Extra-curricular activity participation, connectedness to school and cigarette and alcohol use : how the relationships work

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences,


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Donna Cross


The Extra-curricular Project (ECP) was a group randomised control trial which sought to explore the impact of extra-curricular activity (ECA) participation on health and educational outcomes for secondary students attending 18 Government and non- Government schools in Perth, Western Australia. This naturalistic observation study (2004-2006) monitored students‟ participation in ECA provided by their school, perceived connectedness to school, teachers and peers and cigarette and alcohol consumption. In this study, ECA are defined as activities students choose to do (not compulsory), are fun and are not part of normal classroom work. The four main types of extra-curricular activities in this study are: sport, recreation, the arts, and other.

The main aim of this doctoral study was to test if a reduction in smoking and alcohol use occurred amongst students who participated in ECA compared to non-participants. Three sub-studies were conducted to explore the research concepts. First, student and school-level characteristics associated with students‟ ECA participation in Year 8 were explored. Second, the contribution of connectedness to teachers and peer support to students‟ perceived connectedness to school in Year 8 was investigated. Third, the longitudinal relationship between ECA participation in Years 8 and 9 and perceived connectedness to school in Year 10 was examined.

Much research in the field of ECA has been cross-sectional in study design, limiting the investigation of causal relationships between key variables. This study sought to address this gap by examining the impact of ECA participation in Years 8 and 9 on students‟ perceived connectedness to school in Year 10. Consistency of students‟ ECA participation across Years 8 and 9 positively influenced students‟ later connectedness to school. Hence, participation in both Years 8 and 9 (consistent participation), not only in Year 8, yields beneficial outcomes for students in relation to their perceived connectedness to school.

The three sub-studies contributed to the overarching research question exploring the relationship between ECA participation and cigarette and alcohol use, and the role of connectedness to school as a mediator in this relationship. Students who reported a higher perceived level of connectedness to school were less likely to report recent or lifetime cigarette use and recent or recent hazardous alcohol use in Year 10. Moreover, mediation analyses identified that while consistent participation in ECA was not in and of itself protective of recent cigarette smoking, if through consistent ECA participation students‟ perceived connectedness to school was enhanced, this was protective of students‟ reported recent cigarette use in Year 10.

These findings suggest much can be done to reduce adolescents‟ risk of cigarette and alcohol use. First students should be assisted to develop a strong connectedness to their school to reduce their likelihood of cigarette and alcohol use. ECA participation is one way to enhance students‟ connectedness to school, but every opportunity to do so should be explored. In addition, the modification of ECA programs in Western Australian schools to encourage continued participation in multiple activities is likely to enhance students‟ connectedness to school and thus reduce the likelihood of cigarette and alcohol use.

LCSH Subject Headings

Student activities - Western Australia

Smoking - study and teaching (Secondary) - Western Australia

Youth - Tobacco use - Western Australia

Youth - Alcohol use - High school students

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