Tufts study confirms: Scouting builds character in 6 areas

You and I know Scouting builds character in young people. Now we have the scientific evidence to prove it.

In a groundbreaking two-and-a-half year study, Dr. Richard M. Lerner and his team at Tufts University surveyed nearly 1,800 Cub Scouts and 400 non-Scouts in the Philadelphia area to analyze the effects of Scouting.

What did they find?

As first reported on Scouting Wire, the study proved boys in Cub Scouts became significantly more cheerful, helpful, kind, obedient, trustworthy and hopeful about their future than non-Scouts. (Recognize any of those attributes from the Scout Law?)

How they did it

The Scouts and non-Scouts were surveyed at five separate times during the two and a half years.

In the first survey, conducted right after the start of the study, researchers found no significant difference between Scouts and non-Scouts. If the Scouts had entered the program with unusually high character attributes, one could argue that Scouting merely attracts better young people instead of helping make them.

Instead, researchers were confident their study began with both groups on equal footing.

In the next few surveys, things got interesting.

  • Gains were made in those six critical areas I mentioned above: cheerfulness, kindness, hopeful future expectations, trustworthiness, helpfulness, obedience
  • Scouts were more likely than non-Scouts to embrace positive social values. Ask a Scout what’s most important to him, and he was more likely to respond with answers like “helping others” or “doing the right thing.” Ask a non-Scout the same thing, and he was likely to say “being smart,” “being the best” or “playing sports.”
  • There were even variations within Scouting. For example, Scouts who attended meetings regularly reported higher character attributes than those who attended infrequently. In a nod to the importance of tenure, Scouts who stayed in the program longer reported higher character attributes.

These findings are spectacular. We should shout them from mountaintops and approach strangers on the streets to say: “Did you hear? Now we have proof that Scouting builds character!”

No nearby mountaintops? Here are some other ideas.

Resources to enjoy and share

Start with the resources below that help you share this research with fellow volunteers. Within the Scouting family, the research is a nice reminder that the “one hour a week” (or, in most cases, more) that you devote to Scouting really does make a difference.

Next, use these tools to recruit new families to your pack, troop, team, post, ship or crew. When they ask “Why Scouting?” you can show them this.

You can view this information in one of three ways: an infographic, a slide show and a 27-minute lecture by the study’s main author. This gives you plenty of options from which to choose when addressing various groups.

The infographic

See the infographic below (click to enlarge) or download it at this PDF.


The presentation slides

The BSA has summarized this groundbreaking research into a visually compelling slide show. See the slides below and download your own copy to share with others via the PDF at this link.

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The full presentation

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.