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After-School Programs for Delinquency Prevention: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 14 Issue: 3 Dated: 2016 Pages: 272-290
Sema A. Taheri; Brandon C. Welsh
Date Published
19 pages

This document discusses the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis which demonstrated that after-school programs had a small but nonsignificant effect on delinquency; the authors also note that none of the results suggested that the after-school programs should be discontinued but further research evaluations should address the issues revealed.


This article reports on the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of after-school programs (ASPs) on delinquency, which was motivated by mixed results from some well-known evaluations, a wide range of modalities, and continued interest in and demand for this social intervention. The authors developed rigorous criteria for inclusion of studies; they employed comprehensive search strategies to identify eligible studies (published and unpublished); and they followed a protocol for coding of key study features. The authors also used meta-analytic techniques to assess the impact of ASPs on delinquency and investigate study features associated with variation in effects. Seventeen studies—based on 17 independent samples—met the inclusion criteria. All but two of the studies were multimodal, involving primary and secondary interventions. Studies could be grouped into one of the three primary intervention types: academic, recreation, and skills training/mentoring. There was evidence that ASPs had a small but nonsignificant effect on delinquency, with a weighted mean d = 0.062 (95 percent confidence interval: –0.098, 0.223). Moderator analyses indicated that not one of the intervention types was associated with a significant effect on delinquency. Nothing in the present review suggests that ASPs of any type should be discontinued, but business as usual also does not seem in order for ASPs with a focus on delinquency prevention. Several research priorities could go some way toward addressing this, including further high-quality evaluations targeted on the three main types of ASPs and a special focus on program fidelity. Publisher Abstract Provided