4-H Club Members Less Likely to Do Drugs, Have Sex, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs

4-h club

More 4-H students are staying away from drugs and alcohol. Credit: Getty Images

It used to be that the mention of 4-H clubs conjured up images of teens headed away from city life to the farm to bale hay or milk cows.

But now, the nation's largest youth organization has spilled into suburban and urban locales, where kids learn public speaking, engineering, math and volunteerism. They also have less sex, do fewer drugs, don't drink alcohol and refrain from puffing on cigarettes, according to a study, U.S. News reports.

The organization still battles its agricultural and rural image, but researchers at Tufts University say the 7 million 4-H kids, now mostly from the city and suburbs, keeps kids away from the bad stuff, according to the magazine.

The report, "Waves of the Future," tracked fifth graders through their high school graduation, surveying them once a year. The findings suggest students who participate in 4-H are 20 percent less likely to have sex by the 10th grade, and two times less likely to smoke or drink alcohol. They are also 56 percent more likely to spend more hours exercising or being physically active, the report says.

Kids who join 4-H also report better grades, higher levels of academic competence, and an elevated level of engagement at school, the report notes. They are twice as likely to go to college and more likely to pursue future courses or a career in science, engineering or computer technology.

The study was launched in 2002, and continues today, surveying more than 6,400 adolescents from diverse backgrounds across 34 states, according to U.S. News.

4-H's structured learning, encouragement and adult mentoring plays a vital role in helping students achieve future life successes mentoring, skill building and leadership opportunities, Richard Lerner, head of the Tufts study, says in the report.

"There is a positive and sustained relationship between an adult and young person," he says.

Whether a student is learning urban gardening or public speaking, being able to apply these skills to real-life situations can keep students away from making bad decisions, Lerner tells U.S. News.

"Giving young people a chance to use those skills validates what they've been learning," he adds.

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