Collaboration in the Human Sciences

Organized leisure activities in early childhood and social inequalities in cognitive and non-cognitive skills

This study investigates to which extent participation in organized leisure during preschool explains differences in cognitive and non-cognitive skills between children from varying social backgrounds. According to Lareau’s concept of concerted cultivation, enrolling children in organized leisure activities is one strategy of middle-class families to secure their children’s advantages in school. While many studies have focused on the impact of participation in organized leisure activities during school years, very few studies have investigated if organized leisure activities during preschool benefit skill development. Furthermore, research on the relationship between organized leisure activities and the development of non-cognitive skills is limited. Our study fills these gaps and thereby enriches our understanding of how inequalities in skills are generated already at early ages. We draw on longitudinal data of 342 children aged 5 to 7 years in the Starting Cohort 2 of the German National Educational Panel Study. Applying lagged dependent variable modeling, we show that enrollment in music lessons is related to higher math competencies, whereas enrollment in sports is not. Moreover, we do find that enrollment in organized leisure activities is not related to non-cognitive skills (e.g., social skills). Our study highlights that taking music lessons at a young age can help children to have a head start at school with regard to math competencies. However, organized leisure participation does not explain social class differences in social skills.


  • Nicole Tieben - ---
  • Pia Schober - ---
  • Karoline Mikus -

2 thoughts on Organized leisure activities in early childhood and social inequalities in cognitive and non-cognitive skills

  • I really enjoyed reading this poster; the research you conducted is on a very interesting topic. In Greece organized leisure activities are a big thing, almost all parents are eager to involve their children in such activities, but I have never run into any concrete evidence that this has any positive impact on their skills (and which ones) and school performance (in which subjects and why). I was also intrigued by the fact that you only found a correlation with math scores and not scores in other subjects. Do you have any publications on this work? If yes, please post a link underneath. Cheers and good luck in your further work!

  • This is very interesting work and your poster is very well done. I, too, would be interested in reading any publications related to this work. I’m also curious what ideas you have for expanding upon this work. I think it would be very interesting to see what results would look like in other countries. It may also be interesting to follow up with some qualitative data, particularly to investigate “academic resilience”.

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