The myth of over-scheduling: Engaging in organized after school activities in adolescence leads to positive outcomes in both adolescence and young adulthood.


Mahoney, J. L., & Vest, A. E. (2012). The over-scheduling hypothesis revisited: Intensity of organized activity participation during adolescence and young adult outcomes. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(3), 409-418.

Summarized by Carol Lee, University of Massachusetts Boston Clinical Psychology Graduate Student

Introduction: Research has shown that organized after-school and extracurricular activities increase an adolescent’s physical, psychosocial, cognitive, educational functioning. While some research shows that these benefits increase with activity intensity, others show that spending too much time in these activities may result in the opposite effect. The over-scheduling hypothesis predicts that youth who spend a lot of time participating in organized non-school activities are at risk for poor developmental outcomes and adolescent adjustment.

The current study examines as well as if the positive outcomes linked with activity intensity during adolescence persist into young adulthood. The study also examines potential moderators of this association such as family income, child’s age, and activity intensity level.

Method: The participants were 1,115 young adults ages 18-24. Participants were assessed for substance use, risky/antisocial behaviors, psychological adjustment, civic engagement such as volunteering, and educational attainment. Demographic variables such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, family income, maternal education, primary caregiver’s marital status, perception of neighborhood safety, primary caregiver’s weekly work hours, the number of children at home, and previous adjustment problems were also gathered and controlled for. All participants had been previously assessed at ages 12-18 for intensity of organized activity participation using self-recorded time diaries.

If family income and age moderate this. If Osh depends on age. If activity intensity and adjustment in adulthood is an adequate test. May only be relevant for those in the very high amounts of participation.


  • There was no significant relationship between activity participation in adolescence and problematic adjustment in young adulthood (substance use, psychological distress, or risky/antisocial behavior)
  • There was a significant relationship between activity participation and positive outcomes in young adulthood (psychological adjustment, civic engagement, and educational attainment).
  • The results were not moderated by family income, age of the child, and activity intensity.

Implications: The findings of this study imply that the over-scheduling hypothesis did not apply. Instead, results show that engaging in organized after school activities in adolescence leads to positive outcomes in both adolescence and young adulthood. Furthermore, the benefits derived from these activities do not differ by family income, activity intensity, or the age of the child. Taken together, the study highlights the importance and the benefits of organized after school activities for not only adolescents’ present functioning, but also their future outcomes.