Summer camp results in lasting behaviour change in youth
The positive development that children and youth experience at summer camp results in sustained behavioural changes.
The positive development that children and youth experience at summer camp results in sustained behavioural changes.By Media Relations
WATERLOO, Ont. (Monday, June 24, 2013) — The positive development that children and youth experience at summer camp results in sustained behavioural changes at home, school and in the community, says a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo.
“We found that summer camp allows for either improvement or reinforcement of positive attitudes and behaviours, and these changes are maintained long after camp has ended,” said Professor Troy Glover, a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Waterloo, and the lead investigator on the study. "A lot more goes on at summer camp than roasting marshmallows and singalongs."
Part of the multi-phase Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, the study asked 1,405 parents of campers between the ages of 4 and 18 if they noticed any changes in their children’s attitudes or behaviours since returning from camp. The study looked specifically at social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, attitudes towards physical activity, emotional intelligence, self-confidence and personal development.
“Parents perceived positive development in all five areas. Regardless of age, gender or camp experience, all campers experienced some degree of positive outcomes and growth,” said Professor Glover.
Older children tended to experience the greatest changes in attitudes and behaviours, while female campers experienced greater levels of social integration and citizenship than boys.
Children who stayed at camp longer exhibited greater changes in the five areas studied, with returning campers experiencing greater positive changes than new campers. Camp was rarely an aversive experience for youth, nor was it associated with negative changes.
Glover suggests that the findings support the development of national camp programs that focus on fostering positive outcomes in youth, rather than on programs that narrowly focus on decreasing unhealthy risk in children.
“In short, the camp experience transfers into everyday life, in the best way possible. Parents need to leverage this and help children develop and maintain the skills and values that will allow them to be successful adults,” said Professor Glover.
The study was prepared for the Canadian Camping Association. It represents the third phase of the three-phase project.
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