Bibliographies of Camp-related Research

Bibliographies of Camp-related Research

Evaluating Summer Camps 1979: 
Problems of Measuring Behavior Change in Children

Gerrard, J., & Heins, T.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 15.2 (1981) 131-137

Evaluate whether summer camp programs have any influence on problem behaviors and social development. Also, examine tools used for evaluation and assessment of child psychiatric treatment programs.

One week summer camps run by the Department of Psychiatry, Adelaide Children's Hospital. Two camps included in study, 8 children each camp, one camp serves children ages 7-10, one camp serves children ages 10-13. Children are being seen in the department of Neurology, Social Work or Psychiatry and frequently all three. Most come from economically disadvantaged households. Three children were deleted from the study.

Target complaints measured by goal attainment scaling, Conner's Parents Symptom Questionnaire, adapted and titled Adelaide Parent Questionnaire, Vineland Maturity Scale, Adaptive Behavior Scale - Socialization, Sub-scale, Adaptive Behavior Scale - Antisocial Behavior Sub-scale, Adaptive Behavior Scale - Violent and Destructive Behavior Sub-scale, Adaptive Behavior Scale - Responsibility Sub-scale.

Note: The camp program under study was not designed to promote behavioral change in the campers.

  • Influence of the Summer Camp Experience:
    • Inconclusive changes in severity of behavior problems.
    • No significant changes in the number and severity of symptoms indicative of child psychiatric disorders.
    • No statistical significance on the Adaptive Behavior Scale - Socialization Sub-scale. No change on the Responsibility Sub-scale or Vineland Social Maturity Scale. Thereby, no indication that the camp experience increases peer group participation or enhances development of social values.
    • No statistical significance of improved control of aggression.
  • Evaluation Tools Assessment:
    • Scales of ranked adjectives for target complaints are easier to prepare and administer and have good agreement between raters as compared to goal attainment scaling.
    • Symptom checklists are not reactive measures of change in behavior.
    • Staff and parent behavior ratings in poor agreement.
    • Recommendations: Cost effective measures of behavior change include target complaints by therapists and parents, and social adjustment measures by teachers and parents. Symptom checklists to obtain population norm comparisons, not to measure behavior change.