Team to begin research on effects of being a Boy Scout

By Madison Ferril

Scouts’ honor, merit badges and camping trips come to mind when one thinks of the Boy Scouts. At more than 100 years old, this organization is still a prominent part of American society.

In September, Dr. Byron Johnson and a team of researchers from Tufts will begin researching the effects of this organization on the health, character, and performance of boys who participate in this program.

Johnson, director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, said little research has been done on the Boy Scouts even though the organization is more than 100 years old.

“We’re hoping to eliminate that shortcoming,” Johnson said. “We hope that the Boy Scouts can use this research to improve their program.”

Johnson said forming research partnerships with other universities will help improve Baylor’s reputation as a research school.

“Baylor is trying to become a Research 1 university,” Johnson said. “This partnership with Tufts is good for Baylor.”

Research 1 was a term used by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to refer to universities that make research a top priority, award at least 50 doctoral degrees per year and receive $40 million or more in federal support. The foundation restructured the criteria and removed the federal funding requirement so the term is no longer used. However, it is still used by many universities to indicate colleges with high levels of research activity.

According to a press release by Baylor Media Communications, the study will survey scout troops in the Philadelphia area. Johnson said the study will survey over 3,000 boys among three different groups starting at the age of 8.

These three groups will consist of boys who do not participate in Cub Scouts, boys who participate in packs without full-time executives and boys who participate in Cub Scout packs with full-time executives.

Cub Scout packs with full-time executives have people who are hired full-time to operate the pack, as opposed to the regular volunteer model of running Cub Scout packs. Some Boy Scout groups already have full-time executives.

Johnson said the study will try to determine if the presence of a full-time executive makes a significant difference in the program quality.

“We could find no difference,” Johnson said. “But I don’t think that’s likely.”

Johnson said the Boy Scouts have seen a decline in membership over the years.

“It’s a trend people have found disturbing,” Johnson said.

Dr. Young Il-Kim, post-doctoral fellow, said it is important to look at the Boy Scouts because of their role in society.

“It’s crucial to look at this organization and its role in youth development,” Kim said.

Kim said he studies the effect of schools, churches and other civic organizations on youth.

“Boy Scouts is one of the biggest international organizations and we need to look at its impact because it hasn’t been researched,” Kim said.

Johnson and Kim, along with Dr. Sung Joon Jang, previously performed research on Eagle Scouts and how they affect society. According to this research, published as “Eagle Scouts: Merit Beyond the Badge”, Eagle Scouts are more likely to participate in activities, become involved in their communities and churches and more likely to achieve goals they’ve set.

Johnson said he will work with the researchers from Tufts on multiple projects and he hopes the study will be extended for three more years after this study ends. The group must receive more funding in order to continue the study.

“Several studies will multiply the impact,” Johnson said. “Every year the study gets extended it yields more data for more studies.”

Johnson said long-term studies like this are becoming more rare because these types of studies require a lot of data and money. The research team will use the data to perform multiple studies and publish papers.

“It’s very special Baylor gets to be a part of this,” Johnson said. “It has the potential to be a classic in the field.”

The John Templeton Foundation provided a grant for the research and will fund the Boy Scout research as well.

According to their website, the John Templeton Foundation provides grants for research in the sciences, character development, and genetics.