What Does Camp Do for Kids? Appendix P

"Consensus that camping is good for the individual appears to have contributed to the scarcity of research in this area" (Dickerson, 1973, p. 21). While more studies have been done on the influences of a camp experience since the early 1970's, the amount of research that exists today is not overwhelming. Yet, camping effects over 10% of America's school aged youth (Marsh, 1998). In the face of questions about the best ways for society to address youth development needs, a better understanding of the knowledge about the influences of camping seems prudent. This study was conceived as a starting point for the synthesis of the existing knowledge on the influences of an organized camping experience on youth development, as seen through changes in an individual's evaluation of some aspect of the self.

The development needs of youth have become more defined in the past several decades. The approach to meeting these development needs has evolved in concert with society (Cole & Cole, 1996; Meese, 1997). The evolution of the public education system is a pertinent example. Intuitively, through discussion with many camping professionals, there is some influence by an organized camping experience on youth development. The goal of this study was to compare and combine the cumulative research results that could be located on the influence of an organized camping experience on an individual's constructs of self. This meta-analysis examines the experimental, quasi-experimental, and pre-experimental research that has been done on this aspect of the influence of a camp experience.

A demonstrated contribution to the self through an organized camping experience can allow camp directors to articulate at least one of the benefits that the experience offers to youth. The demonstrated benefit could then be used in a foundation that would increase organized camping's participation in developing youth at the community level. This study first establishes the research question with an introduction, including definitions. A literature review of knowledge on the research question and the methodology, developed before conducting the research, is also presented. In support of the generalized hypothesis and for the purpose of control, this chapter will provide a statement of the problem, a purpose for the study, the research questions, delimitations, limitations, assumptions, a formal hypothesis, and a list of definitions.

Statement of the Problem
The problem lies in determining the state of knowledge on the influence of the organized camping experience on the self constructs of youth. In order to determine this influence, a random effects model of meta-analysis was employed. Use of this meta-analytical technique allowed for the comparison and combination of all existing research results that could be located on the influence of camping.

Purpose of the Study
There are a number of studies which indicate contributions of organized camping experiences to youth development (Chenery, 1981; Cowin, 1989; Search Institute, 1996). The purpose of this study was to synthesize as much of the prior research, as possible, into a practical form. This synthesis will allow the camping professional to better articulate the influences of an organized camping experience on the development of self constructs in youth.

Further defining the influence, or outcome, will enable the camping profession to demonstrate that camp can play a significant role in the development of youth. Thus, occupying a role as part of a community wide effort to address societal concerns and youth development needs (Cox, 1990). The Literature Review in Chapter 2 explores the links between current social needs, with regard to youth development, and the opportunity for communities to address those needs by taking an approach that utilizes all of the resources available, including the organized camping experience.

Research Question
An exploratory bibliography of approximately 50 studies was created in the initial stages of evaluating the feasibility of conducting a meta-analysis. This list of studies suggested the existence of a sufficient number of similar studies which would produce valid conclusions with regard to the primary research question, which asks:

  • What is the influence of the organized camping experience on the self constructs of youth, as measured primarily through self-esteem or self-concept?

The synthesis and generalizability that are inherent in meta-analysis suggested a secondary research question:

  • What additional research avenues, related to the primary research question, can be identified from the findings of this analysis?

Delimitations
The study was delimited to the following:

  1. Youth who took part in studies designed to measure the effects of the organized camping experience on the individual's self constructs; primarily, but not limited to, self-esteem or self-concept. See the section entitled Measuring Development in Chapter 2 for discussion that supports this delimitation.
     

  2. Initial selection criteria provided for an age range of nine to sixteen years for subjects of studies. This criteria was eliminated after the coding process was completed on all studies. Discussion of this decision is presented in the section on Data Analysis in Chapter 4. The final ages of the sample ranged from six to twenty years old.
     

  3. The subjects participated in studies that took place during an organized camping experience of at least one week in duration, between 1970 and 1997. One week was chosen as the minimum amount of time for an influence: based on the operational definition for a week of camp as being from 5 to 8 days in length. The one week minimum reflects the definition of camping presented later in this chapter, as that of an experience of sustained length. The one week minimum also reflects the need for sufficient time for an influence on the self to occur, as discussed in the section on Measuring Development in Chapter 2.
     
    Delimiting the time period over which the primary studies were conducted, as being since 1970 can be considered broad enough to cover the current interpretations of the definitions of the constructs of self-esteem and self-concept (Curry & Johnson, 1990; Ellis & Davis, 1982). This delimitation also provides support for the limiting of instrumentation bias with regard to consistent definition of a construct label (Cooper & Hedges, 1994; Hedges & Olkin, 1985; Hunt, 1997; Hunter, Schmidt & Jackson, 1982; Light & Pilmer, 1984; Wachter & Straf, 1990).
     

  4. Information was analyzed using a meta-analysis of the effect sizes available from the experimental, pre-experimental, and quasi-experimental studies that were included based on the criteria presented fully in Chapter 3. The primary criteria for a study's inclusion was the adequate methodology of that study's evaluation of the influence of the organized camping experience on a self construct of youth.

 

Limitations
The meta-analysis was limited by the following factors:

  1. The studies utilized in the meta-analysis cover a broad range of treatments. This scope had the potential to result in an incompatible comparison of some studies across all other studies. Various statistical approaches, as noted in Chapter 3, were used to correct for this incompatibility. These potential influences were also identified and addressed as part of the discussion on data analysis in Chapter 4.
     

  2. Despite exhaustive rigor, it was not possible or feasible to locate all studies that address the research question, particularly those that are unpublished. This "file-drawer" effect can be evaluated for potential influence on the internal validity of the population distribution (Cooper & Hedges, 1994; Hunt, 1997; Light & Pilmer, 1984). Control is accomplished by calculating the number of findings of non-significance that would be required in order to diminish the significance of the findings of the meta-analysis.
     

  3. Every effort was made to conduct a comprehensive data extraction from each study in order to be able to include that study in the comparative and combination analyses. The nature of research reporting made it impossible to record all coding items from all studies. Exceptions in coding are noted in the data analysis presented in Chapter 4. A meta-analysis is limited by the content of the studies that it includes (Cooper & Hedges, 1994).
     

  4. Development needs of early-adolescents were not clearly defined until the
    1980's. Development needs of children were defined in the late 1990's. Some earlier studies may not address the possible spectrum of the development needs issue, as it was known at the time of this study.

Assumptions
The following assumptions were made in order to complete this study:

  1. The synthesis was driven by the content of the primary studies reviewed and included. Outside of statistical rigor and interpretive insight, the researcher had no control over any factors in the primary studies included in the meta-analysis.
     

  2. Studies analyzed were all conducted with the goal of measuring the influence of the organized camping experience on the development of some aspect of each subject's constructs of self.
     

  3. It would not be possible to locate all published and unpublished studies which address the research question.
     

  4. The age range of nine to sixteen was used as an initial selection criteria. The expectation was that the population of studies identified would likely expand the age range, necessitating sub-categorization of ages within and around the nine to sixteen year parameter.

Null Hypothesis
Intuitive interpretation of empirical and qualitative data suggests that there is a positive influence on self constructs of youth when youth are exposed to the experience of an organized camping program. The null hypothesis, then, is that there is no influence on the self constructs of children and adolescents resulting from an organized camping experience.

Definition of Terms
The following is a list of operational definitions, offered to provide clarity in understanding the content and parameters of this study:

Adolescence. A stage of human development that lasts from the onset of puberty until sometime in the mid-twenties, approximately ages ten to twenty-two. (Hall, 1904, in Meece, 1997).
Children. A development stage occurring before the onset of adolescence: the approximate age range of six to ten years old (Meece, 1997).
Contribute. To help bring about a result; act as a factor (American Heritage, 1992).
Development or Development Needs. Those internal and external factors which influence an individual's interpretations and perceptions of life experiences, and which are recognized as making a contribution to the individual's self constructs (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965; Dorman, 1985; Search Institute, 1996).
Effect Size. In principal, the effect size is the difference, on a measure of the dependent variable, between a control and an experimental group, divided by the group's standard deviation (McMillan & Schumacher, 1997).
Enhanced. To make greater, as in value, beauty, or reputation; to augment (American Heritage, 1992).
Experimental Design. A research design containing all of the following components: 1) statistical equivalence, 2) at least 2 groups; at least one experimental group and a control group, 3) manipulation of an independent variable(s), 4) measurement of a dependent variable(s), 5) inferential statistics, 6) control of extraneous influences (McMillan, & Schumacher, 1997).
Influence. The power or capacity to produce a desired result, effect, efficiency, effectiveness, efficacy, potency (American Heritage, 1992).
Meta-Analysis: critically reviews and statistically combines the results of previous research (Sacks, et al. , 1987).
Organized Camping, Camp, or Camping. A day or resident camp program, which meets the definition of camping as put forth by the American Camping Association (1997): "a sustained experience which provides a creative, educational opportunity in group living in the outdoors. It utilizes trained leadership and the resources of the natural surroundings to contribute to each camper's mental, physical, social and spiritual growth" (p. 1). Traditionally thought of as summer camp, this experience exists in a number of different programs that are offered by camps on a year-round basis (Marsh, 1998).
Pre-experimental design. An experimental research design that is missing 2 or more components outlined in the definition of experimental design (McMillan, & Schumacher, 1997). Operationally, a pre-experimental design is both not statistically equivalent and has only one group, all other components are present.
Quasi-experimental design. An experimental research design that contains five of the six components outlined in the definition of experimental design. Either there is no statistical equivalence or no control group (McMillan, & Schumacher, 1997).
Random Effect. A statistical term, commonly called the between studies variance, that is attributable to the varying characteristics across studies of both the subjects in the samples and the parameters associated with each study's effect size (Cooper & Hedges, 1994).
Self or Self-hood. The self is constructed. Self is not directly known, but is a body of knowledge and beliefs built through experience and comparison with others. The accumulation of this set of beliefs is, in essence, the construction of the self (Baumeister, 1998).
Self-Concept. What we know or perceive about ourselves (Curry & Johnson, 1990), also termed self-knowledge (Baumeister, 1998).
Self-Esteem. An evaluation of the self-concept (Curry & Johnson, 1990). A value judgement based on self-knowledge (Baumeister, 1998).
Youth. Operationally defined to include both children and adolescents as defined above, covering an age range from six to twenty years old.

 

Tags: