular participation and educational status throughout the beginnings of adulthood (pp. 416).
Extracurricular activities, especially sports, may require an extensive amount time dedicated to that activity. Boyce, Schanding, Burridge, and Keller-Margulis (2013) state that a plus side to the lengthy time requirement, is benefit of a teenager decreasing the amount of time they dedicate to videogames, especially violent video games and the negative impacts it may cause (pp. 35). However, there are also associated risks that a teen is susceptible to with participating in an extracurricular activity.
The peer groups formed within these extracurricular activities do not necessarily always have a positive outcome such as form friendships (Fujimoto and Valente, 2013, pp.1085), there are some risks associated with the involvement in these after-school activities. Statistics show that there is tendency to drink alcohol with age (pp. 1088). Fujimoto and Valente (2013) investigated the association between drinking tendencies and the membership an organized activity (pp. 1085). Their findings show that a teen is more likely to drink alcohol through the participation in the organized clubs and sports (pp. 1090), creating a severe risk for teens who drink during adolescence. The most common race associated with higher drinking tendencies were White students, in comparison to the other races included in the study (pp.1088).
This particular finding may suggest that ethnic groups may have its own influence on whether a student will drink alcohol and use other substance, or not. Nolen-Hoeksema (2017) demonstrates the percentage of ethnic groups and age groups who consume illicit drugs. Coinciding with the suggestions made by Fujimoto and Valente (2013), Nolen-Hoeksema points out that White ethnic groups between the ages 12 through 25, have among one of the highest percentage of illicit drug use. Furthermore, in regards to the assumption that video games negatively impact adolescents, Boyce et al. (2013), highlight a contradicting finding in which the results of a study found positive social behaviors stemmed within student when they played certain video games (pp. 35).
Extracurricular Activities and Interpersonal Competency within Adolescents
Exclusions often occur within teenagers. Whether one was not invited to a party, excluded within a friendship circle, or even when chosen last on a physical education activity. Within a high school setting, there are sports teams designated for students with intellectual abilities, such as basketball and volleyball. The students with intellectual disabilities are the athletes while students without intellectual disabilities may volunteer and participates in the games as a partner. A partner, along with coaches, are supporting the athletes throughout practice and during matches. These specific athletes are often isolated from their peers outside of Unified Sports (McConkey, Dowling, Hassan, and Menke, 2013, pp. 923).
However, through the participation of Unified Sports, the athletes were no longer socially isolated and they developed interpersonal skills (pp. 927). McConkey et al. conducted an in-person interview with 11 athletes and partners. They were aiming to gain an understanding on “the participants’ experience of Unified Sports, their perception of the extent of social inclusions, the factors that assisted or hindered this and the improvements they would propose” (pp.926). The researchers found that all participants had mentioned improvements to their interpersonal skill via an increase in self-belief and self-esteem (pp.928). Similarly, McDonough, Ullrich, and McDavid (2018) also found a relation between teens of low-income families and feelings of inclusion when partaking in a sport (pp.25).
Most extracurricular activities implement group cohesion. Group cohesion is essentially groups working together to prosper (Group cohesiveness: Definition, factors, importance, & consequences, n.d) in a certain task. Group cohesion is displayed within our very own communities, most work environments, and within organized activities. It is especially common within most sports at the middle and high school level. For instance, in regards to a school setting, teachers often assign group projects and assignments within the classroom. Group cohesion is also portrayed in the extracurricular setting such as, the school sports team and the school choir. Every sport, including track involves teamwork and the equal participation of each member. In a choir, synchronism with each member and the instruments they play is essential for a successful tune.
Learning how to collaborate and communicate with others is useful and often needed within most social contexts. Bruner, Eys, Wilson, and Côté (2014) focused in on group cohesion and how it impacts positive youth development for teen athletes (p.221). There were two kinds of cohesion groups; task cohesion and social cohesion. Task cohesion is defined “as a team, we are all on the same page”, while social cohesion is defined as “some of my best friends are on this team” (Bruner et al., 2014, pp. 222). This result shows that regardless of which type of cohesion the student participated in, some sort of interpersonal skill was applied. For the task cohesion, it involved teamwork. While for the social cohesion, it involved communicating with other, even though they are your best friends.
Interpersonal Competency within Extracurricular Activities
Several studies support the idea of extracurricular activities promoting interpersonal competency within adolescents. Mahoney, Cairns, and Farmer (2003) supports the claim of participation in an extracurricular activity encourages the growth of interpersonal competency (pp.409). On the other hand, Gardner, Roth, and Brooks-Gunn (2008), believe the level of developmental success is dependent on which activity the adolescent decides to participate in (pp.815). It turns out that students in a leadership/ officer role within an activity, showed a developed amount of interpersonal skills, while participating on a sports team did not portray an increased level of interpersonal skills (Rubin, Bommer, & Bladwin, 2002, pp.447-449). However, to conclude their article, which supports the claim made by Mahoney et al. (2003), they state that an increased level of interpersonal skills is commonly seen within teens who participate in an extracurricular activity (Rubin et al., 2002, pp.450).
Although Rubin et al. (2002) support extracurricular involvement due to its promotion of interpersonal skills/competence (pp.450), they question the legitimacy of extracurricular activities truly being a predictor of interpersonal competence (pp. 444). There is a possibility that most adolescents who participate in the after-school activities, already have already attained some sort of interpersonal competence (Rubin et al., 2002, pp.442). The relationships with peers and with parents often dictates which path the life of one will tread on. Problems do occur, whether if it starts during childhood or mainly portrayed during the teen years. Some of these problems correlate to internalizing and externalizing disorders. Rodriguez et al. (2015) predicts that the developed interpersonal skills will correlate with a positive parenting influence and a low depressive state for the adolescent. They also predict that interpersonal skills and depressive symptoms are indirectly correlated through positive parenting. To conduct their study, they recruited 346 adolescents and 249 parents.
Their youth participants ranged in ages of 12 to 19, all with different ethnicities. To collect their data, they used the Child Behavior Checklist scale, self-reports from the teens, a Withdrawn- Depressed subscale reported by both the parent and the teen, Children’s Report of Parent Behavior Inventory, and the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scales (Rodriguez et al., 2015, pp. 956). The Child Behavior Checklist scale, self-reports, and the Withdrawn-Depressed subscale determined the level of depressive symptoms. The Children’s Report of Parent Behavior Inventory essentially assessed if the parents behave positively or negatively towards the youth. Lastly, the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scale was used to determine the extent the teens used their interpersonal skills during a disagreement with their parents. One of the main results that the experiment yielded was the positive relationship between the adolescent interpersonal skills and positive parenting. (Rodriguez et al., 2015, pp. 958-959). Another significant finding from this experiment was the lack of association between interpersonal skills and depressive symptoms (pp.959), leading to their conclusion of the interpersonal skills of an adolescent to be heavily influenced by their parents. Rodriguez et al. (2015) provides definite data showing an association between the interpersonal skills of an adolescent and external factors (e.g. positive parenting).
Between the time a child starts pre-school to their senior year of high school, they have already been in school for 12 or more years. That is roughly 86,000 hours spent within these institutional buildings and away from home. Although that sounds like a lengthy amount of time, adolescents and children may gain some interpersonal benefits from spending time in school. The above findings bring in a vast amount of perspectives on how extracurricular activities impact interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills, let alone interpersonal competency, cannot be achieved on its own. Achieving competency in any skill requires practice or an influential factor.
Interpersonal skills vary between each individual. The communication skills used when interacting with others, how assertive one is, the ability one has to solve problems, ability to work in a group, etc., is displayed differently throughout each person. This variation was looked upon within adolescents. Adolescents are at a time in their lives in which they begin to establish their identity and become autonomous. As a teenager increases with age, the dependency they show on their caregivers decrease. Their trust and focus is relied more on friends. However, in order to maintain those friendships, an adolescent must first show competency in their interpersonal skills (Kinard, 1999, pp.465). As mentioned before, having a lack of interpersonal competency may potentially hurt the adolescent in terms of their future after graduating high school. (Mahoney et al., 2003, pp. 409). Participation in extracurricular activities had its own set of risk and influence on a teenager. For instance, the likeliness to drink alcohol increases within a teenager who partakes in certain after-school programs. On the other hand, the teenager is also positively influenced in which they spend less time away from violent video games, which can negatively influence the behavior of a teen.
While there are some “risks” in extracurricular activities, such as kids wanting to experiment with drugs and threatening their educational drive, the positives seem to outweigh potential negatives, which include social bonding, improved grades, and is even correlated to future success as it emphasizes the idea of working with a group. Alongside with the benefits of participating in an after-school activity, from being around peers and developing social skills, after-school programs offer a much better chance at the possibility of developing these skills in comparison to the risk of going home to simply watch television, play video games, or hang out with their peers (Fauth et al., 2007, pp.761). Overall, the over-arching question appears to have been answered through the research that has been done. Extracurricular activities appear to have a more positive and promotional effect on the interpersonal skill of an adolescent, rather than a negative effect.
- Boyce, A., Schanding, G. T., Jr., Burridge, A. B., & Keller-Margulis, M. (2013). Effects of videogame play and extracurricular activities on parent perceived socio-emotional functioning in children and adolescents. International Journal of Psychology: A Biopsychosocial Approach, (12), 29-48. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ric.idm.oclc.org/10.7220/1941-7233.12.2
- Bruner, M. W., Eys, M.