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Research Project

Rsearch Project Overview

Despite the prevalence of first-year 4-H member dropout across the nation, there is limited research focused on understanding the specific experiences of first-year youth and families in the 4-H program that contribute to dropping out.

The 4-H Youth Retention Study focuses on first-year experiences in 4-H from the perspective of youths and parents/guardians (adults). This multi-state research study surveys first-year 4-H members and parents (adults) to better understand their experiences in the 4-H program. Results indicate areas that are working well in addition to areas for improvement such as organization and communication. Survey results are used to create resources for families in an effort to retain members in 4-H.

Participants were asked why they enrolled themselves (or their child) in 4-H, their overall experience, what they liked best, and what they would change. Though results showed an overall positive experience, participants provided rich data on improvements that could be made in the local programs. 

Data was collected online using a Qualtrics survey. Emails are sent to first-year families in the study states during summer. Youth and parents/guardians (adults) were asked similar questions, only changing semantics for understanding. Participants reported on experiences about their (their child’s) first year in 4-H.

Specifically, survey participants responded to questions including:

  • Why they (their child) joined 4-H
  • How they heard about 4-H
  • Expectations of the program (open-ended)
  • Whether they (their child) would join 4-H again
  • If they had other siblings (children) in 4-H
  • If their parents (they) had been in 4-H as a child
  • What was the best part of their (their child's) experience (open-ended)
  • What would they change about 4-H (open-ended)

In addition, adults completed a 10-item experience scale, designed to map onto indicators of youth thriving (i.e. “The adults who worked with me [my child] were caring”, “I [my child] felt supported in my [their] project work”, and “I [my child] had the opportunity to serve others in my [their] community”). Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was .93, indicating high reliability (Santos & Clegg, 1999).

Demographics of the youth member was collected (age, gender, race, ethnicity, projects in which they were enrolled, state, county, and club name).