Tufts University Study Finds Boy Scouts of America Programs Build Positive Character
Significant differences measured after just three years
Current and former Scouts have always felt that Scouting has made a difference in their lives, and a 2015 study out of Tufts University found that Scouting does in fact have a measurable, positive impact in the character development of young people.
The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, involved nearly 1,800 Cub Scouts and 400 non-Scouts under the age of 12, and was conducted over three years. It sought to measure the difference Scouting makes in young people's lives as those positive changes were happening.
Participants were assessed at five intervals during the study to see if and how character changes were taking place. At the beginning of the study, there was no statistically significant difference in character between those in Scouting and those who weren't—ruling out the possibility that Scouting simply attracts people of higher character to begin with.
"After three years, Scouts reported significant increases in cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, trustworthiness, and hopeful future expectation," said Dr. Richard M. Lerner, who led the study at Tufts University. "In our control group of non-Scouts, there were no significant increases, and in some cases (e.g., religious reverence) there was an observed decrease, which was quite striking."
In addition, the study found a direct correlation between the amount of time boys spent in Scouting and the positive impact realized—those who spent more years in the program reported higher character attributes. Scouts who were more engaged also reported higher character attributes. And those who attended regular meetings reported higher character attributes compared to those with lower attendance.
"Each and every day we get to see the positive influence Scouting makes in young people's lives," said Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. "And while we weren't surprised by the study's results, it is great to be able to quantify the impact of the program and show parents the value of participation."
With Scouting's focus on providing prosocial experiences, young people are able to build a foundation of positive character attributes that allow them to embrace opportunity, overcome obstacles, and be better prepared for life. You can learn more about the study at http://www.tuftscampstudy.com/.