- Get Involved
- Education & Events
- Publications & Research
- About ACA
What Does Camp Do for Kids? Reference List
There are studies which indicate influences of camping experience on youth development (Chenery, 1981; Cowin, 1989; Search Institute, 1996). The purpose of this study is to synthesize as much of the prior research as possible into a practical form, using the random effects methodology of meta-analysis. General agreement about the most effective way to measure the self, demonstrated herein, is through an individual's own evaluation of self-esteem or self-concept. This meta-analysis will allow organized camping professionals to articulate an influence that is made on youth development needs as a result of participation in an organized camping experience.
The review of literature for this study included the fields of child development, education, social psychology, organized camping, and meta-analysis. This broad review gives perspective and allows for definition of the research question. The chapter reviews the related literature that will define development and adolescence, explore the measurement of development and the self, examine development and social needs, recognize the development needs of adolescents and children, and address the relevance of organized camping as an effective avenue to meet the identified needs. In conclusion, a summary will be used to highlight the relevant points from the review and introduce the study's Methodology in Chapter 3.
Defining Development and Adolescence
The 1991 report of the National Commission on Children (in Whiting, 1993) defined development as "...more than physical growth. It is the process through which children mature socially, emotionally, intellectually, and morally: they learn right from wrong and they acquire critical knowledge and skills" (p. 8). Scholars generally agree with this definition, while at the same time recognizing many different theories of how development occurs (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996; Selman & Yando, 1980; Sroufe, Egeland & Kreutzer, 1990). The important points recognized by these authors are, that differentiation must be made between change and development, often called growth, and that growth is an individual process and cannot be confined to specific time lines.
Stages of development can, however, be recognized through approximate age ranges and through recognizable physical and emotional growth phases (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965). Hall (1904, in Ellis & Davis, 1982; Meece, 1997) is recognized as the first to describe the development stage known as adolescence. Hall defined adolescence as a stage that lasts from the onset of puberty until sometime in the mid-twenties. Recognition of differing rates of growth which begin at different times for each individual (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965; Cole & Cole, 1996; Dorman, 1985; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996; Selman & Yando, 1980) supports the notion that the adolescent development stage is chronologically broad. Adolescence represents both the physical change of puberty and cognitive change. Cognitive change occurs in the form of the adolescent recognizing the difference between the possible and the real, or the understanding of self-identity versus role expectations (Ellis & Davis, 1982; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996; Meece, 1997).
Historically, it is important to note that the concept of the child and development stages has evolved significantly in the last 150 years. In colonial times children were viewed as "miniature adults", and went to work around age 7. By the time these children started puberty they knew how to farm and raise children. Children of wealthier parents had the equivalent of a college education by the age of 18 (Meece, 1997). This evolution has important social and research implications.
The evolution of research has facilitated the ability to measure child and adolescent development. Scholars agree that the most effective way to do this is rooted in the perspective of the individual; using the tools of self-concept and self-esteem (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965; Cole & Cole, 1996; Curry & Johnson, 1990; Ellis & Davis, 1982; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996). The constructs of self-esteem and self-concept are both general and frequently interchanged (Baumeister, 1998; Harter, 1990). Broadly, self-concept is defined as what we know or perceive about ourselves, while self-esteem is an evaluation of that concept (Chenery, 1981; Cole & Cole, 1996; Curry & Johnson, 1990; Ellis & Davis, 1982; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996; Meece, 1997).
The original definition and use of the self-concept and self-esteem brought criticism for vagary and ambiguity (Curry & Johnson, 1990; Ellis & Davis, 1982). Measures have since evolved so that more recent evaluations of self are more multi-dimensional: how the self is experienced, not just the reflection of how others see the self (Baumeister, 1998; Curry & Johnson, 1990; Ellis & Davis, 1982). Researchers agree that evaluation of the self should be made from a global perspective, one which recognizes the complexity and the multiple constructs that interact to establish the self (Baumeister, 1998; Harter, 1990; Scales & Leffert, 1999). A partial list of the multiple constructs that compose the self, representing the constructs included in this study, can be found in Appendix A.
In The Handbook of Social Psychology, (Baumeister, 1998), summarizes the "three roots of self-hood" as being reflexive consciousness, interpersonal aspect, and executive function. Reflexive consciousness is the "turning of consciousness back toward it's source and gradually constructing a concept of oneself" (p. 680). Self-esteem and self-concept are aspects of the reflexive consciousness of the constructed self. Interpersonal aspect reflects the fact that the self is not just a consequence of social relationship, but an active participant that internalizes and reacts to what is experienced from interpersonal interactions (Baumeister, 1998). The executive function of the self is a "mechanism that initiates, alters, and directs behavior" (p. 724). Efficacy is an example of an executive function construct. At present the cognitive aspects of self are best understood, and the relationships between cognitions and interpersonal or executive roots of self are just beginning to be understood (Baumeister, 1998).
The influence of Puritanism on Americans has created the cultural notion that the individual has the right and moral duty to achieve an understanding of self. This value of self has added new dimensions to the way people understand the social and cultural interactions in their lives (Baumeister, 1998). Furthermore, the modern Western individual is faced with the negotiation and renegotiation of self much more often than in the past. This change means that the individual of today is faced with a wide spectrum of approaches to defining the self, a freedom that brings difficulty in choices and a need to better understand one's personal traits in order to make appropriate life choices (Baumeister, 1998).
The subsequent renegotiations of self provide a development challenge to the individual. The challenge is greatest for adolescence, a stage of development that ends with the formation of the adult identity (Erikson, 1968, in Baumeister, 1998). These changes and challenges affecting self are coupled with social issues that create unique cultural influences on the self.
The Self and Development
The elevation of self perceptions is culturally desirable. Interest in self is most likely driven by the culture's optimism that understanding the self will bring answers to life's questions and solutions to problems (Baumeister, 1998). A more practical perspective is that a positive perception of self is important to adaptive functioning and everyday happiness (Baumeister, 1998; Harter, 1990; Scales & Leffert, 1999).
Self-esteem is considered important to healthy development (Leffert, et.al, 1996). A high level of self-concept has been associated with positive development outcomes (Baumeister, 1998; Scales & Leffert, 1999). A review of studies by the Search Institute (Scales & Leffert, 1999) show these outcomes to include increases in:
positive emotional tone and relationships with peers and parents,
satisfaction with life,
responsible attitude toward sexual behaviors, and
positive adjustment during the junior high school transition.
A decrease in susceptibility to peer pressure was also recognized as a positive development outcome. This last outcome is related to the protective role that researchers have identified for a positive self image. The protective role insulates the individual from adopting negative behaviors and allows one to maintain stability of personal identity in the face of changes in the social and cultural environment (Baumeister, 1998; Scales & Leffert, 1999).
Self-concept and self-esteem are generally thought to be relatively stable, particularly in the short term (Baumeister, 1998; Scales & Leffert, 1999). Changes in self are generally positive over the period of late childhood and adolescence (Baumeister, 1998; Harter, 1990; Scales & Leffert, 1999). Several bodies of research indicate a minor decrease in self image across adolescents in the 6th to 10th grades (Scales & Leffert, 1999), the period of transition between social and cultural environments in junior and senior high school.
Development and Social Needs
Historically, the implications of the evolution of the concept of child are related to social need. The "value" of children has decreased (Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996). Previously important economic or familial contributions by the child have been replaced with the need to support the child as a non-contributing member of the household. This evolution, driven by economic, education and socialization issues, also reflects the difference in the definition of the child across societies (Curry & Johnson, 1990; Hughes, Noppe & Noppe, 1996; Meece, 1997). Other societal changes are also effecting early-adolescent development.
These changes begin in the home and extend to the community. First men, and more recently women, left the home for the entire day in order to go to work. Few homes have more than two generations living in them. Now, communities are more transient and therefore less stable, with fewer people willing to share in the task of raising the young. Additionally, mass formalized schooling was initiated less than 100 years ago and has grown into the primary institution for the development and care of the young. Day care and other organizations, some with little sense of ownership, share the burden of care and development with the schools (Carnegie Council, 1993; Meece, 1997; Whiting, 1993).
Meanwhile, society is becoming less pleased with the results of student testing and more concerned with what lessons children are learning when not in school Trotter (1990) summarizes the state of education and social problems related to it. The realities of the education system in 1990 were declining performance at all levels. Furthermore, there are social problems related to a lack of parental supervision after school and during summer vacations. Compounding this issue, extracurricular activities designed to meet societal needs are being cut due to budget considerations (Carnegie Council, 1993; Whiting, 1993). In 1999 the trend of declining performance seems to have been reversed (Clinton, 1999). However, it has become more evident that the education system has been burdened with a development task for which it was not designed. The state of youth development in 1999, according to Senator Henry Hyde (1999), is in a state of crisis. Summarizing these influences on the state of education indicates the result as being reduced effectiveness in both education and development.
Today, schools struggle to meet educational needs by looking at options of year-round schooling, or restructuring class schedules, hoping to find a solution to financial and academic performance problems (Marsh, 1998). According to Whiting (1993), even if these changes were combined with significant curriculum reform, "...[schools] alone cannot do what is needed to cope effectively with the changes in the family and community and the emergence of a more competitive world economy" (p. 18).
Adolescent Development Needs
In the face of these social and educational issues it is important to examine what are considered to be the development needs of youth. Seven (Dorman, 1985) development needs of early-adolescents (aged 10 to 15) are defined: 1) positive social interactions with peers and adults; 2) structure and clear limits; 3) physical activity; 4) creative expression; 5) competence and achievement; 6) meaningful participation in home, school, and community; and 7) self definition. These needs, when taken together, equate to the two needs that are considered to be the most pertinent needs at this juncture in U.S. History: relationships between children and adults, and how children fill their time, (Whiting, 1993). These needs, combined with Whiting's previous observation about schooling not being able to fully address both development and education needs, indicate that the responsibility for attaining these goals must be shared by the community.
Research conducted by the Search Institute (1996) identified 40 internal and external development assets that are required for adolescents (aged 12 to 18) to develop in a healthy, well rounded fashion. Search institute is working to validate the asset framework for children (aged 6 to 11), the progress is promising (Leffert, Benson & Roehlkepartain, 1997). The term development assets is used to describe experiential outcomes of the youth's environment and socialization. The external development asset categories include support factors, empowerment conditions, clear boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. The internal assets are a function of the external assets. Internal development assets are categorized as a commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and a positive identity. Both types of assets, combined with modern social trends and the defined development needs, lend further recognition to the need to involve the community in the effort to provide for youth development needs.
Turner-Smith (1990) examined the benefits of adding informal learning experiences to the formal experience of schooling. The examination of the characteristics and known benefits of informal learning concludes that healthy development in young people occurs when they are exposed to both formal and informal learning experiences. These conclusions help to identify the character of organizations in the community that can team-up with schools in helping to meet the development needs of a whole child.
The extent to which an individual successfully manages the challenges associated with development phases is related to current environmental circumstances (Sroufe, Egeland, & Kreutzer, 1990; Search Institute, 1999). Yet, "...in the twentieth century adolescence has become a period of indecision, uncertainty, experimentation, and identity crisis" (Baumeister, 1998, p. 726). According to Zimmerman (1997, p. 137, in Scales & Leffert, 1999) "efforts either to prevent and stabilize decreasing self-esteem or to build self-esteem may have vital effects on other outcomes of youth" (p. 210). A supportive environment provides a better chance for the development of positive self constructs (Scales & Leffert, 1999).
Organized Camping's Ability to Address Developmental Needs
Scales (in ACA, 1997a) points to camping's ability to let children discover and explore their interests, values, and talents. "Kids who have had these kinds of [camp] experiences end up being healthier and have fewer problems that concern us all" (p. 22). Furthermore, Johnson (in ACA, 1997a) states that "At camp, children learn to problem-solve, make social adjustments to new and different people, learn responsibility, and gain new skills to increase their self-esteem" (p. 22).
The American Camping Association (ACA, 1997) defines camping as "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). Organized camping has been called on to address development issues and broader social concerns since it's inception in 1867 (Breckenridge & Vincent, 1965; Eells, 1986; Gibson, 1936).
The visionary Reynold Carlson (1975) pointed to camping as the best tool to meet some of the social needs of youth:
...the camping experience stands out as a means of bringing youth into harmony with their heritage of the outdoors, of establishing roots for young people who feel increasingly rootless, and for giving perspective beyond that obtained in the narrow confines of a crowded society. (p. 6)
Today, ACA (1997b) survey results also indicate that camp directors and parents recognize camp's four most important contributions to child development, in rank order, as being: self-confidence and self-esteem; getting along with others/teamwork; an appreciation for the outdoors/environmental concerns; and recreational skills. This recognition demonstrates clear, intuitive understanding by practitioners and parents of the contribution that camping is perceived to make to the development of youth.
According to Scales & Leffert (1999), youth need social support, the means and the resources to meet the challenges of development phases. Furthermore, development of a positive individual identity will occur if the abilities to effect outcome, feel good about one's self, and have a sense of investment are developed. Leffert, et al. (1996), cite that numerous studies have demonstrated the importance to youth of having a relationship with a supportive adult, who can be a staff member in a youth development agency. Both of these observations support the notion that the components for the positive development of self constructs can be found in the camping environment.
The strength of this support for camping's contribution to youth development is either based on extrapolation from like circumstances in similar environments, intuition from empirical observation, or on individual studies from which the data has not been synthesized to provide a conclusive summary. In fact, there is little documentation about the values of a camping experience (Eells, 1986; Leffert, et. al, 1996). This study was conceived in order to synthesize the existing research and to establish the validity of the intuited knowledge about the influences of a camping experience on the development of self constructs.
The technique of meta-analysis has evolved to the level that allows the method to be utilized to synthesize findings from a broad population of studies (Cooper & Hedges, 1994; Glass, 1976; Hedges & Olkin, 1985; Hunt, 1997; Wachter & Straf, 1990). These studies can include different methodologies and treatments that are equated through the calculation of the effect size for each study (Glass, 1976). The random effects methodology of this meta-analysis provided for the inclusion of experimental, quasi-experimental, and pre-experimental studies in an aggregated mean comparison of effect size. There is precedent for the evaluation of pre-experimental studies being included in an effect size analysis.
Pre-experimental studies, those studies conducted with out a control group and without the assumption for statistical equivalence of the sample being met, were included through the calculation of effect size based on a comparison of pre and post treatment observations (Andrews, Guitar, & Howie, 1980; Cooper & Hedges, 1994). Quasi-experimental studies, those studies conducted with no control group or without meeting the requirements for statistical equivalence of the sample, were evaluated for compatibility of research method and statistical relevance and included in the same fashion as the pre-experimental studies, discussed above (Cooper & Hedges, 1994). Statistical equivalence is the process of establishing the equivalence of the groups being compared so that differences in their performance can not be attributed to differences in the groups (McMillan & Schumacher, 1997). These quasi-experimental studies were analyzed and compared to the synthesis of the experimental and pre-experimental studies, providing for a comparative population. This comparison was used to corroborate generalizability and external validity of the findings, and are discussed in Ch