Date of Award

12-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Human Ecology

Major Professor

Greer Litton Fox

Committee Members

Priscilla Blanton, Brian Barber, Randol Waters

Abstract

Adults involved in residential camping for children claim that the camp experience enhances children’s development in a variety of ways but there is little empirical research to document their claims. The purpose of this research was to explore the nature of the impact of residential camping on youth campers. The relationship between attributes of life skills practiced and the contextual features of the camp environment was the primary area of examination. The demographic variables of grade and gender were also examined to determine if significant differences in program effects existed.

The study population included fourth through sixth grade youth attending Tennessee 4-H camps in the summer of 2004. The study sample included all eligible campers of the selected camp week at the four Tennessee 4-H Centers. Seventy-two percent of eligible campers participated, resulting in 720 campers as study participants. The project involved minors and was approved by the University of Tennessee Institutional Review Board and Human Subjects Committee.

Data for this study were collected through a self-report survey questionnaire. A series of statistical analyses, including Pearson r correlation and linear regression, were utilized to analyze data from the research question designed to examine how campers perceive the camp environment and life skill practiced, and how the perceived presence of the components of camp predicts the broad range of life skills supported.

Analyses revealed that residential campers participating in Junior Camp at the four Tennessee 4-H Centers gave high ratings to four dimensions of the camp environment, including emotional and moral support, physical safety and security, psychological safety and security, and supportive adult relationships. Campers also “agree” that life skills are enhanced at camp, including building relationships, communication and social interaction, decision-making, leadership, self-responsibility, and teamwork and cooperation.

The context of the camp environment is found to support life skill practice among residential youth campers at the four Tennessee 4-H Centers. When examining the relationships of the life skills to the broad range of contextual features, together with grade and gender, they account for an average 41.4% of the variance. Although there is a significant relationship between a majority of the life skills and grade or gender, the contribution of grade or gender is minimal compared to the relationship between the life skill and the camp context. This finding indicates that other unknown factors, aside from the contextual features, grade, or gender contribute the remaining 58.6%

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