Developmental Trajectories of Youth Character: A Five-Wave Longitudinal Study of Cub Scouts and Non-Scout Boys
Youth development programs, such as the Boy Scouts of America, aim to develop positive attributes in youth (e.g., character virtues, prosocial behaviors, and positive civic actions), which are necessary for individuals and societies to flourish. However, few developmental studies have focused on how specific positive attributes develop through participation in programs such as the Boy Scouts of America. As part of the Character and Merit Project, this article examined the developmental trajectories of character and other positive attributes, which are of focal concern of the Boy Scouts of America and the developmental literature. Data were collected from 1398 Scouts (M = 8.59 years, SD = 1.29 years, Range 6.17-11.92 years) and 325 non-Scout boys (M = 9.06 years, SD = 1.43 years, Range 6.20-11.81 years) over five waves of testing across a two-and-half-year period. Latent growth-curve analyses of self-report survey data examined the developmental trajectories of the attributes. Older youth rated themselves lower than younger participants on helpfulness, reverence, thriftiness, and school performance. However, all youth had moderately high self-ratings on all the attributes. Across waves, Scouts' self-ratings increased significantly for cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, trustworthiness, and hopeful future expectations. Non-Scout boys' self-ratings showed no significant change for any attributes except for a significant decrease in religious reverence among non-Scout boys from religious institutions. We discuss implications for positive youth development and for the role of the Boy Scouts of America programming in character development.
Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Wang, Jun; Ferris, Kaitlyn A.; Hershberg, Rachel M.; and Lerner, Richard M., "Developmental Trajectories of Youth Character: A Five-Wave Longitudinal Study of Cub Scouts and Non-Scout Boys" (2015). SIAS Faculty Publications. 381.