Connect with us
  • Elysium

Neuropsychology

Arts and culture ‘can reduce anti-social behaviour’

The positive impact of taking part in such activities can last for up to two years, research reveals

Published

on

Teenagers who take part in arts and cultural activities are less likely to engage in anti-social and criminal behaviour for up to two years later, new research has revealed. 

Researchers looked at data from more than 25,000 teenagers in the United States who had filled out questionnaires over several years.

They measured the teenagers’ overall engagement with arts activities based on a wide range of factors, from involvement in school clubs, orchestras, choirs, and arts classes outside school, to whether they had visited museums or been to concerts, or read on their own.

The team, from UCL and the University of Florida, found that the more of these activities the teenagers were involved in, the less likely they were to report being engaged in anti-social behaviour – ranging from misbehaving at school, to getting into fights, to criminalised behaviour such as stealing and selling drugs – both at the time of the first survey and when they were asked again about anti-social behaviour one and two years later.

The team also found that teenagers and young people who were more engaged in the arts were likely to have better self-control scores and view anti-social behaviour negatively. These outcomes have previously been found to make young people less likely to engage in anti-social and criminalised behaviours.

Senior author Dr Daisy Fancourt, of UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, said: “Past research has shown that getting involved in the arts can have a big impact on teenagers’ mental health and wellbeing.

Our study adds to evidence about the wide-ranging benefits that arts and culture can have for young people, demonstrating a positive link between the arts and a lower prevalence of anti-social behaviour.

“Notably these findings remained, even when taking into account factors such as children’s age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, their parents’ educational background, where they lived, and their previous patterns of antisocial behaviours.”

Lead author Dr Jess Bone, also of UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, said: “Our definition of arts and cultural engagement was very broad. It included dancing and acting in school clubs, reading, going to cinemas, museums, concerts, and music classes, as well as other hobbies that teenagers took part in regularly.

“Finding ways to reduce antisocial behaviour among teenagers is important because these behaviours may become established and continue into adulthood, affecting someone’s whole life.

“Our findings demonstrate the importance of making arts and cultural activities available for all young people, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has limited access to and funding for these resources.”

Researchers looked at data from two US-based longitudinal studies, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, whose participants were nationally representative. 

The research team analysed questionnaires filled in by teenagers and their parents between 1988 and 2002. The average age of participants at the start of these studies was 14 to 15 years.

In one of the cohorts, about half of adolescents reported engaging in anti-social and criminalised behaviours in the last 12 months. The average number of times participants engaged in these behaviours over the year was 1.6.

Although the researchers found that arts engagement was linked to fewer positive perceptions of anti-social behaviour and better self-control scores, they could not conclude that these factors were causally responsible for the association between arts engagement and antisocial behaviour as the study was observational.

Nonetheless, in considering mechanisms through which the arts could reduce antisocial behaviour, the researchers cited previous studies showing improvements from arts engagement including increased empathy, more prosocial behaviour, reduced boredom and improved self-esteem, as well as better emotion regulation.

Newsletter

Sign up for the NR Times newsletter
I would like to receive by email other offers, promotions and services from Aspect Publishing Ltd and its group companies.*

Trending