If you want your children to flourish, get them involved in extracurricular activities other than sports, new research suggests.

Children in fifth, sixth and seventh grades who took part in both sports and after-school activities such as Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H or Scouts had the highest scores for "positive development" and the lowest scores for risky and problem behavior, according to a study from Tufts University, published recently in Developmental Psychology.

"Positive development" includes measures of competence, confidence, character, connection and caring, the study authors explained.

About 60 percent of U.S. children participate in at least one sport, making sports the most common after-school activity, according to information in a news release from Tufts.

Although a large body of research suggests that sports participation is associated with psychological well-being, positive social development and higher academic and professional achievement, some research has shown that participation in sports may be linked to some risky behaviors.

The new study, which looked at data on 1,357 adolescents who took part in the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, found that those students who only took part in sports had lower scores on characteristics of "positive development" and higher scores on bullying, substance use and depression than students who also took part in youth development activities.

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/healthday/2009/09/02/kids-need-more-than-sports-for-positive-growth.html