Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Jean E. Rhodes

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Kristen Kremer


The number of after-school programs in the U.S. has grown considerably over the past three decades, fueled in part by increased demands from working parents and increased funding. After-school programs often provide youth with a safer alternative to unstructured time while providing a context for building skills and forging positive relationships with program staff and peers. Research suggests that these programs may be particularly effective for youth with marginalized identities, including youth of color and youth from low-income backgrounds. Despite this promise, there has been a relative lack of rigorous empirical research on the effects of after-school programs on a wide range of youth outcomes. Relatively few rigorous evaluations of after-school programs have been conducted and there have been even fewer systematic reviews and meta-analyses, particularly those investigating the effects of after-school programs on youth with marginalized identities. The current study aimed to address multiple gaps in the literature by synthesizing the existing evidence on the overall effects of after-school programs including internalizing (i.e., mental health), externalizing (i.e., behavioral), school-related, social functioning, and self-perception/identity outcomes among youth with marginalized identities through multi-level meta-analysis of 56 studies including 615 effect sizes among 128,538 youth. Information sources included eight online databases, reference list review of previous after-school program studies, and a forward citation search in Google Scholar of previous after-school program reviews and meta-analyses, which were searched in June of 2019. Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of kindergarten through 12th grade youth participating in after-school programs who identified with at least one characteristic of marginalization were eligible for inclusion. After-school programs had a small, yet significant positive overall effect on youths’ outcomes (g = 0.2049, p = .0012, 95% CI = 0.08 to 0.33). Moderator analyses revealed significant differences in effects based on outcome source (i.e., self-report, teacher-report, official records) and outcome measure type (i.e., archival reports/school records, scale/survey/checklist). Across included studies, there was generally high risk of bias for three out of five bias indicators. A funnel plot analysis revealed that publication bias was unlikely, but that selection bias was possible. Given the ubiquity of after-school programs and the challenges that marginalized youth face, this study addresses a considerably understudied topic in the literature and outlines critical implications and recommendations for research, policy, and practice.


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