New Study: Scouting increases happiness, gives youth solid base for future

In September, the University of Tartu recently released the results of a study that measured how the activities of the Estonian Scout Association influence youth development. The survey, now out in English, found that Scouts and their parents credit Scouting for helping to develop skill sets that align with the current approach to youth development needs and are needed on the future job market: social intelligence, cross-cultural competency, creativity, adaptive ability, cognitive load management and a design mindset. Scouting was found to have a positive influence on self-development, self-efficacy and acquisition of knowledge and skills needed later in life.

As such, the more than century-old Scouting movement appears to be well aligned with the latest views of youth development principles, the Tartu researchers concluded in the study report.

The leader of the research team, University of Tartu Associate Professor of General Sociology Kairi Kasearu, said the new research on youths and adults involved in Scouting provides a valuable contribution to the field. She noted that Scouting was based on longstanding traditions and conveys basic values, which, she said, support youth development and growth in information society and an environment undergoing constant rapid change. Based on the views and perceptions of the research subjects, Scouting was perceived to have a positive influence on the development of young people’s personalities and acquisition of social and practical skills, said Kasearu.

According to Reelika Ojakivi, head of the Youth Affairs Department at the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, youth organizations have an important role in getting young people involved in decision-making and empowering youth as active citizens. “What is particularly gratifying about the findings is that youths’ perception of the influence of being a Scout aligns with that of their parents – Scouting develops skills that are beneficial in future, and makes young people more self-confident and happier,” said Ojakivi. “The likelihood that these youths will help in advancing life at the local level is high.”

The question that led to the research was whether the Scouting organization’s methodological approach also fulfils its goal in practice. Kristjan Pomm, the Estonian Scout Association-side study coordinator and a former Chief Scout of Estonian Scout Association, said the findings confirmed that the influence of Scouting on youth development was positive across the board.

“Youth organizations that are able to offer young people extracurricular activities with goals that are educational in the broadest sense and are led by adult supervisors are optimally poised to create positive change in the young person’s development," said Kristjan Pomm. “We learned that Scouting shapes an active attitude to life, promotes and intensifies the formation and stability of social ties, in some cases leading to lifelong friendships and social support networks. Also important is the fact that participation in Scouting develops cooperation and functional interaction with others, encourages contribution to various community activities, broadens the understanding of the world and opens up possibilities for finding one’s place and realizing one’s potential in future.

“All told, these are the results that should encourage and recognize all Scout leaders who organize such programmes for youth and also confirm that the century-old, more than 50-million-strong movement remains relevant and up to date in Estonia today,” said Kristjan Pomm.

The Estonian Scout Association is the first youth organization in Estonia whose influence on youth development has been evaluated by researchers. Methodologies used for studies conducted for the same purpose in the United Kingdom and by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement were useful in planning the Estonian study.