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Positive Youth Development: The Case of a Wilderness Challenge Intervention

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PAGE 1

POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: THE CASE OF A WILDERNESS CHALLENGE INTERVENTION By SYDNEY LEONARD SKLAR A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Sydney L. Sklar

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iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my deepest gratit ude to Stephen Anderson, my supervisory committee chair, for his full and unconditional commitment to mentoring me through my doctoral education and this dissertation. He has been a limitless source of support and kindness that I will never forget. My sin cere thanks go also to my committee members Robert Beland, Cari Autry, and Linda Shaw fo r their guidance, support, flexibility, and responsiveness. I am grateful to have been able to work with such a group of caring and committed individuals. My heartfelt appreciation goes also to the youth, families, and counselors who participated in this study. They shared th eir time, energy, and stories, to which I hope I have given accurate voice. Additionally, I am ever grateful to J Rudy O and Doc for their instrumental roles in implementing th is study. Sincere appreciation also goes to Patrick Bird for his generous dissertation award, which f unded a portion of this study. I am especially grateful to my parents, Harris and Bonnie Sklar, and Phyllis Sklar, for their limitless love and support over the years, and throughout the pursuit of my doctorate. I thank them for believing in me standing behind my decisions, reminding me of my strengths during my weakest moments, a nd always encouraging me to be my best. My deepest appreciation also goes to Edward and Lucia H aas, whose love and kindness have made them more like parents than in-laws, and whose ongoing encouragement and supportiveness were instrumental in completing this degree.

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iv The deepest of gratitude also goes to my children, Frank and Etta, for the joy, wonder, hope, and play with which they brighten every day of my life. Most of all, I am eternally grateful to my wife, Beverly Sklar, a life partner in every sense of the word. I thank her for all that she has s acrificed over the last four ye ars; for the patience, energy and effort she has given to this project; and fo r standing by me with love every step of the way. This journey has been a long haul, yet rich and rewarding, made immeasurably so with Bev by my side.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iii LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................................vii LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................viii ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem..............................................................................................2 Purpose of the Study.....................................................................................................3 Research Questions.......................................................................................................4 Limitations and Delimitations......................................................................................4 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.............................................................................................6 Problems Facing Contemporary Youth........................................................................6 Flow........................................................................................................................... ...8 Self-Determination.....................................................................................................13 Therapeutic Adventure...............................................................................................20 3 METHOD...................................................................................................................24 Research Paradigm.....................................................................................................24 Setting........................................................................................................................ .25 Participants.................................................................................................................30 Procedure....................................................................................................................31 4 RESULTS...................................................................................................................42 Themes........................................................................................................................4 4 Pre-Trip Adolescent Profile........................................................................................46 Wilderness Trip..........................................................................................................50 Post-Trip.....................................................................................................................7 8

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vi 5 DISCUSSION...........................................................................................................102 Social Capital Theory...............................................................................................103 Optimism Theory......................................................................................................113 Proposing a Theory of Positive Youth Development...............................................123 Future Research........................................................................................................130 APPENDIX A ADVENTURE CHALLENGE EXPERIENCE REFLECTION QUESTIONNAIRE..................................................................................................132 B INTERVIEW GUIDES............................................................................................138 C STAFF FOCUS GROUP HANDOUT.....................................................................143 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................145 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................154

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vii LIST OF TABLES Table page 1. Adolescent demographics..............................................................................................40 2. Parent demographics......................................................................................................40 3. Participant family household income.............................................................................41 4. Staff demographics........................................................................................................41 5. Staff income................................................................................................................ ...41 6. Data themes summary..................................................................................................100

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viii LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1. Thematic relationships in youth development.............................................................101 2. Structured youth programming as a means for positive youth development...............131

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ix Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: THE CASE OF A WILDERNESS CHALLENGE INTERVENTION By Sydney Leonard Sklar May 2005 Chair: Stephen C. Anderson Major Department: Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management The purpose of this interpretive case study was to explore how a wilderness challenge experience was experienced for at-risk adolescents, to uncover the meanings of those experiences, and to assess the gene ralization and transfer of their experiences beyond the intervention. Two motivational fr ameworks involving theory of optimal experience and self-determination were used to guide the study. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviewing as the main source of data collection, 40 participants involved with a therapeutic wilderness progr am were interviewed. Fifteen youth and 18 parents were individually inte rviewed, seven staff members participated in a focus group interview, and two staff members were interviewed in follow-up. Three themes encompassing the topics of challenge, comm unity, and key player relationships were constructed from the data using constant co mparison as the method of analysis. Data analysis led to the constructi on of optimal experience, self-d etermination, social capital, optimism, and youth initiative as a grounded theory of positive youth development.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Adolescents in todays society face a number of challenges. Inadequate family-support structures, peer pressure, a nd the disappearance of social norms have contributed to problems such as under achievement, delinquency, and overall poor judgment. Teens who are ill-equipped to de al with the pressures and forces around them frequently suffer from low motivation and low self-esteem, failure to act responsibly, and an inability to satisfy needs appropriately (Pommier & Witt, 1995). At this vulnerable developmental stage, adolescents who face such pressures may be at-risk for social, psychological, and behavioral challenges that manifest into problems such as school dropout, suicide, delinquency, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases (Serna & Lau-Smith, 1995). At-risk adolescents who are not adequately equipped with skills to generate self-motivated, meaningful activity are of ten prone to boredom (Iso-Ahola & Crowley, 1991). Lacking skills to independently seek complex, challenging s ituations in leisure and discretionary time, teens become vulnera ble to peer pressure and activities of immediate gratification. In turn, adolescents are often in clined to alleviate boredom through dysfunctional leisure such as skippi ng school, substance use (Faulkner, 1991), risky sexual activity, and delinquent behavior. Alternatively, adolescents equipped to e ngage in complex, internally rewarding experiences in their leisure (C sikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984) are likely to perceive such experiences as a sense of freedom and self-d etermination, and they may be more likely to

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2 persist in such behaviors (Coleman & Is o-Ahola, 1993; McCormick & Dattilo, 1995). Similarly, individuals who f eel autonomy, competence, a nd social support in daily activity tend toward self-determi ned behavior (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Optimal or flow experiences have been found to produce feelings of well-being, freedom, positive affect, and self-affirma tion (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Voelkl & Ellis, 1998, 2002; Voelkl, Ellis, & Walker, 2003). The ability of adolescents to engage in complex flow-like situations is associated with overall growth tendency and potential (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Statement of the Problem Adventure programming is thought to ge nerate flow experiences through the purposive facilitation of challe nging activities that require skills, and through the clarity of goals and immediacy of feedback (C sikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Freeman, 1993; Haras, 2003). Though docum ented in nontherapeu tic ropes course programming, the flow experience has not been studied in the context of wilderness-based adolescent risk-preventi on programming. It is unknown to what extent wilderness challenge experiences for this popul ation are perceived as flow or otherwise, nor have program factors that produce such experiences been identified. Additionally, although the literature has documented the need for programs to follow-up with participants to faci litate learning transf er (Durgin & McEwen, 1993; Gillis & Simpson, 1993; Russell, 2002) research has not examined post-intervention transition in the context of flow theory. It is unknow n whether graduates of these programs are better equipped to engage in flow experience upon comple tion of a wilderness experience. Self-determination (also associated with feel ings of well-being) is thought to be an attribute central to adventure education philosophy (Hill & Sibthorp, 2004; Schoel,

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3 Prouty, & Radcliffe, 1988; Sklar & Gibson, 2004) However, program factors that influence self-determined experience have not been clearly iden tified. Autonomy and competence, both qualities of the self-det ermined experience (Ryan & Deci, 2000), are similar to qualities described as flow. It is likely that the two global concepts of self-determination and flow overlap (Deci & Ryan, 2000). However, relationships within and beyond the wilderness program context remain unclear. Wilderness program factors that influence self-determination need to be identified (Sklar & Gibson, 2004). Likewi se, although the adventure edu cation literature purports to incorporate flow theory into practice (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Freeman, 1993; Haras, 2003), actual particip ant experiences of flow in wilderness challenge programs have not been documente d. Finally, if flow and self-determination are considered to promote psychosocial growth and well-bein g among adolescents (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984; Kleiber, Larson, & Csikszentmihalyi, 1986; Ryan & Deci, 2000), the nature of how these traits are generalized and transferred must be documented. Such knowledge can inform instru ctor training, devel opment, and practice, as well as overall program design and structure. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to describe how a wilderness program for at-risk adolescents is experienced by students, as understood through the theoretical frameworks of flow and self-determination, and how thes e experiences impact tr ansition back to the home. Specifically, this study aimed to explore program fact ors and conditions that both promoted and inhibited flow and/or self-det ermined experiences. Additionally, this study aimed to ascertain the meanings of these expe riences to the participants. A final purpose was to assess the generalization and transfer of students experiences relative to flow and

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4 self-determination. A specifi c wilderness challenge interv ention for at-risk youth, the Adventure Challenge Experience (ACE) was sele cted as the setting in which to address these research goals. Research Questions Research question 1: How is a youth wilderness intervention program experienced by youth as understood through flow theory? What program factors promote flow experience? What are the ba rriers to flow experience? Research question 2: How is self-determination experienced during a youth wilderness intervention program? What progr am factors promote self-determination? What are the barriers to self-determination? Research question 3: What meanings do the students attach to these experiences? Research question 4: How are flow and self-det ermination generalized and transferred? Research question 5: What are the leadership teams perceptions of program factors that influence students expe riences of flow and self-determination. What are their self-perceived roles in facilitating these e xperiences? How do instructors facilitate generalization and transfer of flow and self-determination? Research question 6: What are the parents general pe rceptions of the impact of the program on the students? Research question 7: What are the parents general pe rceptions of the impact of the program on the families? Limitations and Delimitations Limitations Limitations involve restrict ions on a study over which a re searcher has no control (Glesne, 1999). Limitations in this study in cluded aspects of the sample demographics, data, and research methods. First, the sample lacked substantive racial and socioeconomic diversity as n early all participants were Caucasian Americans living within several neighboring suburbs of a ma jor metropolitan city in the Midwest. Additionally, as a method of data collect ion, questionnaires were administered by

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5 program staff and completed by teens during the drive home from the wilderness trip. I was unable to control the administration of th ese questionnaires and could not verify the method in which all questionnaires were comp leted. Furthermore, several participants scheduled for interviews failed to keep thei r appointments and thus were not represented among the data. A final limitation involved th e interpretation of data. I am a white, middle-class, male academic who specializes in therapeutic recr eation and adventure education, and I guided the data analysis and interpretation. Delimitations Delimitations refer to limitations a researcher has imposed deliberately and usually restrict the populations to which the result s of a study can be generalized. (Rudestam & Newton, 2001). Although results of this study are expected to have theoretical and practical implications in youth-focused therap eutic adventure, the results should not be generalized to the entire popul ation of at-risk youth partic ipating in such programs. Therefore, one delimitation for this study aris es from its focus on a specific, racially homogeneous group of participants of a therapeutic wilderness program. A second delimitation arises from the selection of the AC E as a research site. This program is not representative of all wilderness in tervention programs for at-risk youth.

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6 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Problems Facing Contemporary Youth The well-being of society depends on the ability of communities to prepare well-adjusted, responsible, we ll-educated young people to st ep forward as the older generation passes, yet many of todays yout h are falling by the wayside (McWhirter, McWhirter, McWhirter, & McWhirter, 2004). Risky sexual behavior, rising rates of teen pregnancy, youth gang involvement poverty, crime, drug use, social isolation, physical violence, poor access to healthcare, physic al inactivity, obesity, and depression are among the multitude of problems confronting contemporary youth. In a world such as this, young people face numerous obstacles to achieving healthy psychosocial development. Over the past two decades, the term at-risk youth has been widely used (in the literature on education, psychology, medicine, social work, econom ics, as well as in state legislation and reports produced by the federal government) to describe a segment of the youth population (McWhirter et al ., 2004). While use of this te rm has been controversial at best, and the literature has lacked cons ensus on its meaning, one useful definition has been offered: At risk denotes a set of presumed cause-eff ect dynamics that place an individual child or adolescent in danger of future negative outcomes. At risk designates a situation that is not necessari ly current but that can be anticipated in the absence of intervention. (McWhirter et al., 2004, p. 6)

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7 Elaborating on this definiti on, McWhirter et al. (2004) pr oposed that risk is not a discrete, unitary diagnostic cond ition, but rather resides on a continuum as a series of steps. Beginning with minimal risk, yout h who experience favorable demographics; experience positive family, school, and social interactions; and have limited psychosocial and environmental stressors fall into the lowest of risk categories. Increasingly throughout the continuum, risk factors rise as stressors are compounded, environmental conditions degrade, and interactions with support systems are negative. Following minimal risk, levels of risk intensify increa singly through the categor ies of remote risk, high risk, imminent risk, and at-risk cat egory activity (meaning the individual is already involved with the activity that defi nes the risk category ), respectively. Among the many problems confronting at-risk youth is the challe nge of structuring time in productive pursuits. Adolescents sp end nearly 40% of their waking hours as discretionary time (Bartko & Eccles, 2003), a nd the times when youth seem to make the poorest activity choices is when they are not in school (Pawelko & Magafas, 1997). Experience sampling studies show that la rge portions of adoles cent daily life are experienced as boredom (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984; Larson, Csikszentmihalyi, & Freeman, 1992; Larson & Richar ds, 1991), even among those teen s considered to be at lowest end of the risk continuum (Larson & Richards). According to Witt and Crompton (1996) de veloping skills for the constructive management of discretionary time is param ount to youth development. Yet for all youth, avoiding boredom by finding cons tructive and interesting ways to occupy time can be challenging (Witt & Crompton, 2002). Those who have been exposed to the excitement of illicit activities and the action and entertainment of video games and popular media,

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8 may require interesting, challengi ng activities to retain their attention in developmentally positive pursuits (Witt & Crompton, 2002). The ability of youth to engage in grow th-oriented, appropriate, meaningful, self-motivated pursuits is an underlying conc ern of the current study. The absence of skills for such engagement can lead to boredom; which, when prevalent, may signal a deficiency in positive development (Larson, 200 0). A theoretical approach to resolving the problem of boredom is discussed next. Flow The concept of boredom has been studied extensively from a socio-psychological perspective. Research in this area has been a prevalent theme in the field of leisure studies for nearly two decades. Researchers have been particularly interested in the concept of optimal experience, the state of high psychological involvement or absorption in activities or settings (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997). Csikszentmihalyis (1975) concept of flow is particularly useful for defining op timal experience since it identifies various features of mental activity that can be used to identify perceptions of optimal experiences. The flow model was originally developed on the basis of extensive interviews with people who engaged deeply and intensely in their leisure and work. The first studies included rock climbers, basketball players, dancers, chess players, and surgeons (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Participants de scribed the most intensely absorbing experiences (in which challenges matched the individuals skills, and in which they lost track of time and self-awareness) as the most rewarding of experiences. Later studies led Csikszentmihalyi to suggest that flow-like feelings such as concentration, absorption, deep involvement, joy, and sense of accomplis hmentare what people describe as the best moments in their lives (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993, p. 176).

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9 A simple model has been used to summari ze the basic features of flow theory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1990, 2000). Central to the theory is the concept of balance between challenges and skills. E ssentially, the two must be in balance for flow to occur. When challenge outweighs ones skill level, feelings of a nxiety are likely to occur. Conversely, when an individuals skill leve l outweighs the challe nge presented by an activity, boredom is likely to result. The comp lexities of flow states are determined by the level of the challenge-skill balance expe rienced. A low-level challenge-skill balance indicates a less complex flow state than a higher-level cha llenge-skill balance. According to flow theory, this optimal ba lance creates the conditions for a positive psychological experience characterized by seven specific conditions: clear goals, immediate feedback, intense c oncentration/absorption, a sense of control, a loss of self consciousness, the merging of action and aw areness, and the tr ansformation of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Flow experiences have been found to produce f eelings of well-being and freedom, positive affect, and self-affirmation (Csikszentmihaly i, 2000; Voelkl & Elli s, 1998, 2002; Voelkl et al., 2003). Studies of adolescent development use flow framework to research the adolescent experience. Apart from the early qualitative interviews from which the flow model was developed, many of these studies have us ed the experience sampling method (ESM) (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984), in which el ectronic pagers are employed to monitor how people experience everyday life. Using the ESM, research participants are typically signaled multiple times throughout the day at random intervals over the course of about one week. Each time the participant is signale d, the participant is to take out a booklet of

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10 brief questionnaires and complete a series of open-ended and close-ended items assessing the individuals psychological st ate at the moment of signaling. In a study of adolescent school experiences, Mayer (1978) used the ESM to sample 84 high school students as to their relative experiences of challe nges and skills, and compared these reports to the enjoyment of activities throughout th e school day. Mayer found that compared to the most enjoyable of activities, school classes were more likely to be enjoyable when skills were perceived to be greater than challe nges. An interesting finding was that students were generally not bo red while at school. In fact, even when students had classes that were t oo easy, they tended to enjoy th em rather than feel bored. Mayer concluded that most of this enj oyment was derived from the recognition and praise of the teacher, feeling exceptionally co mpetent or superior in the eyes of fellow students, and simply receiving good grades. Kleiber, Larson, and Csikszentmihalyi (1986) conducted a study of adolescent leisure experiences also using the ESM. Th ey collected data on leisure activities and settings in which the teenagers experienced the most positive moods and became most psychologically involved. One scale addr essed mood and affective states. An involvement scale asked particip ants to rate the le vels of concentra tion, challenge, and skill they experienced in an act ivity. Additional scales measured intrinsic motivation and perceived freedom associated with the activ ity. Activities defined as leisure were generally experienced as more positive and free. Kleiber et al. pointed out that these findings are consistent with the view that leisure is re laxing. However, the results suggest that the leisur e activities of adolescents rarely demand much in terms of effort and concentration, or what might be called flow.

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11 When different kinds of leisure activities were further examined, Kleiber et al. (1986) found evidence for two categories of le isure experience. One type, relaxed leisure (watching television, so cializing, listening to musi c) provided pleasure without high levels of involvement. The second categ ory of activities (sports, games, artwork, and hobbies) was labeled transitional. Th ese were experienced as freely chosen, intrinsically motivated and very positive; ye t also challenging and demanding of effort and concentration. Kleiber et al. suggested that transitional leisure offers teenagers a bridge between childhood and adulthood by dem onstrating that enj oyment found in these activities of their youth can also be found in the demanding activities re quired of them as they move into adulthood. Another time sampling study of youth (Lar son et al., 1992) inve stigated alcohol and marijuana use among adolescents. In their study, alcohol use was associated with social contexts and happy, gregarious stat es. Marijuana use, on the other hand, was reported across a wider range of situations and differed much less than alcohol from ordinary experience. Larson et al. suggested that marijuana tended to be a more private drug, most often used with one or two friends Unlike alcohol, marijuana was not related to positive affect; and in school, it was fre quently used as an antidote to boredom. Findings showed that motivations for alcoho l and marijuana use had less to do with seeking positive states than escape from boredom and feelings of oppression in adolescent life. In related research, th e concept of mimetic optimal experience (pseudo-optimal experience) has been used to describe the experi ences of drug addicts seeking flow through drug use, but failing to experience engagement, control of the situation, and intrinsi c motivation (Delle Fave & Massimini, 2003).

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12 Outdoor adventure education and therapeu tic adventure programming is thought to equip adolescents with skills that contribute to youth development, reduce risk factors, and improve motivation. Studies of adventure activities have used the flow framework as a lens for gauging participants experiences of outdoor-challenge activ ities. Freemans (1993) study of ropes course participation, showed that flow was more common during later portions of the program sequence, during activities perceived as more challenging than earlier ones. Increase in flow for some participants was related to an increase in anxiety for others. More recently, Jones, Hollenhorst, Perna, and Selin (2000) reported similar findings among whitewater kayakers. As rapids became more challenging, reports of flow and anxiety tend ed to increase concurrently. Finally, Haras (2003) conducted a study of adolescent ropes course programs in which meaningful involvement was assessed partly using th e flow framework. Results showed that purposive manipulation of progr am delivery could influence participants feelings of anxiety, en joyment, and meaningful involvement in the adventure activity. Challenging activities that were more in clusive of wide-ranging ability levels and personal strengths, and that sought to include all participants at each individuals optimal level of participation were generally perceived as less an xiety-producing and more likely to produce group efficacy. Additionally, approach es that invited optimal participation (p. 158) were perceived as pr oviding more choice, a quality of activity congruent with facilitating flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Although adolescent flow experiences ha ve been documented in adventure education programs such as ropes course pr ogramming, the flow experience has not been studied in the context of a w ilderness-based youth interventio n. Furthermore, little is

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13 known about the generalization and transf er of flow-like experiences from adventure-based settings back to everyday life. It has been suggested that the ability to engage in flow promotes overall psychosocial development of adolescents (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Those who are able to engage in complex flow-producing activities are less prone to boredom and anxiety and may have developmental advantages over those who are less inclined to have such experiences. The adolescent who readily engages in pr osocial flow-producing activity, and is internally motivated to seek more of the sa me, may face substantially fewer risk factors than the adolescent prone to anxiety and/or boredom. Self-Determination The theoretical concept of self-determination has been related to the concept of optimal experience (Deci & Ryan, 2000) According to Wehmeyer (1992) self-determination refers to acting as the primary causal ag ent in ones life and making choices and decisions regarding ones quality of life free fr om undue external influences or interference (p. 17). To the degree that one consistently exhibits self-determined actions, he or she can be considered to be self-determined. Causal agency is thought to be an innate human need that stems from motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). According to Wehmeyer causal agency implies that an outcome was purposeful and the action is performed to ach ieve that end (p. 17). A causal agent is therefore someone who acts purpo sefully, and makes or causes things to happen in his or her life (Wehmeyer, 1995). Acting in a psychologically empowered manner is considered an indicator of causal agency and thus self-determination. Accord ing to Wehmeyer, self-determined people act on the basis of a belief that (a) they have c ontrol over circumstances that are important to

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14 them, (b) they possess the requisite skills to achieve desired outcomes, and (c) if they choose to apply those skills, the identifi ed outcomes will result. The psychological empowerment element of self-determinati on is theoretically grounded in Banduras (1977) theory of self-efficacy. Another characteristic of self-determinati on is self-realizati on. Self-determined people are self-realizing in that they us e a comprehensive (and reasonably accurate) knowledge of themselves and their strengths an d limitations to act in such a manner as to capitalize on this knowledge (Wehmeye r, 1995). This self-knowledge and self-understanding forms through experien ce with and interpretation of ones environment and is influenced by evaluations of significant others reinforcements and attributions of ones own behavior (p. 21). Studies on sport and exercise (conducted in a self-determination framework) offer much to the therapeutic adventure literatu re. Thompson and Wankel (1980) tested the proposition that perceived choice is positively correlated to intrinsic motivation. They examined the perceived choice of activities in relation to part icipation persistence in an adult womens fitness program. Registrant s in a commercial fitness program were randomly assigned to either an experimental or control condition. Subj ects in the control (no-choice) condition were led to believe that a program of ex ercise had been assigned to them without considering thei r preferences. Subjects in th e experimental (choice) group were told that their exercise program had been designed base d on their preferences. In actuality, both exercise programs were desi gned with an equal degree of activity preferences. Therefore, onl y their perception of choice actually differed. Attendance records over the next six-week period s howed significantly higher attendance among the

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15 perceived choice group. These findings support the proposition that self-determination is basic to persistence in physical activities. Self-determination is also thought to pl ay a significant role in individual well-being. Iso-Ahola and Park (1996) ex amined the roles of self-determination disposition and leisure-generated social support as buffers against th e negative effects of life stress on mental health and physical health. Self -determination was denoted by indicators of perceived leisure freedom and intrinsic motivation. The study was conducted with adults participating in Taek wondo as a leisure activity. Data provided evidence that social support, an element of self-determination (R yan & Deci, 2000) is a moderator of stress. A separate study (C oleman, 1993) used the same measure with a randomized sample from the general populati on. Perceived leisure freedom additionally buffered the negative effects of stress. Th e combined findings of these two studies suggest that those who feel their leisure is constrained or not supported are likewise deprived of a source of copi ng with stress (Iso-Ahola & Park 1996). This issue warrants further study. In terms of therapeutic a dventure programming, pe rceptions of freedom may be influenced by program structure. How varying perceptions of freedom impact feelings of well-being is unclear. Other researchers have acknowledged the need to evaluate client motivations for therapy within a self-determination fram ework. Ryan, Plant and OMalley (1995) examined (a) the relation of initial treatment motivations to alcoholics involvement in outpatient treatment and (b) dropout and th e relations among patient characteristics, severity, alcohol experiences, motivation, and treatment retention. A treatment motivation questionnaire (TMQ) was devel oped, using determination theory (Deci &

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16 Ryan, 1985), to assess both internal and exte rnal motivations of alcoholic patients for treatment, as well as confidence in the treatment and orientation toward interpersonal help seeking. Patients who reported interna lized motivation showed greater involvement and retention in treatment. Those who were high in both internalized and external motivation demonstrated the best attendance and treatment retention, while patients low in internalized motivation s howed the poorest treatment resp onse, regardless of external motivation. Problem severity was also rela ted to a greater degr ee of internalized motivation, following the presumption that the greater the perception of ones alcoholism problem, the more motivated the individual w ould be to follow through with treatment. The data support the proposition that it is help ful for mental health service providers to understand the motivations of th eir clients for treatment. Similarly, Pelletier, Tuson and Haddad (1997) also evaluated clients motivation for psychotherapy. Within the self-determination framework (Deci & Ryan, 1985), Pelletier et al. developed a scale to assess th e specific therapeutic conditions that may hinder or facilitate clients motivation toward therapy as well as various consequences that may arise as a result of this motivation. Construct validity of the scale was established, as well as support for a motivation continuum relative to self-determination levels. As Pelletier et al. (1997) s uggested, an understanding of client motivations provides useful information to the therapists planning and structuring therapy to most effectively meet client needs. When motivations are hi gh and more internal, it follows that a more self-determined course of therapy might be a ppropriate, whereas clients lacking internal

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17 motivation and self-determination for thera py might respond better in treatments that emphasize therapist control. Knowledge of clients self-determination in therapeutic adventure settings would be helpful in the planning of intervention as demonstrated in the treatment of chemical dependency. Pelletier et al (1997) found that clients w ho perceived motivation for therapy as more self-determined were mo re likely to experience less tension, less distraction, and more positive moods during ther apy. They also considered therapy to be important, reported higher levels of satisfacti on with therapy, and had stronger intentions of continuing therapy. Conve rsely, clients who perceived th eir motivations to be less self-determined showed the opposit e pattern of as sociations. For those who are deficient in self-det ermined choice-making skills, there are educational approaches to fostering self -determination among students. Field and Hoffmans (1994) model of self-determination holds that self-determination is promoted or inhibited both by factors w ithin the individuals contro l (e.g., knowledge, values, and skills) and by variables that are by natu re more external or environmental (e.g., opportunities for choice-making and support of im portant others). While recognizing the importance of environmental variables, the model focuses mainly on factors that are within the individua ls controlthe knowle dge and skills that enable one to be self-determined in environments of vary ing levels of receptivity and support. The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-569 (1992) supported the human need for self-determination by clearly stating the rights of all people to self-determination. This legislation is particularly relevant to educators of youth because it requires them to empha size skills that prepare studen ts for the expectations of

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18 the next environment. The growing recogni tion of the need for self-determination among youth with special needs took the form of tw o federal initiatives intended to build a foundation on which self-determination skills co uld be taught using systematic methods. A self-determination-based curriculum was developed by Field and Hoffman (1994) as part of these initiatives. The curricul um provided an applied methodology to building self-determination skills for students with disabilities. The provision of such a curriculum implies that self-determination ca n be taught and is an educational outcome necessary for successful transition from school to community integration. Young people identified as at-risk are thought to be among those who would benefit from self-determinati on skill-building. Serna and Lau-Smith (1995) explicated the necessity of systematically addressing self-determination skills of at-risk youth by offering a curriculum aimed to help students ov ercome barriers to successful participation in school, and family and community relati onships. Based on literature review and construct validation, a self-d etermination skills list was generated identifying seven domains relevant to the self-determination of at -risk students: prere quisite social skills, self-evaluation skills, self-direction skills networking skills, collaboration skills, persistence and risk-tak ing skills, and dealing with stre ss. A result of the validation process, Serna and Lau-Smith expanded Deci and Ryans (1985) definition to include a philosophy concerning the responsibility one has to oneself or others. According to Serna and Lau-Smith (1995) self-determination refers to an individuals awareness of pers onal strengths and weaknesses, the ability to set goals and make choices, to be assertive at appropriate time s, and to interact with others in a socially competent manner. A self-determined person is able to make independent decisions based

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19 on his or her ability to use resources, which includes collaborating and networking with others. The outcome for a self-determined pers on is the ability to r ealize his or her own potential, to become a productive member of the community, and to obtain his or her goals without infringing on the rights, responsibilities, and goals of others. Kiewa (2001) synthesized conceptualizations of self-determination from previous literature into one unifying concept. In a qualitative study util izing journaling and in-depth interviews, self-d etermination was described th rough the salient theme of personal control that emerged throughout the co urse of interviews and analysis. Kiewas study was unique in that the sample consisted of a community of rock climbers, and self-determination was studied within an a dventure context. Among the climbers, the concept of control was divided into two cate gories of meaning. First was the importance of control over oneself, or feeling competent, in stressful situati ons. Second was feeling control over the structure of activity as an important element determining satisfaction with the rock climbing experience. Other researchers have applie d the self-determination cons truct within an adventure programming setting. Sklar and Gibson (2004) found indications that a multi-day therapeutic wilderness intervention program fo r adolescent girls po sitively influenced self-realization (Wehmeyer, 1995), one of several components to Wehmeyers self-determination model. In a separate study of outdoor youth programming, Hill and Sibthorp (2004) found that a camp experience, when intentionally delivered to support autonomy and facilitate self-determination skills, had a positive influence on posttest scores of autonomy, competence, and relate dness, three major components to Ryan and Decis (2000) conceptualiz ation of self-determination.

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20 Many adolescents lack the competence n ecessary to act in a self-determined manner (Pommier & Witt, 1995). Among other problems, at-risk adolescents may face peer pressure, isolation, and family stre ss, complicating efforts to satisfy basic developmental needs. An effective response to the developmental requirements of youth includes an approach that helps teach young people to choose alternative, acceptable behaviors (Eron, 1987), an approach of skill development that advances self-determination (Pawelko & Magafas, 1997). Therapeutic Adventure Therapeutic adventure programming is t hought to provide opportunities for youth to learn and practice developmental skills for successful adaptive behavior. Several key studies have investigated therapeutic adve nture programming for at -risk youth. Witman (1993) documented characteristics of advent ure programs valued by adolescents in psychiatric treatment. The characteristics ra ted highest by adolescen t participants were: helping/assisting others; taki ng risks/meeting challenges; realizing the importance of caring about self; and getting support of ot her participants. In concept, these characteristics are closely related to the se lf-determination construct. In terms of self-determined events, taking risks/meeting challenges suggests an orientation toward self-initiated, competent acti on (Ewert, 1989; Ewert & Hollen hurst, 1989). Realizing the importance of caring about self falls within the autonomy domain as well. Helping and assisting others is an issue of interpersonal relationships as is getting the support of other participants. Some level of self-determi nation would be necessary for any of these characteristics to be acted upon. Witmans (1992) research suggested that participants valued the activity process over content. Suggestions for future rese arch included examination of the specific

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21 characteristics (e.g., taking risks/meeting challe nges) to discover participants perceptions of necessary components and most valued components of each characteristic. Developing an understanding of why certain characteristics are valued was also recommended. Expanding on this research, Autry (2001), explored the feelin gs, attitudes, and perceptions of at-risk girls pa rticipating in adventure ther apy activities. Empowerment was identified as a major experience valued by the participants. Participants referred to adventure experiences as having helped them gain a sense of accomplishment (p. 298), motivation and sense of cont rol over themselves. Psychological empowerment, which is characterized by the perception of control in ones life, is a factor contributing to self-determination (Autry, 2001; Wehmeyer 1995). Autrys research, however, identified a disconnect between adventure therapy experiences and the process of transferring valued aspects of these experiences to the greater context of everyday life. One implication of this research centers on th e critical element of pr ocessing facilitators can use to help clients achieve a deep er level of understand, thus facilitating generalization and transfer (Gass, 1993; Kimball & Bacon, 1993; Luckner & Nadler, 1997). Both Autrys and Witmans result s warrant further investigation of how adventure programs can help at-risk youth impr ove feelings of motivation, control and empowerment, and how such outcomes ar e generalized among the lives of youth participants. The self-determination and flow constr ucts together provide a theoretical framework for such research. According to Deci and Ryan (2000), self-d etermination theory shares a conceptual correspondence with flow theory (Csiks zentmihalyi, 1975) in the common focus on

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22 intrinsic motivation as well as the importa nce both place on phenomenology. With the strong emphasis on experience, both concepts ap pear to have signifi cant application in the delivery of therapeutic adventure programs. The founda tional concept of challenge by choice (Gillis & Simpson, 1994; Schoel et al., 1988), for example, is widely used in therapeutic adventure. Challenge by c hoice links the two con cepts through a common emphasis on participant autonomy and control. Of specific interest to this research is how the application of these theories may converge among wilderness-based interventions for at-risk youth. Therapeutic interventions based on wilder ness challenge experiences have been widely used to help adolescents who have serious difficulties in a number of psycho-social areas (Davis-Berman & Be rman, 1999; Russell, 1999, 2002). Included among these are low self-esteem, poor self-i mage, poor decision-making skills, repeated failures, refusal to take responsibility fo r actions, lack of motivation, ambivalence, susceptibility to negative peer pressure, and impulsive behaviors (Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, n.d.). Considering the definitions of self-determination and optimal experience presented earlier in this ch apter, it would be expe cted that such youth might also be poorly self-determined and inad equately equipped to satisfy the need for flow. These adolescents woul d likely benefit from the fac ilitation of self-determined, flow-producing experiences. The therapeu tic adventure literature, however, lacks substantial research on these concepts. Thus whether therapeutic adventure programs for at-risk youth are purpos efully addressing self-determina tion and flow, and whether these programs are impacting these adaptive skill ar eas has not been determined. In summary, there is a paucity of literature describing the conditions that produce self-determination

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23 and flow in therapeutic wilderness progr amming, as well as the generalization and transfer of such experien ces back to everyday life. Flow experience is arguably a target goal of wilderness ch allenge programming. Similarly, facilitating self-determination is central to adventure education philosophy. Whether such experiences are being facilita ted in therapeutic wilderness programming for adolescents is unclear. How these experi ences can be generalized and transferred is also unknown. Researching this knowledge gap will better inform the field of therapeutic adventure and the broad field of youth devel opment as to how youth can engage in and generate intrinsically motivat ed, self-rewarding, active, gr owth-oriented experiences. This study addresses this gap in the literature. ("Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, Pub L. No. 102-569", 1992)

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24 CHAPTER 3 METHOD Research Paradigm The interpretive paradigm of naturalist ic inquiry (Henderson, 1991; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) will guide this research. Acco rding to Hultzman and Anderson (1991), the study of perceptual phenomena, such as those of interest to leisure researchers, demands methods that investigate phenomena in their na tural settings. Denzin and Lincoln (1994) state that qualitative researchers study things in their natural environments, attempting to interpret or make sense of phenomena in te rms of the meanings people bring to them. This approach assumes that there are multiple interpretations of reality and that the goal of research is to understand how individuals construct their own r ealities within their social contexts. In this study, the perceptual phenomena of interest were participants experiences of flow and self-determination. The contexts in which these experiences were studied were within both the wilderness program setting and the participants post-trip lives. I sought to interpret the meanings of these e xperiences as understood by participants. The purpose of this research was then, in part to explore how part icipants challenge experiences were perceived within the c ontext of a wilderness program, and how the experiences were generalized and transf erred to ones day-to-day realities. Within the naturalistic paradigm, a case study method was used to research the specific phenomena of self-determination and fl ow within the contexts of participants lives both during and after the challenge program. Acco rding to Lincoln and Guba

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25 (1985), case studies may be used for multiple purposes including the description and chronicling of events and phenomena. They are particularly useful when the focus is some contemporary phenomena within some r eal life context, over which the researcher has little control. According to Yin (1989), there are three criteria for a case study design. First, research questions should take the form of how, what, or why questions. The research questions for this study are both desc riptive and exploratory in nature and satisfy the what and how criteria. Second, the research re quires no control over the behavioral elements of the study. The topics being investigated in this study call for no control over participants beha viors. Rather, the research questions inquire as to psychological processes that occur both duri ng and after a specific intervention. Finally, Yin contends a case study must focus on c ontemporary events. In this study, the intervention of interest is a current wilderness challenge intervention. The program is offered once annually, and the research will focus on the experiences of one group of participants on a given tri p. Therefore, the study of self-determination and flow phenomena will be limited to the experiences of these one-time participants. The context specific nature of this intervention, combined with the exploratory nature of the research questions, calls for a case study approach. Setting Community Family Services (CFS) is a pseudonym for a not-for-profit community-based counseling agency serving a diverse population in the suburbs of a major city in the American Midwest. The agency mission is to provide counseling to families and individuals who are facing issues which interfere with their lives, and to offer consultation and education in response to community needs. CFS offers a range

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26 of services including indi vidual and family-oriented counseling, youth crisis and stabilization, an employee assistance program (EAP), prevention and wellness programming, and early intervention progr amming. Among the early intervention services is the ACE (a pseudonym), the specif ic therapeutic wilderness intervention under investigation. Before describing the ACE, an overview of the agency is offered. CFS counseling services address the need s of children, adol escents and their families with problems such as peer/sibling c onflicts, disruptive behaviors, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse, and depression. I ndividual, couple, or family counseling for adults may address concerns such as de pression, marital discor d, grief, post-divorce conflict, domestic violence, parenting, stress, sexual abuse, and anxiety. The youth crisis and stabilization service is intended to help emotionally and/or behaviorally troubled youth remain at home and in the community while avoiding psychiatric hospitalization or other out of home placement. This service involves a 90-day intensive home-based crisis inte rvention including screening, assessment, counseling, and the coordination of support se rvices from other community agencies. CFS offers an EAP as a service in wh ich businesses can enroll to provide counseling support for their employees. In cluded in the EAP is 24-hour crisis intervention, face-to-face counseling appointments fo r non-emergency situations, assessment services, follow-up care and referrals as needed. Prevention and wellness programs include counseling and support groups as well as community education workshops availabl e to the public. One counseling group addresses the needs of children of divorce. Another offers educational and supportive opportunities to single mothers. The Family Forum Series offers one-time workshops on

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27 topics such as How to Raise a Drug-F ree Kid, Parenting, the Early Years, and Marital Communication. Among the early intervention programs offe red is Family and Schools Together, in which students with their families part icipate in activities to build communication skills, positive habits, and attitudes of re spect transferable to the home, school, and community. A postpartum support group offers support and education about postpartum depression and its effect on the family. The Tobacco Reduction Among Kids program is for youth abusing tobacco products. It is desi gned to help youth learn triggers that lead to use, recognize obstacles to quitting, the e ffects of tobacco on thei r health, and ways to manage stress and social pressure. An additional CFS early intervention programs is the ACE, the program of interest to this study. The ACE is a therapeutic w ilderness program targeting youth considered at-risk of problematic transition to high school At the time of data collection, ACE was in its fifteenth year of existence. Operati ng with financial support from local public and private funding sources, the program has b een made available on a partial or full scholarship basis to graduating eighth grad ers from junior hi gh schools and middle schools within the CFS local se rvice area. Both males and females are recruited for the program. CFS characterized ACE participants as being at high risk of a problematic transition to high school life. Accordi ng to Doc (personal communication, May 11, 2004)a pseudonym for a CFS staff membert he target group in cludes youth, ages 13 to 15 years-old, characterized as bored, unmotivated, or under-achieving in class. Some participants may have difficulty with uncoope rative/non-compliant be havior at home or school. Many of the participants may be seen as socially isolated and/or ineffective, and

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28 severely lacking in self-esteem. Additiona lly, teens struggling with family or peer problems are commonly referred to the program Referrals are made by school guidance counselors. Past profiles of ACE participants have al so included youth from lower income, divorced or re-married families with histories of family problems. Many of the youth participants have, at the very least, experimented with drugs and alcohol, and may be at-risk of developing substance abuse problems (Doc, personal communication, May 11, 2004). Program candidates for the summer of 2004 (many of whom also participated in this study) were initially referred to the ACE prior to the end of the 2003-2004 school year and invited to participate in a screen ing interview in early May. Once selected, participants began a team building process th rough orientation and training sessions prior to the trip. About one month prior to departure, candidates participated in a half-day challenge course experience and swim test to initiate the process of group development and provide the senior sta ff an opportunity for further screening. Candidates were screened-out and referred to ot her services if they were unabl e to pass the swim test, or if they were behaviorally in appropriate for the program, based on staff assessment. Additional orientation occurred two to three days prior to departure when selected students came to the agency site to drop off gear, discuss program expectations, and turn in personal goal statements for the trip. At this meeting, the students read and signed a Full Value Contract (Schoel et al., 1988) communicating the program expectations of participants as well as participan t rights and responsibilities. An eight-day canoe trip, occurring in late June, was led by an agency therapist with extensive experience planning and guiding trip s of this nature. He was assisted by a

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29 senior CFS staff member, two junior staff members, expe rienced ACE volunteer leaders and other adult volunteer staff members. Throughout the trip, an expeditionary l earning model was applied in which participants were encouraged to continuall y challenge themselves both physically and mentally in the unfamiliar and often uncomfortable context of a wilderness environment. These experiences are generally thought to improve life coping skills and empower youth for facing future life challenges (D oc, personal communication, May 11, 2004). The expedition began with a 14-hour van trip to a canoe outfitt er in northwestern Ontario, Canada. The group spent the night at a hotel near the outfitter camp, and day-two began a six-day wilderness experi ence in which participants learned and practiced outdoor living skills in a primitive a nd remote environment. Prior to launching canoes, or putting-in, the large group of 25 students was broken-up into four small groups of six or seven students with at le ast two staff members to each group. Each group then traveled self-sufficiently over the next six days, over th e same routes, though staggered apart. However, the staff members among groups communicated with one another via portable radios as a safety precaution. During the six-day wilderness expedition, ea ch group traveled 27 miles, mostly by canoe. However, the group was frequently confronted with challenging portages in which canoes and gear were precarious ly transported over rough terrain. Portage trails generally vary in conditi on from compacted and easily-traveled to extremely rocky, overgrown, hilly, and/or m uddy trails. Often more of the latter, portages are often characterized as some of the most physica lly and mentally challenging

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30 aspects of the experience. A successful por tage often requires significant cooperation, physical stamina, and determination. Throughout the 2004 ACE trip, participan ts encountered numerous physical, mental and social challenges posed within the natural environment and group context. Challenges were further influenced by purposiv e facilitation of staff, the social living environment, and ones own self-perception. Staff persons routinely provided feedback to participants regarding counter-productive individual and group attitudes, values, and behaviors. During the final days of the w ilderness trip, the staff begins preparing the teens to transfer lear ning by facilitating personal goal-se tting for the transition back to home (Doc, personal comm unication, July 24, 2004). On day-seven, each group arrived at a tak e-out location, return ed to the outfitter and spent the night at a near by hotel. Day-eight began with an early van departure to return to the agency office that evening, at which point the student s were picked-up by their families. A follow-up component to the wilderness pr ogram began in July, about three weeks after the students re turn home. A bi-weekly social group was facilitated by a CFS counselor who was also an ACE staff memb er. The group was intended to facilitate transfer of learning from th e wilderness experience into real-world contexts, and to provide ongoing opportunities for shared r ecreation, leadership opportunities, peer support, and further development of friendshi ps between group members. The social group was to meet on an ongoing basis thr oughout the subsequent school year. Participants The primary sample was drawn from one group of adolescents, ages 13-15, participating in the ACE in June 2004. Fo llowing a case study method, the case being the

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31 group of individuals involved with a single ACE trip, I sought to recruit all students enrolled in the program. The maximum po ssible enrollment level was 25 students. Among the 25 teen participants, five had part icipated in the ACE program in June 2003 and were invited back as peer leaders. On e parent or guardian of each student was also asked to participate. The final sample includ ed 15 youth, four of whom were returning as peer leaders. Additionally, 17 parents were recruited, as well as one guardian (who will be grouped with parents from this point fo rward). Seven staff members were also recruited. Staff members were interviewed as a focus group, and two staff members were interviewed in follow-up. Adolescent, parent and staff demographi cs are summarized in Tables 1 through 5. Procedure Recruitment An ACE staff member who was trained in the recruitment protocol conducted recruitment. Recruitment occurred one to thr ee days prior to the tr ips departure during a meeting in which participants dropped off g ear and signed the Full-Value Contract. The recruitment process consisted of the recruite r meeting together with the students and parents to describe the purpos e of the study, the methods to be used, and to request their participation. An appreciation gift was offered to adolescent participants in the form of a $15 gift card to a local department store. Compensation was not offered to adult participants. Adolescent research participants were chosen based on their enrollment in the program, assent to participate, and the completion of an informed consent document signed by the parent or legal guardian. Parent s were chosen for the study based on their completion of the informed consent document and the childs willingness to participate.

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32 Both children and parents were given the oppor tunity to choose a pseudonym to help ensure confidentiality. Those who did not choose a pseudonym were assigned one. Additional data sources were sought through recruitment of ACE staff members. I met with these individuals as a group, prior to the start of the trip, to explain the purpose of the research, the methods to be used, a nd to request their part icipation. Informed consent was obtained at the time of the focu s group interview. ACE staff members also provided pseudonyms. Data Collection Data were obtained and triangulated thr ough multiple qualitative methods including open-ended questionnaires, active semi-structu red interviews (Hende rson, 1991; Holstein & Gubrium, 1995), and a staff focus group inte rview. Additional triangulation occurred by obtaining data from multiple sources, including the students, staff persons, the students parents, and my field notes. I ndividual and focus group interviews were audiotape recorded for late r transcription. Data colle ction was divided into two categories: (1) the wilderness experience, and (2) follow-up. Wilderness experience Students experiences To address students ex periences of flow and self-determination during the wilderness expe dition, written data were sought on the final day of the wilderness trip. An open-ended questionnaire (Appendix A) was administered by the program staff on the final day of the tr ip. The questionnaire pr ompted the students to reflect on the trip in terms of their expe riences of flow and se lf-determination and to consider the goals they had set for transiti on back to home. These questionnaires were administered by the ACE staff. To e nhance truth-value and protect students

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33 confidentiality, students were provided an e nvelope in which to seal the completed questionnaire. Students were asked to seal their complete d questionnaires inside their individual envelopes and return them to the staff members. The directions explained that although staff would be collecti ng the questionnaires, returning them in a sealed envelope was meant to ensure student responses would not be viewed by staff. Upon return to the agency office, the questionnaire envelopes we re consolidated into one package by the ACE coordinator and sent to me by certified mail. Staff perspectives on flow and self-determination. According to Kreuger and Casey (2000) focus group interviews are appropr iate when the researcher is looking for a range of ideas, insights or feelings that people have about something. The focus group interview can further facilitate the emer gence of ideas from the group. A group possesses the capacity to become more than the sum of its part s, to exhibit a synergy that individuals alone dont possess (p. 24). To gain insights into staff perceptions of students experiences with the ACE, a focus group interview was conducted with sta ff members who agreed to participate in this study. The focus group took place in an office at the CFS fac ility five weeks after the wilderness trip. Morgan (1997) argued for the use of audio tape as the principle means of capturing observations within a focus group interview, a nd that the physical fa cility be carefully chosen and setup with the tape recording in mind. Morgan further cautioned against the use of videotape for recording focus group inte rviews. Although a te mpting alternative to audiotape, video recordings add an elem ent of intrusiveness and often require complicated setups with multiple assistants and high quality equipment. Given the

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34 greater invasion of privacy, and that actua l data analysis is most often based on transcripts, audio taping is accepted as the most practical method for recording focus group interviews (Morgan, 1997). An audiotape setup, therefore, was chosen as the method for recording the focus group interview. Participants were seated in a circular fashion in the office and I acted as the moderator. Three tape recorders were us ed. The primary tape recorder was located in the center with two backup recorders at opposite ends of the circle. Good recording quality was obtained from th e primary tape recorder. Developing a question sequence that naturally flows from one question to another, and following a progression from general question s to specific, is critical to the success of a good focus group intervie w (Kreuger & Casey, 2000). Following the questioning route model (Kreuger & Casey, 2000), I modera ted the interview process which began with opening questions and progressed th rough introductory, tran sition, key questions and ending questions (Appendix B). Prior to the focus group interview, sta ff members were mailed a handout orienting them to the concept of optimal experien ce (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Voelkl et al., 2003) (Appendix C). During the interview, just prior to introduci ng key questions, staff participants were reoriented to the concept of flow and introduced to the concept of self-determination. They were then aske d to share insights as to how flow and self-determination were facilitated during th e trip, and to identify barriers to such experiences. Additionally, I asked members to make projections about what skills they thought were taken from the course related to flow and self-determination. The focus group interview lasted approximately one-and-a-half hours.

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35 Follow-up Students reflections, generalizat ion, and transfer of flow and self-determination. To further assess experiences of flow and self-determination, and to explore the generalization and transfer of learning, follow-up interviews were scheduled with youth who had participated in the wilderness trip. Fifteen youth interviews were conducted over a two-and-a-half week period. During the adolescent interview, I asked the students to reflect on experiences of flow and self-determination during the wilderness phase, and to discuss the meanings of those experiences. I also explored the issue of whether teens were able to genera lize what they had learned, and if so, how. Eighteen parents were also interviewed dur ing the same timeframe, though separately from the students, to gain parental perspectiv es on the impact of the course (see parents perceptions of course impact on students and family, below). Assessment of generalization and transfer requires a time lapse to occur from the wilderness program conclusion. Therefore, fo llow-up interviews were scheduled to begin no sooner than three weeks after the wilderness course. All in terviews lasted a period of about forty-five minutes to one-and-a-hal f hours. The previously administered questionnaire was used as a partial basis for the in-person inte rviews (Appendix B). Parents perceptions of program impact on students and family. Interviews of one parent of each student were conducted (Appendix B). The parent was asked to discuss the impact of the course on his or he r child and the family. Parents were also asked to indicate any observations of behavi or changes demonstrated by the adolescent, and to consider the role of the ACE pr ogram in influencing those changes.

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36 Follow-up staff observations. The follow-up group facilitators, as mentioned earlier, had recurring contact with students in the weeks and months following the actual trip. Therefore, those individua ls were asked to provide insi ghts as to the generalization and transfer of flow and self-determinati on among the students, and to discuss course factors they felt influenced this process (Appendix B). Th ese interviews were conducted via telephone, approximately three months after completi on of follow-up interviews. Relevant comments from the earlier staff focu s group were revisited and used to inform the follow-up interviews. Researcher field notes. Researcher field notes consisted of notes taken while observing behavior and nonverbal cues during the interviews. Additionally, insights and reflections were recorded immediately afte r interviews and while transcribing tapes. Data Analysis Data were analyzed using the constant comparative approach, a systematic method for recording, coding and an alyzing data (Henderson, 1991) Using the three major stages of constant comparison, categories of da ta were first coded and incidents fit within categories. The categories and their propertie s were then integrat ed by comparing them to one another and with the data. Finall y, the categories were delimited for parsimony and scope and the process of comparison cont inued until saturation was achieved. The focus of this technique was to compare indivi duals, groups of individu als, and the data to enhance the overall trustworthiness of the re search (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). According to Glaser and Strau ss, the constant comparative method causes one to look continually for diversity. Through the ongoing process of comparison, a researcher specifies concepts, provides a ssurance of accurate evidence, establishes

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37 generality of a fact, verifies theory, or generates theory grounded in the data. The theory that emerges may not be a perfect theory, but ra ther a theory relevant to the behavior and context in which it is obser ved (Glaser & Strauss, 1999). The constant comparative method, as a sy stematic approach to building theory, calls for a high degree of intimacy with the data. As interviews are constantly revisited in the process of coding, recoding, and developing categories, a systematic method of data organization and retrieval is essential. N-6, a computer assisted qual itative data analysis (CAQDA) software package designed to relate to the logic of the constant comparative method was used to this end. According to Seal (2002), a major contribution of this and similar software is the automated retrieval of text segments that have been categorized to correspond with some analytical concept. The process can enhance data analysis by encouraging rigor, though it is not capable of enforcing rigor on the researcher. According to Dohan and Sanchez-Jankowski (1 998), although the res earcher can achieve a high degree of rigor without software, fa tigue and memory can impose biases against which software can help protect. Through the programs ability to scan vast quantities of data for category-related text, a more caref ul reading of the text is encouraged. Therefore, software can simplify and enhance data analysis for the researcher. Yet it does not replace the process of rigorous human analysis. Data quality is directly tied to the ability of the researcher to observe significant phenomena in the course of fieldwork and to recognize what he or she has seen. While CAQDA can compensate for small fa ilures of detailed observation or sharp insight, it is no substitu te for either (p. 496). To further enhance the trus tworthiness of this res earch, member checks were carried out throughout the data collection and analysis process. As Lincoln and Guba (1985) argued, member checks provide evidence of credibility, a cr iteria analogous to

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38 internal validity in the positivist paradi gm. Further trustworthiness was addressed through investigator triangulation in which I, my supervisory committee chair, and a supervisory committee member separately r ead through the interview transcripts and questionnaires to produce initial coding, categorization, and broad data themes (Henderson, 1991). Throughout the data an alysis, I met twice with both committee members as a group, and multiple times separately, to discuss and compare emerging codes, categories, themes, and theoretical concepts. The constant comparative technique in th is study began with review of post-trip questionnaires and continued throughout the interview and transcription process. Incidents or units of responses were code d into as many categories of analysis as possible as categories emerged and as data emerged that fit into existing categories (Glaser & Strauss, 1999). The categories and their pr operties were continually reevaluated through comparison with one anot her, with new emerging categories, and with the data (Glaser & Stra uss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) Finally, themes were constructed from the categories and their pr operties which were again reviewed and compared with one another, and with the data to confirm the data had reached theoretical saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Linc oln & Guba, 1985). Through the constant comparative process, themes emerged into a system of relationships, or grounded theoretical concepts, that were built on the continuity of participant responses, data categories, and their properties (Glase r & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Using the constant comparative method makes probable the achievement of a complex theory that corresponds closely to th e data, since the constant comparisons force the analyst to consider much diversity in the data (Glaser & Strauss, 1999, p. 113-114).

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39 In the present research, the development of theory occurred through the construction of diverse conceptual categories and themes, and these themes were illustrated through interview excerpts. The theory was further st udied for similarities and convergences with concepts from the literature review and modifi ed as such. As the theory was delimited, relatively universal concepts and relations hips emerged that were informed by and supported with concepts from new literature as well as by concepts that were presented previously in the literature review in Chapter 2.

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40 Table 1. Adolescent demographics Pseudonym Age Gender Race Participation Year Bruce 13 M Caucasian 1st Hydro 13 M Caucasian 1st Cari 14 F Caucasian 1st Chip 14 M Caucasian 1st Frank 14 M Caucasian 1st Jessica 14 F Caucasian 1st John 14 M Caucasian 1st Megan 14 F Caucasian 1st Nicole 14 F Caucasian 1st Taylor 14 F Caucasian 1st Jeff 15 M Caucasian 1st Iroquois 15 M Caucasian 2nd Jiggle Billy 15 M Caucasian 2nd White Knight 15 M Caucasian 2nd Wolf 15 M Caucasian 2nd Table 2. Parent demographics Pseudonym Age Gender Race Corcho Not provided F Hispanic Ellie Not provided F Caucasian Scuba Dude 36 M Caucasian Butch 41 M Caucasian Safe One 43 M Caucasian Halo 44 F Caucasian Jenn 45 F Caucasian Esther 45 F Caucasian Mae 45 F Caucasian Summer 45 F Caucasian Marge 48 F Caucasian Laughter Lady 49 F Caucasian Blackjack 49 F Other Taffy 49 F Caucasian Mountain Gal 52 F Caucasian Madonna 52 F Caucasian Grimace 52 M Caucasian Dark Eyes 69 F Caucasian

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41 Table 3. Participant family household income Income in thousands n % < $15 3 17 $16-30 2 11 $31-59 0 0 $60-75 4 22 $76-100 2 11 No Response 7 39 Table 4. Staff demographics Pseudonym Age Gender Race Highest Degree Role Karlita 24 F Hispanic Bachelor CFS Intern Brett 29 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff Kate 30 F Caucasian Master CFS Staff Elizabeth 33 F Caucasian Master ACE Volunteer Candace 34 F Caucasian Master ACE Volunteer Doc 49 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff J Rudy 55 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff Table 5. Staff income Income in thousands n % $0-10 1 14.3 $11-50 0 0 $51-60 2 28.5 $61-80 1 14.3 $81-100 1 14.3 > $100 1 14.3 No Response 1 14.3

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42 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS In Chapter 1, research questions were stated inquiring as to the psychological experiences, and the meanings of those experi ences, of the adolescen ts participating in the ACE program. Additional questions were st ated to gain the insights and observations of program staff members and the teenagers’ parents, both of whom were key players to the teens’ participation in this intervention program. Adolescent participants completed post-trip questionnaires. Thir ty-six interviews were c onducted, includi ng individual interviews of 15 adolescents and 18 parents, a group interview of seven staff members, and two individual follow-up interv iews of staff members. Through the constant comparative method of analysis, key concepts, categories, and themes were constructed throughout the process of interviewing, reading, and rereading questionnaire responses, approxi mately 1500 pages of transcripts, and researcher memos. Examination and saturatio n of categories and themes facilitated the development of grounded theory, presented in Chapter 5. Data analysis resulted in saturation of three major themes including 1) challenge; 2) community; and 3) key player relationships. Conceptually, the three themes that were constructed from the accounts of the youth participants, the parent s, and the staff members, inte rrelated with one another as an interdependent system of youth development (Figure 1). Representation of these themes and their relationships will be addr essed in the remainder of this chapter. “Writing up” qualitative research cannot be approached as a straightforward task, (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996, p. 109). Reconstruc ting and representing social worlds and

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43 social actors depends on discip lined, principled choices made by the researcher. As no single analytical approach ought to be adopted without cr itical reflection, similarly, principled choices direct how research account s are written up and represented (Coffey & Atkinson). To develop a deep understanding of the em ergent themes, I went through a process of constantly comparing the themes and categ ories with one another and with the data, and tested these themes and their relationships as they fit within the two temporal phases of the ACE program addressed by the research questions. These phases were “wilderness trip,” and “post-trip.” My in-depth unders tanding of the interrela tionships between and among the three themes ultimately developed within the contexts of both phases. Therefore, although all data were collected pos t-trip, I determined the emergent themes would be represented within the contexts of either phase of the ACE program. Participant talk relating more strongly to wilderness trip experience was categorized as the wilderness trip phase whereas talk relati ng to post-trip experience was placed within the post-trip category. Before proceeding, it should also be emphasi zed that in the process of interviewing, data were inadvertently collected that were not specifically addr essed by the research questions. While the research questions a ddressed the concepts of experience of the program and transfer of learni ng, a portrait of the teens prior to the trip also emerged, and this illustration ultimately enhanced my overa ll understanding of the emergent themes. Therefore, a category of “pre-trip adolescent profile” was constructed, not for the purpose of fitting the system of thematic conceptual relationships, but rather to represent a broader context for understandi ng the emergent themes. The pre-trip adolescent profile

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44 will be presented in the following pages as a foundation for representing the wilderness trip and post-trip phases of the program. Finally, the research process was in itially informed by the flow and self-determination theoretical fr ameworks. While this research was initiated with these frameworks in mind, the stronger themes that emerged extended beyond the original purpose of the study. In the pages that follow, it is the bigger story that is told as illustrated by the three themes derived from the research participants’ own accounts. Themes Before discussing the temporal phases of the program in which the themes will be illustrated, a brief introduction to each theme will be presented to provide an overall conceptual overview of the emergent system of interrelated themes (Table 6). The first among the major themes was that of “challenge” which was broken out into the three interrelated sub-themes of “individual growth,” “social growth,” and “helping.” It was no surprise that the concept of challenge would be a major theme of these research results. Indeed, the method of the intervention program under study was to purposefully use a major group challenge expe rience to facilitate positive development among the youth participants. However, wh at emerged from the data was a strong contrast between the characteristics of wilderness trip challenge versus post-trip challenge. Wilderness trip challenge was largel y viewed as physically strenuous and sometimes mentally and/or socially taxi ng. Overcoming these challenges, both as individuals and as a group, was perceived (with one exception) as both personally and socially rewarding. As sub-themes of ch allenge, both individual growth and social growth seemed to develop by nature of surmounting challenges as a group and by the

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45 overlapping roles of adolescen ts necessarily helping one another. The process of taking-on, negotiating, and overcoming challenge s as a group further contributed to the solidification of group bonds. The reciprocal helping dynami c that emerged in turn facilitated the formation of community among the peers and staff members. In contrast to the wilderness trip phase, post-trip challenges—meaning the kinds of challenges teens faced in their everyday lives after the trip had c oncluded—had a largely different set of characteristics. In terms of pastimes, or how teens were spending their time, a mixture of active and passive activity was reported. Feelings of anxiety and avoidance of emotional challenges were also reported, as was boredom and frustration in the absence of challenging activity. Pers onal and social growth, while prevalent throughout the wilderness tri p, was somewhat weaker am ong the post-trip accounts. Compared to the wilderness trip, opportuni ties to act as helpers among peers were substantially less prevalent among most posttrip accounts. The act of helping was instead characterized as teen s’ willingness to do chores and help around the home. Furthermore, after the trip concluded, the primary link to peer community was found in the teens’ participat ion in the follow-up group. The group meetings served to reinforce social bonds and comm unity established during the w ilderness trip. However, the follow-up group lacked activity with th e kinds of physical, social, and mental challenges experienced during the trip. An additional theme of key player relationships also emerged. I observed from the data that bonds between staff and student s were strong and s upportive of students’ personal development and community building during the trip. Parents, however, who

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46 effectively were non-participan ts of the program, were absent from wilderness trip support of adolescent development. Post-trip links between the program a nd teens were characterized by strong supportive emotional bonds. These relationa l bonds, however, were combined with program procedures disconnected from extendi ng some of the str onger outcomes of the wilderness trip. Additionally, post-trip co mmunications between the program and parents were characterized by an extreme informa tion gap as displayed by parents’ limited knowledge of what their children had done or accomplished during th e wilderness trip. Parent-teen bonds were further characterized by a mixture of supportiveness and lack of supportiveness. Pre-Trip Adolescent Profile In the process of interviewing and disc overing data, much was learned about the families and life conditions of the adolescen t program participants. Doc, a long-time social worker and counselor at CFS, and co-founder of the ACE program, described the profile of youth who were likely to participate. Our buzzword has always been at-risk yout h, and I think over time we’ve all found that means a lot of different things. But ki ds that are at-risk of possible psychiatric kinds of [problems]. Hospita lization is the traditional form of it. Kids who are at-risk of doing poor academically and lo sing their education. Or dropping out of high school. Doc explained how initial goals of the program were to target struggling students during their transition out of middle school “to enhance their initial adjustment to high school.” Suggesting a possible contributo r to such struggles, Doc estimated that in over the fifteen years of the ACE program, nearly “sev enty percent of the kids in the program have been through a divorce, and are either li ving in a step family life or a single parent life.” Such a high divo rce rate was not reflected among this year’s participating families.

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47 However, of the total group of 25 families involved in this year’s program, 11 (44%) had been through, or were going through a parent al divorce. Of the 18 families interviewed, six (33%) had experienced a divorce in the immediate family. Frank, a first year teen part icipant described how he “ . just needed a week out from the house. ‘Cause everyone was like fi ghting at my house.” He returned home from the wilderness trip to learn his pare nts were “getting a divorce.” Hydro, another first-year male, reiterated Frank’s sentiment, describing severe home related stress. “It’s really hard to be happy when I’m at home because my parents are fighting or they’re talking bad things about each other. They’re saying mean things or doing mean things.” A female teen participant, Nicole, also suggested feeling frus tration over parental conflict, stating, “My parents are kind of unhapp ily married. . It’s really confusing.” While parental conflicts caused stress am ong certain families, some had other life stressors such as a parent being unemployed. Jiggle Billy, a sec ond-year peer leader, related how his mother’s unemployment had creat ed financial pressures. “My family had severe money problems ‘cause no one would hi re my mom.” Simila rly, Wolf described how his feelings of social isolation seemed re lated to his father’s unemployment. “I was having family issues ‘cause my dad got unemp loyed, and we’re starting to lose our house, and I was just more depressed and didn’t feel like doing anything with anyone.” Marge, a single mother who was previously unemploye d, described how her lack of a job had been emotionally difficult for her. “It’s hard not to take it personall y. (In an exaggerated self-pitying voice) “Why does everybody else have a job and I don’t! Wah wah, ya know?”

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48 Black Jack, a single mother of five childre n who works as a third shift hotel night auditor, related multiple stressors contributing to family strife and conflict. Her concerns included ongoing harassment caused by her ex-h usband and father of her children who was also an active alcoholic. The rules are if he comes out he can’t be drunk and he can’t have the attitude. And uh, he chooses not to come. I cannot do a nything about that but my kids don’t see it that way. So some of [m y son’s] yelling is that I’m keeping their father away. As presented above, family strife and/or fa mily conflict in some form was apparent in all but a few families participating in th e study. The stressors faced by the teens participating in the ACE program were best summed up by Doc, who stated, “My overwhelming feeling was that these kids in our group had all been through some really hard times in their young lives already.” Apart from having to cope with issues of family conflict, most adolescents were described as having social difficulties among their peers. Lacking confidence to be assertive with one’s peers was a common issue illustrated by Taylor, a first-year female adolescent. In a situation at school, Taylor felt scared to “b e herself” for fear of losing friends. I had all these friends and then this one pe rson got mad at me. So she got like all of ‘em to turn against me. ‘Cause they’re scar ed of her. . I’d always sit there quiet ‘cause I didn’t know what to say. And I was always scared. . I didn’t want to lose them as friends. Other teens seemed to have difficulty ma king or keeping friends. Cari, another female first-time participant, seemed resigned to being socially alone. “Making friends? Well I can make friends, but then I lose them.” Laughter Lady, mother of a male participant, described her son as having problem s initiating friendships. “He’s really hard to make friends. He doesn’t really feel li ke he has any friends.” Similarly, Corcho,

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49 mother of a first-year male participant, de scribed how her son had seemed to give up on making friends. “He doesn’t, um, have friends to go out with. . Yeah he has trouble making friends. He always has. And he used to try really hard, but I think he stopped trying.” She further connected her son’s peer troubles to a deficit in social skills. He always wants to be in charge. And I th ink that that’s why ki ds walk away from him. Because he wants to be in control. . He always wants to pick what game they’re gonna play or what they’re gonna do next. Doc elaborated on social-behavioral asp ects of the adolescent profile describing them as “. . kids that are struggling socia lly and don’t quite know how to fit into their social experience. . [They] get ostracized, get kidded, or get teased.” These teens were lacking friends, as well as skills for making and keeping friends, suggesting a pre-trip deficit as a predominant theme of this researc h. Prior to the trip, most of the adolescent participants lacked at tachment to a community of peers. Wolf, a male returning student/peer leader, described a la ck of attachment to peers in his school. “I’ve got a lot of problems with the kids in my school. It’s just, not the kind of people I really want to socialize with. So at school I just tend to like ignore people.” Candace, a fourth-year staff member, who is also a middle school English teacher, and former guidance counselor, provided some insight as to the social barriers these adolescents face: A lot of these kids come from, at l east from our school, they’re coming from experiences where they don’t have friends. And they work and work and work to get into a group, and they’re shut out . almost everywhere they turn. Whether students lacked skills and/or mo tivation for building friendships, one thing was clear. Social isolation and failure in building social networks typified the social experiences of these adolescents prior to the ACE wilderness trip. Additionally, some of these teens experienced stre ssful home life situations.

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50 Wilderness Trip Research questions stated in Chapter 1 sought to evaluate student experiences of the ACE program, as understood through flow theory and self-determination theory. Considering that challenging activity was an intentionally applied major element of the program, experiences of challenge and feelings of control during the trip were thoroughly investigated and probed to gain an understa nding of the students experiences within context of the proposed theoretical framew orks. Through the constant comparative method of data analysis, three major themes emerged: challenge, community, and key player relationships. Theme 1: Challenge Descriptions of challenge To gain a general understanding of how students thought about challenge, the teens were asked to define challenge in writing and to elaborate on their definitions during an interview. Definitions of challenge vari ed from highly internal experience, to experiences influenced by environmental and so cial factors. However all were consistent in relating challenge to expectations toward the future. Jessica, a first-time participant, desc ribed challenge as having rewarding, future-oriented outcomes, Something thats re ally hard. That you really dont like doing it, but it would be like worth it at the end. John, also a firs t year participant, similarly framed challenge in the context of accomplis hment, and connected the concept to future goals. If you face a challenge and you go through with completing whatever challenge is ahead of you, then basically youve got that accomplished. [And] if you ever have to go over that bridge again, youll have a little more idea of whats going on. And what youll have to accomplish.

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51 Bruce’s definition diverged slightly fr om John’s. His definition was more problem-focused and it included both physical and social elements, but also suggested a goal-orientation. “Challenge to me is having to overcome a problem that [takes] time to answer.” In a similar fashion, Jiggle Billy defined challenge as having to do with solving a problem, stating, “I think a challenge ba sically is something you don’t think you can overcome.” When asked to define the term, Nicole described the percepti on of challenge as relative to one’s abilities comb ined with the social resource s and supports available. For Nicole, one’s experience of challenge could involve both individual effort and reliance on others for help. “Sometimes if you can’t wo rk through it, then you might need help from someone else.” Megan also suggested a relationship betw een challenge and skills by stating, “It’s gonna take time and you need to learn about it in order to get it done. So it’s gonna be above your ability to do, but you can still get it done with a li ttle work.” When asked to elaborate, like Nicole, Megan indicated that using social resources was a way to negotiate challenge. “Maybe there’s somebody else there that’s done it and helping you through it.” Both Nicole and Megan alluded to a ch allenge-skill relationship, a major element of Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) theory of optimal experience. They al so both suggested a goal-orientation to facing a challenge, another aspect of the flow concept. While comparison of the adolescents’ defini tions with one another revealed a range of meanings—from personal, internal expe rience to social, external experience—one feature of their definitions was consistent. In the eyes of the youth, challenge is a goal-oriented, forward-looking, future-focused concept.

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52 Research participants were also asked to describe what was challenging for the teens during the wilderness trip. What emerge d from this line of inquiry were primarily descriptions of camping activities and inter actions with the physical environment. Among these descriptions were ac tivities related to backcountry travel such as paddling, portaging, and camping. When asked to talk about what was challenging during the trip, John described his experience with paddling against the elements. Constantly in the waves, against the wind, against the current. Like, a few of the days the wind was going one way and the current was going the other way . so you had to paddle extremely hard on one side for a few hours. You couldn’t switch off to give one arm a rest. Paddling was one sort of physical challeng e. Portaging canoes and gear packs over rugged trails was another. Jiggle Billy vivi dly described struggles with mud and rocks while portaging a canoe on his shoulders. The weight isn’t the problem, it’s just, if you lose balance it becomes the problem. So you’re walking, trying to keep your ba lance, and then you’re stepping in mud. And one foot might sink deeper than the other, or you might have to slowly pull your foot out without having your shoe fall off. . Or then stepping on rocks, make sure you don’t hurt your ankle or you don’t slip off and drop the canoe. From a staff member’s perspective, Ca ndace portrayed the interaction between activity and environment as especially ch allenging for some of the teens. For the first two days, we had some pr etty tough paddling because of the wind. And I think right away, kids were forced to figure out what’s going on. You know, [two boys] coming through those narrows. . And they were going back and forth and spinning. . You could see ‘em give up at times. They just both put their paddles down and the wind would just take them. A final salient aspect of the physical e nvironment was the recurring topic of coping with wet weather and equipment. As depicted by Frank: We flipped a hundred yards from the starti ng point. All my stuff was wet, and I wasn’t very happy about it. We get to camp, my tent’s wet. . My sleeping bag is soaked, my comforter’s soaked so when I went to bed, I went to bed with a cold, very cold sleeping bag.

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53 As illustrated by these common depictions, the physical nature of the wilderness trip was predominantly characterized by manual travel through rugged terrain and somewhat foul weather. Additionally, all challenges we re initially compounded by the fact that the adolescents were mostly undevel oped in their outdoor skills training. As the trip progressed, however, outdoor skills devel oped and as demonstrat ed later in this chapter, negotiation of physical challenge s was ultimately perceived as personally rewarding. In addition to the physical nature of ch allenge, teens and staff members described psychological characteristics of challenge. For example, many students described elements of the physical challenge experi ence as requiring inte nse concentration, a characteristic of optimal experience (Csi kszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000). This property of challenge was evident in Jeff’s description of portaging. I had to really think what I was doin’. I wasn’t really thinkin’ of giving up, then. ‘Cause I didn’t really want to hurt myself . . I had to really focus on what I was doin’, lookin’ forward instead of behind me . . My friend, he had tripped over a log and sprained both of his wrists. I di dn’t really wanna end up like him, so I was watching ahead of me, and making sure I won’t trip over anything. Frank had a similar, though more intens e description of concentration while portaging. I just wanna’ get it over with, so I stay focused on it. So I have the canoe up on my shoulders and it’s one of those mile porta ges. . And there’s mud and rocks all over. . I’m hopping from rock to rock. Through trees and stuff. And just going as fast as I can. Get it over with. And ju st not taking my eyes off the trail. Not talking to anyone. Cause I’d need to stay perfectly fo cused on what I’m doing. . I don’t want to hop to another rock and miss it, and twist my ankle, have the canoe fall and break. . So I have to stay focused. Similarly Nicole demonstrated how she w ould stay mentally “in the moment” while portaging. “When you’re going through the portage . you have to think about what’s

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54 going on at the time. And at that time you can ’t worry about what happened earlier in the day, and you’re not really thinking a bout what you’re going to do next.” One final salient characteristic of th e challenge theme was also noticeably descriptive of the flow framework (Csikszentmihal yi, 1975, 2000). As reported by the teens, perceptions of competence were connected to feelings of control and enjoyment of challenges. Some indicated that as their outdoor skills and feelings of competence improved, challenges appeared less frustr ating and more enjoyable. For Megan, frustrations with canoeing decrease d as her paddling skills improved. Before I figured it out, I got frustrated because I di dn’t know how to do it, and, I just wanted to get it done. And like, just to be able to go. And then afterwards . [I] didn’t have to think about it that much. It’s, it’s like a second nature almost. Likewise for Megan and another female pa rticipant, setting up a tent initially produced frustration, but as familiarity and experience increased, it became commonplace. We did not know how to put our tent up. It was, it was awkwardly shaped, and like, we were missing a pole or something. And so, I got really frustrated, but we finally figured it out and from there on it was like, a snap to put it up. It was really easy. Jeff also illustrated feeling competent when asked to tell about the difficulty level of portaging, particularly when he was fee ling highly focused. He described carrying a canoe as, “Just right. Not too hard, not too easy. Just like, right, for me. Where I can handle it.” Many also described activities of the trip as “fun,” in which enjoyment was connected to novelty, a concept also relate d to optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Nicole, for example, described strenuous portaging as enjoyable. “A lot of them were, like, just a lot of fun. Like, it’s f un to go through.” Asked to explain what could

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55 make a portage fun, she described a combin ation of frustrating activity and welcome novelty: Well, even though it made it really hard and really annoying at the time, and you just wanted to get over with it. . I don’t know, they just kind of like changed things for you, gave you something new to do for the day. Overall, challenge as experienced during th e trip was described as having distinct physical and psychological properties. Physical characteristics rela ted to both activities of backcountry travel and the physical environment. Among the psychological descriptions of challenge were accounts of intense concentration, attitudes of perseverance, perceptions of competence, and fe elings of both frustration and enjoyment. With the exception of one t een participant whose account diverged from the stronger theme of challenge, students talked a bout challenging experiences within positive contexts reflective of the flow framework. Where obstacles or barriers to optimal experience were encountered du ring the wilderness trip, stude nts reported engaging with, pushing through, and ultimately su rmounting these challenges. As introduced to the reader earlier in this chapter, th e pre-trip lives of the ACE adolescents were characterized by multiple struggles and life constraints. By participating in this intervention program, these youth encountered s ituations apart from and unlike those of their everyday lives. A review of the major theme of challenge revealed trip characteristics c overing a range of experience. As the research participants talked ab out challenge, an underlying positive tone emerged from the dialogue, indicating a sense of growth among the teens. The topic of growth was therefore explored among the data and what emerged were two sub-themes: personal growth and social growth.

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56 Sub-theme 1A: Personal growth Exploration of interviews, questionnaires, and field notes revealed personal growth as both experiences and outcomes of the trip. Several data categories were classified as growth. Among those classified as persona l growth were strength, accomplishment, confidence, personal control, calmness, and perseverance. Personal growth: strength. As a category of personal growth, both teens and parents reported feeling physic ally strong as an important experience and outcome of the program. For Chip, being “one of the three people” in his group who was able to carry a canoe made him “ . feel good, that you’re physically strong.” Similarly, Iroquois described the “Highway to Hell” portage as “. . a good test of my hulk-like strength,” a portage where he carried a heavy pack and a canoe at the same time. “It’s like to prove to myself that I’m stronger than I think I am. Becau se I just think of myself as weak . ,” whereas portaging made him feel physically strong. Nicole described how carrying a canoe on he r shoulders was not as difficult as she had imagined and that it actually made her f eel stronger. Upon returning home she was more willing to take on physically challenging tasks and chores. There’s a lot of things now that I didn’t have to do before I went to Canada Because my dad decided to test my strength a little more . give me chores that I’d never do before. . I’ll just go out a nd do it every once in awhile or help him with something that requires a little more strength. . Because before I would have been like, “No, I can’t lift that.” . And [now], I mi ght actually go do it. Esther, mother of a female first-time part icipant, related her daughter’s sense of gratification to the physical definition she had acquired. She was pretty proud of her muscles when she got back. She really built up some muscles and really defined the ones in th e forearm and the biceps. You could tell she was proud of that, because . we had gone to Sam’s to get the salt for the water softener, and a forty pound bag, she says, “I’ll get that .” [laughs] No problem!

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57 Hydro also gained a sense of satisfaction from building strength. When asked what he liked most about the trip, he replied, “R ejuvenation and physical strength through the program. I really liked that.” Teen participants were also asked to expl ain how they gained satisfaction or reward from challenge experience. Wolf, a peer leader, had initially described portaging as devoid of rewards. However, when probed he identified strength as an unexpected reward. “I didn’t realize that I could do somethin’ like that. [It] made me stronger. Now that I look back, I real ize I got stronger. I didn’t r eally realize that [before].” As properties of personal growth, both di scovery of strength and development of strength were referred to as experiences and outcomes of the trip. Exercising one’s strength was further interrelated with ot her outcomes of personal growth, such as accomplishment Personal growth: accomplishment. With the exception of one teen participant interviewed, a strong sense of accomplishmen t was derived from participating in the ACE wilderness program. As an internal, pe rsonal experience, J ohn related the idea of accomplishment to feelings of personal power: Knowing that you didn’t need an engine to go probably thirty, forty kilometers in the water against current. . Just that I had gone all that way under my power. I had done all that. I felt a sense of accomplishment there. Specific examples of accomplishments during the trip were related on many levels. For Taylor, learning to set up a te nt was especially meaningful. Ever since the first day, I put up the tent. . It [meant] a lot because I had never set up a tent and I had never known how and th en when I had set it up, I was all proud of myself. Because I had done it right.

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58 Pushing through a long paddle into the wa ves and wind was recounted by Hydro as being a major accomplishment. Asked to talk about an example of what was challenging about the trip, Hydro recounted pa ddling through an open-water bay. The waves were three feet to five feet high and I pushed myself until I actually started to cry from the pain in my arms but after getting through I was so proud of myself and me and my partner. And it fe lt so good to get thr ough that part of the trip. It was great. ‘C ause you knew you pushed yourself that hard. And you knew that you got through. In addition to camping and paddling, porta ging was described as one of the most challenging activities that create d feelings of success. When asked to describe the most satisfying challenges, Nicole declared, “The most satisfyi ng part was being able to complete a long, hard portage and looking back at it and being able to say, ‘Wow! I portaged a canoe over that?’” As a topic of accomplishment, Jiggle Billy demonstrated tenacity associated with overcoming or defeating the recurring obstacle of potenti ally spirit-breaking mud. “There was so much of it, . and I swear sometimes mud is put there to make you fall. Or, not be able to move. And when you do th e opposite of what it’s there for, you’ve truly beaten it.” I wondered aloud if he was “making a game out of it.” Jiggle Billy continued: [That’s a] good way of saying it. It’s like, okay the mud’s tryin’ to beat me. . The whole idea is . you’re tryin’ to beat the mud at its own game. It’s tryin’ to make you fall. . It’s tryin’ to tip you, it’ s tryin’ to get you stuc k. Do the opposite. Don’t get stuck, don’t fall over and keep goin’ through it. Frank was a first year student whose goals for the trip included controlling his anger. While some related the idea of accomplishment in terms of physical experience, for Frank, accomplishment was represented by a combination of overcoming physical obstacles while controlling his emotions. Asked to describe his accomplishments he

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59 stated, “ . Just getting that closer to your destina tion and actually accomplishing something. Getting this trip done, without complaining, bursting out in anger, or anything like that.” Parents additionally related multiple examples of how they felt their children returned with feelings of having accomplished something big. Mae, for example, remarked about the deep meaning of th e ACE trip experience to her son. He had so much more in him than he’d realized. He was astounded, himself, that he could paddle a canoe so long and he ha d never done it before. I definitely know that that was a big part of this. Just realizing how much he could do. And proud of himself! Similarly, when asked what his daughter liked most about the trip, Safe One, stated: I think just the self-fulfillment that sh e could do what she did, actually. She came out of it. I hear it was tough, it sounds like. And . it sounded like she took a leadership role and she’s, came out of uh, with, m, I think she feels more confident. It became clear from the many references to accomplishment from st udents, parents, and staff alike, the vast majority of adolescents emerged from the program with a sense of major achievement. Personal growth: confidence. Intertwined with talk about accomplishment was the related topic of confidence, both aspect s of personal growth that were commonly discussed together. Safe One’s statement above, for example, suggested a link between his daughter’s accomplishments and increased se nse of confidence. This illustration was a sentiment communicated by others. Marge, a mother of a male peer leader, spoke about how her son had grown and gained confiden ce through his perseveran ce and success with the program. [He] has always had the problem of bei ng scared of doing new things. . And, it definitely has, shown him he’s capable of accomplishing a lot. He just needs to set his mind to it. And that type of se lf-confidence, he did not have before.

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60 Taffy, mother of a first-year male interp reted her son’s change in behavior as self-confidence. “He used to always walk around and say, ‘I’m ugly.’ I don’t hear that no more. He does have confidence in himself, to where it’s better and not, puttin’ himself down.” This kind of observation of her son was similar to what Grimace had noticed in his son, a peer leader. He walks, he sits differently. . He used to be more withdrawn or more insecure out in public. Now he’s got his shoulders b ack. He’s walking tall and he’s just a lot happier kid than he used to be. Nicole more directly pointed out ho w the program had helped her develop self-confidence. When asked how she had been able to use at home what she learned during the trip, Nicole described feeling more c onfident in her abilities as a result of the wilderness experience. . you do realize that things aren’t exactly that hard. Like, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and your resources are li mited and you have to deal with and be with the same group of people all day for a week. . You can just go through a lot more without even thinking about it. Wh en before you might have been, like, “No, I can’t do that.” And this time you might actually go out and try it. Similar to Nicole, Wolf specifically addresse d confidence as a self-p erceived outcome of the program. He described how after serving as a peer leader, leadership came more naturally to him. “Seems like I’ve got more confidence in myself now. . I was like, ‘I can do this.’” Personal growth: personal control. While strength, accomplishment, and confidence emerged naturally as categories from the sub-theme of personal growth, a fourth category of personal control emer ged from a line of questioning related to self-determination. As a theoretical basi s for this study, both the experience of self-determination during the wilderness trip, and the genera lization of such experience, were addressed through questions to teens, staff, and parents re garding feelings of

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61 personal control (Kiewa, 2001). What emerge d from this line of questioning was an underlying meaning of controlling one’s anger in stressful situations. Megan defined personal control as “Having control over your anger and frustrations over certain things .” Asked to talk more about it, she elaborated, “If you can control your . like, if you wanna kick th is person’s butt, you can control that, controlling your anger, you will just set it as ide and do something else or use your anger in a different way.” She was then asked to de scribe what made her feel like she had used personal control during the trip, and she stat ed, “When I did get angry I didn’t yell at people, I didn’t take it out on them. I took it out on either, like if we were paddling or something, I took it out on, just, paddling.” Using the physical challenge of paddling or portaging seemed to help others control their anger as well. Frank, for example, desc ribed how he dealt with his frustration over another group member’s behavior. Canoei ng and portaging were key outlets for his anger. Paddling, we would actually go much faster because I would be paddling so hard and so fast, I would just paddle as hard as I possibly could. At the portages, I would double pack. And carry the canoe and my backpack at the same time. . So that was really hard and it would be over those long portages. That would help get my anger out. Associated with anger control was th e observation by parents of calmness among the teens after returning from the wilderne ss. Jenn, a parent of one of the male participants, observed a reduction in her son’s ty pical bouts of anger. “He hasn’t gotten as angry as quickly as he used to. . He’s more fun. He’s more part of the family.” Another parent, Butch, noticed his son s eemed more relaxed and thoughtful about problem management after returning from the trip. “He seems a lot calmer. He’s not, um, jittery like he used to be.”

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62 Another aspect of teen calmness observed by multiple parents was a reduced inclination toward conflict. Safe One’s daughter for example “. . doesn’t argue. She’ll [say] “Yes I’ll do it,” and she’ll get to it. . There’s been a definite change in havin’ to prompt her and push her all th e time with doin’ stuff.” The parents’ observations of teen calmne ss were supported by the adolescents’ own accounts. During the interviews, teen particip ants were asked to tell about how they had been able to use what they had learned dur ing the wilderness tri p. Giving the question some thought, Jessica responded, “Hmm. I thi nk that not freaking out when [I] really want to. Usually I’m just like, “Oh my god I don’t want to do this!” And just totally freak out and not do nothing.” Similarly, and more specifically, Nicole responded, “I can be a lot more calm about certain situations with arguments . and other people.” Personal growth: perseverance. An attitude of perseverance was a prevalent characteristic of the wilderness challenge e xperience. Jiggle B illy, using alternating voices to represent an internal dialogue, il lustrated how portaging required a high degree of determination and perseverance. “. . my foot hurts.” “Keep moving.” “Oh my shoe’s about to fall off.” “Keep moving.” Because, every step you take is one step closer to the end of the thing. Sometimes the mud’s terrible, or these rocks are pullin’ me. You just want to put the thing down. “Keep moving.” Your shoul ders might start to hurt. “The faster you move, the faster it’ll be off your shoulders” (laughs). While the adolescents reported perseverance in multiple forms, staff member J Rudy connected this concept to perceptions of competence among the teens. “Well my sense is that typically their life is involv ed with failures and they’re excused from the experience, or they escape from the experien ce, or cop-out of the experience.” Yet the ACE program offers youth a different experience:

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63 . the chance to stay with a challenge and see themselves succeed on the other side of it, . that’s kind of one of the critical elements of the trip. “Well I don’t know how to get from here to there unle ss you just do it!” And simply sailing by, sitting here, and doing nothing is not an op tion. And I think they see that. Forced into succeeding, they begin to see themselves as competent. J Rudy’s assessment develops a link betw een the necessity of pushing through a challenge, and the outcome of positive self-per ception. It is importa nt to note that the wilderness challenge experience is partly characterized by this link. Compared with post-trip pastimes and experiences (detailed la ter in this chapter) the wilderness trip is unique in this attribute. From a personal growth perspective, the at titude of “just do it” seemed to also carry over beyond the trip. Connecting this attitude to everyday experience, Nicole described how she would now push through conflict situations with a parent. Just to get it over with and just do it, ‘cause it’s not like, as much as I might not want to do it, it’s not all about me and I know that. And I’ll just find different ways to just deal with it. Relating the work of the wilderness trip to his responsibilities at home, Chip reflected this attitude in t ackling his more challenging chores “Just thinkin’ about it, think of how it was so hard, you worked at it, you eventually got it. So just think if you work hard you can get it.” In a more metaphorical line of thinki ng, Taylor suggested a parallel between homework and portaging. If the teacher gives you homework that you don’ t want to do, just like think of the portages that you really didn’t want to do. And how you did ‘em anyway. And then you felt, like, good that you had gotten through the mud and stuff. Finally, in the questionnaire completed at the trip’s conclusion, the student’s were asked to state their goals for returning home. Taylor’s writ ten goal best summed up this

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64 category of personal growth. “When life has a portage that I really don’t want to do, to just do it.” Sub-theme 1B: Social growth As outlined above, personal growth emerged as a sub-theme from the dominant theme of challenge. While personal growth included categories reflecting internal experience, other categories of challenge sugge sted external influen ces. When compared with the sub-theme of personal growth, th ese categories grew into an overlapping sub-theme of social growth. Among the catego ries classified in the social domain were social skills and social confidence. Social growth: social skills. As a category of social grow th, development of social skills was salient. Parents and teens alike indicated improvement s in teen social skills. Madonna, for example, discussed how she felt th e trip had helped her son learn how to interact in more appropri ate ways with his peers. I think going on this helps him learn to in teract better, rather than being obnoxious. . It’s helped him being with a group of people day and night for a week. It’s helped him to interact and be more comforta ble. . ’Cause he sees that he doesn’t have to be as pushy to have people like him. Introspectively, Bruce talked about how he has become a better listener through his participation in the wilderness trip. Asked to described how he had been able to apply the experience, he said, “I t’s helped a lot. . I used to ju st talk about myself. . That’s changed. . I’ve actually listened to my friends more.” Both Madonna’s and Bruce’s language revealed how the ACE program helped teens improve the quality of thei r social interactions among p eers. As a general outcome category, social skills overlapped with the outcome of so cial confidence.

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65 Social growth: social confidence. As indicated by the student profile, participants tended to lack socially supportive networks Candace was a current staff member and former middle school guidance c ounselor with experience in referring students to the ACE program. She suggested the ACE trip provided teens with avenues for building social confidence whereas previous efforts to make friends had been met with failure. I think socially, making friends [during the trip] gives them so much confidence. ’Cause a lot of these kids come from . experiences where they don’t have friends. And they work and work and work to get into a group, and they’re shut out . almost everywhere they turn. The ACE trip, however, gave these teens opportunities to establish new friendships. Candace continued, “They’d make friends. They ’re a part of the group, and I think that confidence carries over into just how they a pproach school. It doesn’t have to be the socially scary place.” As Candace illustrated, an overlap emerged between social confidence and self-confidence among the data. Candace’s obs ervations were addi tionally reflected by the statements of several stude nts. Iroquois, a returning stud ent and peer leader, related his feelings of self-confidence in the current year to his experience as an ACE participant in the prior year. It seemed like no pressure, really. . ‘Cause I know I’m f unny enough and I’ll end up being liked. . So I guess, from the la st year it helped me realize it shouldn’t matter how I act, because everybody’s gonna like me no matter what. Taylor more specifically disclosed her view of how the wilderness trip had helped her become a more socially confident individual. I am less shy. I’m more talkative. . I’m more confident to be me. I don’t have to be there and act like everybody else is, or dress however everybody else does. I’ll do what I want to do.

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66 Sub-theme 1C: Helping The topic of helping was a third salient sub-theme of challenge. The importance of this topic emerged from the exploration of data related to personal growth and social growth. As students learned to see th emselves as competent and capable of accomplishing major physical, emotional, and social hurdles, they likewise viewed themselves as capable of making contributi ons to one another and to the group. This sub-theme, termed helping because of the assistive nature of teen behaviors, overlapped with the two earlier sub-themes of personal growth and social growth, which in turn overlapped with one another. Asked to describe how challenge had been satisfying to the stude nts, the topic of helping was brought up repeated ly. Megan, for example, told about how her group had encountered a set of rapids. She had sugge sted that paddling up the rapids would be dangerous, and that someone would need to physically get into th e water and pull the canoes up against the current. Megan took the leadership and sacrificed staying dry for the benefit of the group. She described how pulling her group up the rapids had been personally rewarding for her. “I know I did a big thing for the group. . So, I just got in. It was freezing. . The [satisfaction] came from keeping them dry, . knowing that I kept people dry and knowing I saved them from tipping.” Parents were also asked to relate what they thought had been most meaningful about the trip to their children. Jenn suggest ed being helpful was the greatest source of her son’s enjoyment. I think he liked most the fact that he was so helpful and that everybody looked up to him. ‘Cause he’s, so big and tall a nd strong. . [In a meek voice] “Oh, I can’t carry this, can you carry it?” So yea h, he’d carry everybody’s stuff, because it

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67 made him feel really important. I really think that his helpfulness is what he liked the best. Feeling needed by everybody. From a staff member’s perspective, Doc commented on how intense challenge, combined with helping behavior, promoted the kind of deep concentration that characterizes optimal experience. This ex ample was given in the story of one boy who seemed totally focused on the chance to be of service to the group. I’ll never forget the, the big guy in ou r group who pulled all the canoes up [the rapids]. And I think the act of giving and seeing that he could give so well to the group in that context. He was just tota lly focused. I mean he went up and down that rocky waste-deep water current a whole mess of times. And he was just totally determined and totally focused on what he wanted to do for the group at that moment. . I don’t think his life had many experiences where he felt that he could go to that zone where he could really s ee himself doing something that really was valued by others. . The group was very supportive and rewarding to him of his desire and his willingness to do that. While self-sacrifice and helping others wa s one aspect of the helping sub-theme, asking for and receiving help was anothe r. Jiggle Billy, for example, proposed: Don’t think you have to do it yourself. ‘Cause if you’re trying, then you can ask for help and someone will help you. ‘Cause sometimes when you have a pack on your back, once you fall down you can’t get back up. . And so you gotta ask someone else, “Can you help me?” and they push it up. Among the many topics within the data, st udents acting as helpers to one another was communicated as a powerfully rewardi ng experience. Compared with other emergent categories and themes, it became cl ear that helping was a key link among the challenge sub-themes. Furthermore, when fact ored into the overall theme of challenge, it was evident that helping, combined with pers onal growth and social growth, facilitated a norm of reciprocity that, in turn, contri buted to the development of community. Theme 2: Community The combination of personal and soci al growth, having developed through challenge, fostered an environment of interd ependence and reciprocity in which teens felt

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68 satisfaction in contributing to the their group. These ingredients, combined with a staff intent on supporting student growth, developed into a community of teens and staff that seemed to represent deep meaning for the pr ogram participants. Among the meanings of community experienced during the trip were ch aracteristics of trust, friendship, and social support. Trust Multiple teens showed a development of emotional trust among the group members that contributed to a sense of community. Tr ust as an important aspect of the community experience was most articulated by Hydro. Well, the people that you’re with on the tr ip kind of be, sorta become your family on the trip and you learn to share what you can’t really share at home with them. Because you know it’s going to be confidentia l. And at home or specifically at my house, you know it’s probably not gonna be confidential and it’s just gonna get around. And usually come back and bites you in the butt. Halo also referred to the sense of group trust communicated by her son, a first year participant. I asked [him] about what they talked about and he said, “Mom, we had a code of confidence and silence.” A nd I said, “Okay, okay. Say no more.” And he said, “Let me just tell ya.” He said, “T hat we had some rea lly good talks.” Development of trust was additionally me ntioned by Brett, a staff member and agency counselor. He described a sense of openness that had developed among the teens involved in the program. When asked to e xplain how the adolescents had come by that openness, he replied: I think they’ve learned to trust each other as a result of the tr ip. We went through some rough times and none of us ga ve up. We supported each other.

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69 Group support Group support, as a category of community, was discussed in se veral perspectives, including assistance, encouragement and colla boration through a vari ety of challenges. Within the context of physical challenge, Bruce talked about how supporting one another in the group was central to getti ng the group over a beaver dam. The communication skills. Tryi ng to have one person at the top of the beaver dam. Guiding the canoe while the other person at the bottom pushed it up in order to get it to the top. . Some peopl e were strong enough to do it, some people weren’t. . If you couldn’t do it, then you had somebody else help you. Asked if strength was a factor in negotia ting the dam, Bruce replied, “Strength for the group was a big key. . Everything branched off of that. You have to have a strong group in order to have communication, focus, patience and all.” Hydro also described the value of group support during challenging aspects of the trip. There was always someone to help. Ev en if they were doing something, they would always come and help you if it wa s hard. . [If] you we re carrying a canoe and couldn’t really do it, someone would co me up. Or two people sometimes . would help you carry the canoe to the end. And it was just really nice to have those people help. It makes it easier on you b ecause you know there’s always someone to help even in a rough situation. Doc explained how one boy in the group ha d been struggling emotionally during the first days of the trip. But as the week went on: . you could just see his enthusiasm grow . . I think this boy really found some safety in the little community spirit that got created with this group. I think he felt cared for. And I think maybe for the firs t time in a long time, he didn’t feel so alone. Friendship Friendship development during the wild erness experience was an additional indicator of community development. Th e significance of building friendships was

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70 strong. As mentioned earlier, most particip ants were unlikely to have strong peer attachments or social networks. Various i ndications were relayed suggesting friendship development was an important aspect of the trip. Jeff related how a major goal for his trip was to make a friend. “I met a couple a new people . and they became my friends. Someone we could talk to on the trip, about our private, personal stuff without people knowin’.” Jenn, also talked about how establishing fr iendships was important to her son. “He made new friends. Which he doesn’t do all the time. And he likes that.” The social bonds that developed among teen s were evident when Taffy talked about her son’s excitement for the follow-up group. “He can’t wait to go Friday. See everybody again. And, that’s givi n’ him somethin’ to look fo rward to and, kinda like reminiscin’, and stuff like that.” Laughter Lady also indicated that while her son would generally have difficulty making friends, the wilderness group “ . seem ed very nice. He felt real comfortable with them.” The level of comfort level was reiterated by Megan who described a sense of family developing among the teens on the trip. “My group became, like a family and I liked it. I like that bonding and everything.” Two major themes have been presented as th ey pertain to the wild erness trip. From the challenge theme emerged the sub-themes pe rsonal growth, social growth and helping. The combined influences of these sub-them es gave rise to an additional theme of community, a group environment of friendship, tr ust, and support that grew out of group challenge experiences. A final theme, key player relationships will now be introduced and discussed in terms of its relati onship to the previous two themes.

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71 Theme 3: Key Player Relationships The third major theme identified in this re search was “key player relationships.” Key players were identified as three categories of research participants: staff members, parents, and teens, and these relationships pertain specifica lly to links and bonds existing between each type of research participant. As these re lationships were explored, it became clear that wilderness trip bonds between staff members and students were strong. However, a disconnection emerged between both staff-parent relationships and student-parent relationships, as they pert ained to the program. These links and disconnects are illustrated below. Program (staff)-teen relationships Supporting the teens’ growth and developm ent throughout the ACE trip was clearly a goal and priority of the staff program leaders. The effort to help the teens develop and discover their inner strengths was clearly communicated by Doc. You want them to think, that it was a really hard experience. And from that came some strength that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. . And it seemed like the more we kind of told them how good th ey were doing, and how well they were dealing with the struggle, the better they did. As Hydro suggested, staff support was critical to his feeling a sense of safety with sharing emotional material with the group. I learned basically to be able to show my feelings a lot easier because before this I didn’t like to show my feelings. I kinda suppressed ‘em and it’s just easier to live now that I’m able to show those, because thanks to like [my staff leader] . they just helped me to be able to get those out in the open. For Hydro, a boy who suffered from depressi on, learning to open up to others was a powerful experience that encouraged his enjoym ent of the trip and further helped him to enjoy life beyond the wilderness trip. Grimace related a similar observation of his son’s bonds with the staff members. “I think th e encouragement and support he got from the

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72 group leaders went a long way towards ma king him maybe reevaluate how he saw himself.” In the process of staff supporting teen self-discovery, an overall emphasis in supporting autonomous action became evident in statements made by students and staff members. Nicole, for example, described a gr oup situation in whic h she appreciated how the students were allowed to work out a group problem without adult intervention. The whole canoe switching was a really bi g, like, complete group effort. And I really like the idea that in stead of [our staff leader ] being like, “Okay, why don’t you two go together, you two go together,” . he really let us decide. And he kinda just, like started the topic and the c onversation and sorta let us take it from there. And it really helped our communication skills w ith each other. During the staff focus group interview, Bre tt described his leadership philosophy in terms of flow theory, one topic of the discussion. In his de scription, staff leadership was geared toward helping the a dolescents feel in-control. Because I find that [we are] intervening a lo t if they’re really bored or if they’re really anxious. But once they get to the point where they’re almost, ah, on automatic pilot with what they need to do, regardless of the challe nge, that’s when I feel like we’re really bri nging out the best in them. Candace’s observations supported Brett’s co mments and suggested a staff leadership style that supported student autonomy and encouraged self-determination. I think [Brett] is right in that the more we can step back and allow the kids to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t, the more likely that is to happen. I mean obviously the first day or two, they n eed a little bit more guidance. . But then, really stepping back and letting them [go]. Facilitating students’ sense of autonomy was one leader ship style staff used to support their personal and social growth through out the trip. Anothe r characteristic of student-staff relationships was evident in how the staff supported development of community among the groups of students.

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73 As described by Brett, the staff member s were intentional about encouraging selflessness among the teens. For part of the journey, our group was in fr ont of people and we were getting later in the afternoon and we were passing cam psites, and the kids were like, “Why don’t we camp there?” We were like, “Y ou know what? [Another group] is behind us.” . In a way, that’s us showing them the altruism of “We’re gonna do this [to] not be selfish.” Candace supported Brett’s comments by indicating the collective nature of individual canoe groups among the larg er group of adolescents and staff. Really we think of our group as our sma ll canoe group, but it’s really that whole group of you know, all four of the groups. A nd we still make decisions so that all four groups can be safe. As a staff, the leaders made multiple references to, and directly acknowledged the process of building community among the peer s. They further illustrated leadership styles that encouraged collective thought, action, and social bonding. In addition to encouraging community, overall bonds between staff members and teenage participants appeared to be strong. Staff-teen relations hips were generally illustrated as beneficial to students’ persona l and social development, supportive of their autonomy, and encouraging of community bui lding among the group. Various research participants related teens’ positive regard for the staff members. As told by Madonna, her son “ . loves the directors that go. . Oh yeah, he’s crazy about all of them. He talks very highly of them all the time.” As described by adolescents, parents, and the staff members, the counselors leading the wilderness group we re clearly committed to faci litating personal and social growth among the teenagers. They addi tionally developed suppor tive relational bonds with the teens throughout the trip. Finally, they recognized the meaning of community as

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74 a powerful uniting force among the group, and th e staff made efforts to encourage and help build the community environment. Program (staff)-parent relationships While the teens’ interaction with sta ff members and the program facilitated individual and social growth, as well as the building of community, the parents, in contrast, sat largely outside of the wilder ness trip support equation. The absence of parents was evident, and a program-parent di sconnect was manifest in the parents’ non-participation and lack of knowledge about what occurred during their children’s week in the wilderness. What became clear was that parents were largely outsiders from the community that developed among the teens and staff member s. Many of the parents wanted to learn about the trip from their child ren while the teens had not shared much information with them. As Mae put it, “Gee. I’d liked to have known a little bit more about it. A little more details.” A common exchange during the parent inte rviews involved the parent speaking in generalities about his or her ch ild’s experience due to a lack of detailed information. Safe One, for example, was asked to describe wh at was challenging for his daughter during the trip. He answered, “I don’t know enough about th e specifics. . I have a general idea of what they did, but it, it just seem s like it was a good solid program.” Laughter Lady, on the other hand, responded to the question with a tone of frustration. Well you know, it’s hard because I really don’t know what they’ve done! Ya know, if they had sessions out there in th e canoes, if they had sessions around the campfire, he won’t talk ; tell us about it. And so, wh atever he absorbed, other than little tidbits of th ings, we don’t know.

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75 As the lines of communication between st aff and parents were further explored, there seemed to be little ev idence of a working relationshi p. This observation was made in stark contrast to the open and flowing relationship that existed between the staff members and teens. Most of the parents simp ly lacked information about the trip. This problem was compounded by the fact that teen s were generally not apt to share detailed information about the trip with parents. Summer pointed out: I was hoping one of the adult leader s in [my daughter’s] group would have contacted me after they got back from th e trip just to let me know any thoughts or things that they observed, or any instan ces they had with [my daughter]. . Because when she came home it was really hard to get a lot of stuff out of her. . As a parent I would like to ha ve feedback as to what they observed [her] to be like on the trip. Summer’s comments illustrated a central di sconnect between program and parents. There appeared to be no formal mechanism fo r facilitating parental involvement with the program or communication with the staff. Ra ther, the parents’ involvement was largely limited to an initial recru itment meeting, helping the st udents prepare for the trip (gathering gear and packing), and transporting them to and from the agency. Beyond this involvement, parents were mostly cut off from the teens’ experiences and accomplishments in the wilderness. Parent-teen relationships While the parents had no functional role in the program, they did relate overall expectations of certain outcomes from the trip. Some parents were pleased with the outcomes while others were disappointed. Ho wever very few of the parents seemed to view themselves as connected to suppor ting or extending the outcomes of the trip. Of the parents who talked about supporting what their children had gained from the trip, Halo expressed deep interest in helpi ng to extend the experien ce of her son, a first

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76 year student who had been suffering from depr ession. Halo told of how she had written her son a letter to take w ith and read during the trip. So I wrote in his letter, “You’re going to have to make a decision on how you’re going to act or respond to each thing that comes up. You’re going to have to think before you act.” When he came home he had my note all crumpled up on his desk. And I said, “Oh you read it.” And he says “Yeah.” And he gave me a big hug and he said, “Mom, it meant a lot. It really helped. It really helped.” Because I addressed the things in his personality that I knew that he might have difficulty or challenge with on the trip. Like Halo, Grimace appeared to share a cl ose, supportive relationship with his son, a second year student/peer leader. His langu age additionally suggested an awareness of his role in helping his son apply what had been learned. Grimace was an uncommon example of a parent who seemed to adjust hi s parenting style to s upport what his son had gained from participating in the program. I think it’s improved the dynamic between th e members of the family. Things are [on] a much more mature level than they we re before. It’s gone from pretty much myself, my wife, and my older son tell ing him step by step what [to] do, to consulting [him] more. I mean, we value his opinions on stuff because he’s a smart kid. And he has insights sometimes that we don’t have. So I think we’re more of a team than we ever were before. Compared to all but a few parents, Grim ace’s valuing of his son’s opinion, and his encouragement of the team-like dynamic among the family was an exceptional account. His descriptions of the parent-child relati onship were unlike the prevailing attitudes indicated by other parents who did not appear to see themselves as having a major role in supporting outcomes of the program. Of the parents who expressed somewhat disconnected attitudes regarding the program, Jenn described how her son had been less argumentative with his brother upon returning home from the wilderne ss trip. Her interest in rela ting that behavior to the trip, however, was negligible. “I’ve thought about it, the fact that . I did see the difference

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77 in him. But I didn’t . think where it cam e from. I didn’t care where it came from, quite frankly.” Other parents expressed a sense of disappoi ntment in the lack of change resulting from the trip. Corcho, for example, expected more change in her son than she actually observed. Maybe I was expecting too much. . I gue ss because of what the counselors [said] that [he] would be a changed man when he got back. . I was expecting him to have made some friends. . I think he pushes people away because he’s so impulsive. So I was hoping that he would be a little more calm. Like Corcho, Laughter Lady had higher hopes for program outcomes. It was so nice when he came home. He was just happy, he was excited to see everybody. . And then about after a week he just turned like his own routine again. . And I wish it, I guess it’s li ke “Okay we’re goin ’ right back there buddy!” . Just crabby. Just mean, sweari ng at us and just not being a pleasant person. Though Corcho and Laughter Lady provided unusual examples of parents who were disappointed with the lack of change these conversations, combined with Jenn’s, demonstrate an observation discovered among mu ltiple parent interviews. Many parents failed to see themselves as having a major role in supporting or extending outcomes of the ACE program. Insights shared by Karlita, a first-time AC E staff member added to the portrait of parents disconnected from the program. “I hope we can communicate more to the parents what they did. . That the parent s could be more involved in helping that transfer happen.” She further described how the dominant post-trip interaction between staff members and parents invol ved about five minute convers ations in the parking lot upon their return from the wilderness. Karlit a suggested that parents could be key to extending the outcomes of the wilderness experien ce. “There’s so much the parents don’t

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78 know about that these kids did. That I hope that there’s a time when they do know, because the parents could really be so inst rumental in helping th at transfer happen.” As illustrated by Karlita, the parents were never truly part of the ACE program. Nor were they ever included in the community that developed throughout the program. Likewise, as outsiders of the ACE progr am community, many were apparently unattached from seeing themselves in the roles of outcome supporters. Wilderness Trip Summary As the data have thus far demonstrat ed, challenges duri ng the trip were characterized by active physical social, and psychological e xperiences. Wilderness trip encounters fostered individual developm ent illustrated by feelings of strength, accomplishment, self-confidence, self-control, calmness, and perseverance. Social development among the teens was typified by socializing, improve d social-skills, and feelings of social confidence. Challengi ng activity that encour aged both personal and social growth also facilitated teens adopting roles as helpers to one another within their groups. The overall challenge experience, as characterized by these attributes, encouraged the development of community am ong the youth and staff participants. As relationships between the key players in th is narrative (students, program/staff, and parents) were examined, strong bonds were revealed between the teenagers and staff members. While these bonds represented a st rong sense of community growing out of the program, parents were primarily excluded from this group identity. Post-Trip Given the remarkable growth in persona l and social domains as well as the community attachment that developed from the wilderness program, I was prompted to consider these themes and categories as they pertained to post-trip experience. An

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79 underlying purpose of this study was to assess the transition and tran sfer of learning from the wilderness program to the everyday home environment. While questions related to that purpose were partly answered regardi ng experiences and outcomes of the wilderness trip, to what extent those outcomes were su stained or supported be yond the trip have not been detailed. Comparison of post-trip life with wilderness experiences suggested major differences in the nature of activities and also showed a range of support for adolescent growth. An additional question, therefore, arose as to the nature of post-trip experiences. Specifically, I was compelled to ask: Was ther e anything about the teens’ post-trip lives that helped them sustain or extend what they had gained during the trip (e.g., growth through challenge and sense of community)? The data were therefore examined for characteristics of challenge in post-trip experi ence and to what extent the teens’ post-trip experiences fostered the outcomes of persona l growth, social grow th, helping behavior, and community. Theme 1: Challenge Descriptions of challenge Through the exploration of the challenge theme within the post-trip phase, three major categories emerged describing this th eme: activeness, passi veness, and emotional challenge. While activeness did emerge under cha llenge, this relates mo re strongly to the sub-theme of post-trip personal growth and w ill be discussed later in the chapter. Passiveness and emotional challenge, however tended to describe the overall theme of challenge post-trip and will be described in this section.

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80 Descriptions of post-trip activity mostly developed from a line of questioning and probes asking both teens and parents to desc ribe how they had been spending their time after returning from the tri p. Many described what I clas sified as passive activity. Wolf, for example, described his posttrip daily experi ence as generally unchallenging. “Wilderness trip is like where you have to bust yourself. When I’m at home, I don’t really do much because there’ s nothin’ really much I have to do.” Likewise, Jessica related her post-trip activ ities as non-challenging and boring. Asked how she had been spending her time, she summar ized, “I have just been sitting at my sister’s softball tournaments al l summer long. And if I’m not th ere, sitting inside because I’m not allowed to leave the house because I’m home alone.” Asked what she would do at home, Jessica replied, “I call a ll my friends. Just talk to ever y single one. . I listen to music really loud and just lay aroun d with my dog and wrestle her.” Though seemingly a bit more active than Jessica, John described everyday activities that were largely undemanding. “M y normal stuff. Playing X-Box, going over to my friend’s house, taking bike rides. Um, just hanging around.” In their interviews, teens were asked to c onsider how being mentally focused in the wilderness was like or unlike being mentally focused at home. Megan compared the two concepts, stating: Well, what helped me [stay] focused then was knowing there was nobody there to do it, but [now] there is somebody at my house to help me, so that’s why I’m not as focused. There’s somebody th ere that can do it for me. Probing the idea of intense concentrati on, a property that emerged from the psychological domain of wilderness challenge, post-trip activity was largely discussed as mentally passive. Bruce, for example, sa id that since he had been home from the program, he hadn’t been involved in any act ivity that required much mental focus.

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81 Like I said, I’ve been on the couch a lot. Hanging out with a few friends, but on the couch mostly. So no mental focus there, except for grab remote, change channel. That’s about the only ment al focus I’ve had to use (laughs). Also pointing out the prevalence of pa ssive experience, Hydro provided an example of the how the home environment dur ing summer encouraged boredom. Lack of responsibility and expectations seemed to play a role. “The re’s nothing really important to do at home. . Summer is basically like a slack off time for me and it’s basically like the entire summer to me is boredom.” Parent data supported the teens’ descripti ons of torpid pastimes. Jenn provided a typical example: [He] spends his time either in front of the computer, video games, TV, and then sometimes he’ll go and do things with his friends, but usually they come over and that’s what they do. And he’s, his new thing now is, staying up all night on the computer and then going to bed in the morning. Asked whether she had noticed any differences in activity engagement after the trip versus prior, Jenn reflected, “A ctivity? I think when he came back he did—for a little while—he did go and do more things. But, he’s pretty much back to his normal routine now.” An attempt was made to identify the char acteristics of post-trip experience as related to the theoretical frameworks of this study. It was learned that many teenager pastimes were commonly perceived as nonchallenging, boring, and generally inactive. Some post-trip challenges seemed to have been anxiety-producing experiences and led to avoidant or diversionary behavior. The more significant challenges discovered post-trip were in fact emotional struggles involv ing family relationships.

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82 Nicole related how her time at home fo llowing the trip had been characterized by family conflict. Her attempts to deal with the conflict were described as a mental challenge. Nicole admitted: I haven’t really had to go through a lot that’s been too challenging for me, no. Other than—my whole family situation is kinda’, really sorta’ messed up. And that’s more of a mental challenge that we were talking about earlier. Where I have to get along with my mom. And that can, at times, get really hard for me. . That’s where I tend to get out of the house. So, I avoid that when I can. Hydro described similar attempts to avoi d ever-present family conflict in his home. “I try to be out of th e house whenever I can ‘cause I re ally don’t want to be in the house. There’s a lot of bad memories there. So I’m not really ther e that much.” Asked to elaborate on his frustrations Hydro replied, “Just the famil y. They haven’t been very cooperative about much. For anyone. Mom a nd dad getting a divorce . sisters and brother being annoying.” Both Hydro and Nicole offered examples of stress related to family conflict. Other students such as Frank, Jessica, and Chip, and parents including Laughter Lady, Black Jack, Esther, and Jenn alluded to fam ily-related stress as well. For Hydro and Nicole especially, pastimes were typified by conflict avoidance. Sub-theme 1A: Personal growth Personal growth: active pursuits. While post-trip activities did not rise to levels of challenge and intensity as described in the wilderness, not all accounts of post-trip pursuits were reported as entirely passive. As an exception, Jiggl e Billy, reported being normally energetic. I’m pretty active, actually. I like to bike a lot. So if I can get to a place on a bike, or with a car, I’d probably take the bike. So the last couple days I’ve been biking down to [nearby town].

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83 In terms of activity that appeared to cont ain properties of personal growth, such as confidence or accomplishment, Jeff suggested he was more interested in challenging himself after the trip. Describing his adve ntures with a swimming pool high-dive, Jeff related his enjoyment with: . pushing myself until I do somethin’ very high. Which would be scary for me, but I do it anyway . twenty feet high. I f lip and dive off of it. At first it’s scary because you’re lookin’ down like, “Oh G od!” But then after you do it once, you’re like, “Um, that’s not bad. That’s like fun.” Another exception to passivity was Esther’s daughter who had b een traveling with a friend and attending various camps throughout the summer. Esther explained how her teenager had spent little time at home since the end of the trip, and that she was currently preparing to depart for another camp experien ce. “The girl’s been busy. She goes from camp to trip, to—this is the first time I’ve se en her since the wilderness trip for probably four days. She’s just been the l ittle adventurous one this summer.” Since activities that challenged teens phys ically and mentally contributed to personal and social growth dur ing the wilderness trip, data representing post-trip active pursuits were searched for similar propert ies. Limited representations of these characteristics were found and described. Personal growth: strength. In the course of intervie wing, teens were asked about what activities they had perceived as satis fying during the wilderness experience. As noted earlier in the chapter, Chip and others suggested that portag ing had been satisfying as it made them feel strong. Asked to describe post-trip activities that made him feel that way, Chip said, “I’m rolling hay everyday. I’ll do it like a lot. Rolling hay really helps. ‘Cause I, I could do it. Ya know it’s really tiring but, yeah.” Another reference to post-trip feelings of stre ngth was related by Nicole.

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84 We have a pool in our backyard and sometim es at night we need to put the cover on. I’d have to ask someone else to help me do it. And oftentimes, it’d be my sister. . She’d be like, “Aw, I don’t want to do that.” And I’d be like, “Alright, fine!” And I’d have to go do it myself. A nd now it’s not that bi g of a deal to me anymore. Building and discovery of physical streng th was a significant contributor to personal growth during the wilderness trip. Li mited examples of activities that contribute to one’s sense of strength were di scovered in the post-trip data. While there were several indications of active post-trip pastimes, the predominant descriptions of post-trip activity contrasted sharply with activities of the ACE wilderness program. Evidence of activity that fostered feelings of accomplishment, self-confidence, personal control, calmness, and perseveran ce—as discovered in the wilderness trip data—was sought among post-trip data. While only sparse indications of these kinds of activities or outcomes were found, post-trip activity was more strongly described as inactive or passive behavior. The theme of challenge was more clearly characterized by emotional material related to family conflict. Sub-theme 1B: Social growth The sub-theme of social growth, as descri bed during the trip, was also compared to post-trip descriptions of expe rience. Like personal grow th, indications of post-trip experiences contributing to social growth ranged from nearly nonexistent to clearly evident. As a category of social growth, socializi ng was most apparent among post-trip talk. Marge, for example, suggested her son was more social as a result of having made friends during the challenge trip. “I th ink he’s, he’s more socially in teractive now than he was. I think now he’s more reliant on his peer group. Instead of isolating, he’s more likely just to be, social.”

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85 Jiggle Billy further described his inclinati on toward increased pe er activity. Asked to talk about how he had been spending hi s time, he referred to, “Hanging out with people. . I have a lot more friends now. And, biking . ‘cause I’ve been biking to hang out with people.” Jiggle Billy also indicated th at his social involvement wa s connected to the friends he had made during the wilderness trip. Other teens like Taylor, Iroquois, and Wolf suggested the self-conf idence they gained during the tr ip helped them become more socially confident and more likely to be socially involved with others. However, a number of teens did not seem to make s ubstantial changes in the social realm. Both Corcho and Taffy, for example, described how their sons had made friends with others during the trip, but had not been in contact with them. Similarly, Laughter Lady suggested that her son had not brought home any phone numbers or contact information from the friends he had made. My conversation with John indicated that most of his post-trip activities had been spent either on vacation with family or entertaining himself around the home. Bruce’s social interactions were limited to phone conversations, which he said he had to lim it as he would get in trouble for “running up the phone bill.” And when asked what her daughter had been doing with her free time post-trip, Summer replied, “She’s by herself. She entertains herself by watching TV, playing games on the computer, and those lit tle hand held video games. She really doesn’t have any friends.” While social growth as faci litated by everyday post-tri p activities varied from absent to prevalent among indi vidual teens, the major post-tr ip social influence was the follow-up group. Staff members described the follow-up group as being a central factor

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86 to extending the outcomes of the program. Th is topic will be disc ussed later in this chapter as the follow-up group relates more strongly to the co ncept of community. Sub-theme 1C: Helping As a sub-theme of challenge, helping overl apped with the sub-themes of social growth and personal growth among the wilderness trip data. Teens, parents, and staff indicated substantive adolescent interests in helping or being of service to others. However, compared to acts of helping in the wilderness, post-trip helping was substantially less challenging, less social, and generally ch aracterized by teens helping with chores around the home. There were strong indications of adoles cent interest in he lping. Bruce, for example, told about a recent conversation he had with a friend from the trip. Over the phone, the two discussed how they could help group members if they were to return the following year. We talked about canoeing. How we coul d actually help people gain the arm strength to keep going and not give up if they get tired and how on the portages we can actually help by doing what the ot her person can’t really necessarily do. Bruce’s description of his phone conversation il lustrated an enthusiasm for assisting or leading others in a supportive way. Wh ile this kind of dialogue was uniquely self-reflective among the helping sub-theme, mo re frequent descriptions of post-trip helping related to teens’ accep tance of household chores. Nearly all the teens were more cooperative and will ing to help around the house, as suggested by both adolescents and parents. Frank, for example showed an interest in helping around the home, and he connected helping in the home to anger control strategies he had learned during the trip. Wh en asked how he was able to apply what he learned in the wilderness, Frank reflected:

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87 Well it’s like keeping my anger down and um, being helpful. We have a trampoline in my back yard. And like if my mom wants to mow the lawn, or my little brother, or if I want to, I have to pick up the tram poline and totally move it out of their way. I have to br ing it on the driveway. . A nd I do it by myself. No one really helps me because I can do it. A number of parents suggested greater wi llingness on the part of their teens to provide assistance with household tasks. For some, this willingness was associated with an overall improved sense of calmness. Safe One, for example, observed, “She responds to asking to do some chores a little bit quick er. And she’s not as short-tempered as she used to be.” Taffy similarly remarked that prio r to the trip, “If, if I, ask him to take out garbage, (mimicking her son) ‘Later!’ But [ now] he’ll up and just take it out. Little things like that.” Dark Eyes shared that her grandson ha d been eager to help her around the house after the trip. “‘I’ll do that, Grandma.’ Or ‘Let me have that, I’ll put it up.’ Or ‘I’ll walk the dog now.’ . You know, he didn’t do this before.” In a similar sentiment, Marge communicated her welcome amazement with the helpfulness demonstrated by her son. It’s like, “Who is this child in my house now?” . [He is] more helpful around the house. . “If there’s anything I can do to help.” Ya know that kind of stuff. He may forget it, but at le ast the spirit’s willing. She further described a story in which they bot h had worked together to fix a mechanical problem in their garage. He and I had to replace one of the rotors in the pulley of the garage door opener. And, it was hot, it was dirty and it took us a c ouple of hours to get it done. But, he didn’t give up. He was a great helper. And I mean, the both of us, we both had a great sense of accomplishment when we got it finished. But he’s really a good helper when it comes to things like that. Parents who talked about their teens beco ming more helpful were appreciative of the positive change in behavior. Post-tri p helping was discussed by both parents and teens in relation to reduced parent-child conflict.

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88 However, while parents valued adolescent help, talk about ad olescents acting in helpful roles was largely limited to tasks and projects around the household. The kind of post-trip helping that occurred was weak in peer interaction a nd broadness of social impact compared with how teens necessarily acted as helpers to th eir peer groups during the wilderness trip. Whereas wilderness-based challenges facilitated a helping role in which teens were instrumental in reachi ng fundamental group goals, post-trip helping was described by parents as a welcome resource and relief from prior conflicts. Willingness and eagerness of teens to act as helpers was, however, clearly depicted. Theme 2: Community As discussed earlier, helping developed as a normative behavior among the community of members of th e wilderness group. The sub-theme of helping further overlapped and linked personal a nd social growth during the tr ip. As an element of the challenge theme, the group norm of helping be came a unifying force that facilitated the solidification of group bonds and strength of community. These characteristics and properties were, however, lacking among post-tr ip accounts described as a mixture of attachment to, and detachment from, community. For some of the youth, the co mmunity that had been clearly present during the wilderness trip was lacking from their post-trip lives. What certain teens wanted most and had the least was community. Chip, for example, set a goal for himself to “Get more friends and a girlfriend” upon returning home. However, friendship was an area in which he seemed to be most lacking since returning from the trip. In addi tion, his mother indicated the family had not had time for him to attend the follow-up group, nor did she suggest parental

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89 encouragement to help Chip stay connected w ith the friends he had made during the trip. Corcho seemed to acknowledge that making a friend was important for her son, and she suggested that a friendship established during the trip ha d been meaningful to him. He made a friend at the camp, but he gave him his number. But we don’t know if he wrote down the wrong number or what happened. But he’s tried calling him and it’s not a working number. But he did tell us that he had a good time with this one friend at the camp. However, Corcho failed to indicate an effo rt to help her son acquire the correct phone number for contacting his new friend. Laughter Lady mentioned a similar problem. “He didn’t give anybody his numbe r, which I was hoping he would so we could have some camaraderie. . He doe s not have any really good friends.” As suggested by the language of Corcho, Laughter Lady, and others, parents of children who lacked friends seemed resigned to their child ren being socially isol ated. Furthermore, there was little parental encouragement or s upport for their children to maintain social connections with others met on the trip. Whereas trust, group support, and friendshi p were predominant characteristics of community as observed among the wilderness trip data, post-trip data were largely devoid of these properties. One major li nk to community, however stood out among the post-trip data. The follow-up group implemented by the ACE program and CFS was described as supporting and extending adolescents’ attach ment to the established peer community through a year-round program. As suggested by Brett, the follow-up group was instrumental to reducing the adoles cents’ risk of social isolation. I think they just, as a group of kids, they just love to be together. If we could be doing any activity, they just love it, because they’re together, they trust each other. Um, a lot of these kids don’t have a lot of friends. So the group that we’re doing

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90 now is essentially their peer contact outsid e of school. So, they have a sense of belonging and identity. According to both Karlita and Brett, the fo llow-up program had been well attended in the months following the trip, and social interaction among the teens had continued to expand. However, while this program a ppeared to have a major influence on continuation and extension of bonds establis hed during the wilderne ss trip, the program also had its limitations. Strengths and s hortfalls of the follow-up program will be detailed in the following section. Theme 3: Key Player Relationships The working relationships between key play ers in this study were examined earlier in the context of pre-trip and wilderness trip relationships. During the trip, relationships between the teens and the program staff were deep and meaningful to both parties. Parents, however, were not participants of the trip. In practice, parents were disconnected from the wilderness experiences of their children. Post-trip data was therefore analyzed to di scover the nature of key player post-trip relationships. Talk representing connections between teens, staff, and parents was examined in terms of how th eir interactions supported or failed to support program outcomes, including personal growth, soci al growth, and community attachment. Program (staff)-teen relationships Post-trip connections between staff me mbers and teens were most strongly suggested by teen and staff participa tion in the ACE follow-up group, a bi-weekly post-trip social gathering to which all ACE participants were invited. As indicated by staff interviews, the bi-weekly meetings were a key factor in encouraging attachment to and further development of the previously established community. Doc, for example,

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91 pointed out that both teens and parents had named the follow-up group as a major factor in keeping the kids attached to peers socially. The community there is really important. . I think the kids have told you (addressing Brett, the follow-up group l eader) about if it we ren’t for this group they’d have nothing else going. It gives them the sense of community. . And we know for a lot of these kids, they’ve not en countered that yet in their life. The parents are telling us . before this program, they weren’t seeing too many other people.” As told by Karlita, the follow-up group was a central force in the strengthening of community among peers, and was instrumental in the extension of personal and social outcomes. When asked to describe how she fe lt the staff had best facilitated the transfer of learning from the trip, she stated: The best thing that brought the transfer is definitely the [follow-up] group that we do. . It’s just so instrumental in their lives. . Every two weeks they’re guaranteed an hour and a half of being with one another. . These are the people that they learned to trust [and] worked on their goals with—these are people that they know they can be themselves with. . And this is the safe place they can talk. While social bonds had been initiated thr ough shared experiences in the wilderness, they had been extended and solidified th rough the follow-up group—a reliable social support mechanism for the adol escent participants. In terms of outcomes related to the pers onal and social growth domains, Karlita further suggested the follow-up group as playing a role in f acilitating both. Specifically, she was asked to describe how participants tr ansferred what they learned about personal control. Her response illustrated an over lap between feeling personally in-control and socially connected. Karlita reflected, “I th ink that’s the reason that so many of them come.” She pointed out how, in her view, the follow-up gr oup facilitated an opportunity for the teens to feel normal among their peers and thereby feel a greater sense of control in their typically out-of-control lives.

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92 They all know that they all are dealing with a bunch of crap in their lives. They’re all dealing with struggles in their lives, and so they come to this place where they’re not alone. . They come back, I think, because they’ve realized that they need that support, and that th ey need to know that there is someone else who’s lives are messy like theirs. And they have that bond. Emotional safety and trust among peers wa s further facilitate d by the combination of the wilderness challenge experience and th e follow-up group. Br ett, the lead staff facilitator of the follow-up group, described how the teen partic ipants seemed to display a sense of security among one anot her when they would gather. I think they’re authentic in the group context. . I don’t see a lot of the more superficial stuff that I see with other teen agers who aren’t as connected emotionally and haven’t been through a real challenge to gether like these kids have. . I think they’re genuine with each other. . I thi nk just that openness is a result of their experience. While the reinforcement of community seemed to be a powerful positive force in the lives of the teen participants, the fo llow-up program also had its limitations. For instance, during the follow-up interviews, st aff members were asked what the program could have done better to f acilitate the generalization and transfer learning from the wilderness trip to the teens post-trip lives. As described above, the unifying nature of the biweekly group ensured regular, reliable re unions of the esta blished community. However, the extent to which these events fo stered the kind of pers onal and social growth as developed during the wilderness trip wa s limited. As Karlita stated, the follow-up gatherings were largely social and passive in nature. “We went out for pizza. . But I just thought . I really want to find other ways wher e we can have . more activity-oriented things wher e they can have a challeng e.” Karlita thought more challenging pursuits could have multiple benefits to the group. We could find ways to say, “Right now, what’s going on in your life? How can you transfer this?” . So I think something we could do better is to be having more activities . that do have the high challenge and moderate skills. Or us learning

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93 the skills so we can all accomplish the challenge together. I think that would definitely reinforce the community. A nd it could really help them find flow. Although staff members cited the followup group as a primary ingredient to continuing and extending community, there ap peared to be a disc onnect regarding the generalization of outcomes of the wilderness tr ip. As the research results have thus far demonstrated, challenge experience facilita ted personal growth, social growth, and helping behaviors, and these combined f acilitated community development among the group. While the community continued to exist and stay connected pos t-trip, it seemed to be lacking the additional outcomes facil itated by challenging, goal-oriented group activity. Program (staff)-parent relationship Earlier it was presented that there was an apparent disconnect between the program and the parents in communicating what actual ly occurred during th e wilderness trip and how their sons and daughters progressed and performed throughout the experience. Karlita emphasized the existence of this gap when asked how the program could do a better job of extending the adolescents’ l earning from the wilderness experience. A lot of them learned a lot of responsibility. A lot of them had to learn how to take care of themselves without mom for se ven days. And it would be good if the parents had realized that so the parents c ould really put the fan to the flame and say, “Well, I know you did this without me for seven days.” . I wish there was a place where the parents could re alize how much credit they could give their kid so that they could maybe step back and really let their kids own it. During their interviews, parents were asked about what suggestions they had for the ACE program. Adding to Karlita’s observation, Laughter Lady expressed disappointment at the lack of communication and follow-up. I think a little bit more information from the service. What are they planning on doing? . What did they actually do? . I don’t really know what they did. And

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94 he sure isn’t gonna tell us. . I mean, they were with my kid for eight days. And I don’t know anything that happened. An overall program-parent disconnect seem ed related to communication patterns established early on in the relationship. As suggested by Mae, early communications between the program and parents were limited to recruitment and providing information about preparing for the trip. Post-trip, s cant evidence was found showing an effort by the program to include parents in the process of transitioning or extending the learning from wilderness to home. Mae recalled the initia l recruitment meeting and suggested how it could have been better utilized to help prepare for post-trip transition. I just felt like I wasn’t really getting as much helpful information as I could have. I think maybe they could have stressed more of what maybe your kids can get out of it. Or how we can best support them before and after. As opposed to just, ‘Here’s a kind of water bottle. A nd here’s another kind.” Mae further indicated that she would have we lcomed guidance on how to help facilitate the learning transfer. She speculated on how the program might have helped her learn how to support her son’s growth. Talking about, “How did you get through t hose fourteen hours of canoeing? And how can you use that . when you get st uck?” Or, “How did you ask for help when you needed it?” I might not know those kinds of things on my own. The CFS agency program has gone to gr eat lengths to provide much needed services to the teens and their parent s through the ACE wilderness program and follow-up group. Teens and parents alike de monstrated extensive gratitude for the commitment, efforts and generosity of the sta ff and agency, and there is no question as to the positive impact of the in tervention. Upon examination of key player relationships, however, the data also revealed gaps in communication and collaboration between the program and parents. It cannot be ignored that this disconnec t contributed to the parents’

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95 isolation from the overall community estab lished through the program. In doing so, the support parents could provide to ad olescent outcomes was diminished. Parent-teen relationship Parent-teen relationships were also explored in terms of how they were supportive of wilderness program outcomes post-tr ip. Evidence of parents supporting the adolescents’ personal and soci al growth, as well as attach ment to the peer community was mixed. Indications of pa rents supporting outcomes were found, as were suggestions of unsupportive relationships. Among the supportive parent-teen relationshi ps, parents talked about encouraging autonomy, self-confidence, and feelings of accomplishment. For instance, during the interviews, parents were aske d about their roles in helpi ng the teens feel control over their lives. Parents who communicated supporti ve tones talked about their children in language demonstrating trust and confidence in their teen ager’s abilities to make appropriate choices. Marge, for example talked about her trust fo r her son. “I think he’s very honest.” She further described how her son had been enjoying the freedom she was providing. “I think right now he’s just enj oying the fact it’s summer. A nd I give him as much freedom as he can handle. He knows the rules.” Grimace likewise expressed a sense of faith in his son to make his own choices. He further defined himself as a reso urce to his son, available as needed. I tend to let [him] have a pretty loose rei n. Ya know, as, as long as he’s not doin’ something that’s physically dangerous, I pr etty much let him do what he wants. I’ve tried to make him feel that I’m there as a, as a resource. . If he needs information or if he needs help doing something.

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96 Esther, on the other hand, desc ribed herself in the role of “administrator” when it comes to helping her daughter feel a sense of control over her life. “Just making sure, kinda overseeing the plans…it gives her a sens e of control that I would put my approval on it. . I think giving her the sense of de legation that she can work it out or think it through.” In a similar style, Safe One talked about giving his daughter the freedom to explore. However he also emphasized st riking a balance between providing autonomy and imposing structure. Giving her . time to go out and do things And trust her . but still check up and show her that you are gonna check up on, at certain times. . And don’t micro-manage her all the time. . I try a nd give her as much leeway as I can. I think that that’s important to her. They grow more when they can try and experiment with things on their own. Finally, Dark Eyes, a male participant’ s grandmother and guardian, talked about her style of guiding her grandson to find his own solutions to problems. I just stand back and I guide him, let hi m make the mistakes. . But then, again, we talk through it. “What did you do wrong there?” Or, “How come I won’t let you do that?” And let him give me the answer instead of me giving him the answer. . I would guide him along. Parents who talked in supportive tones tended to provide adolescent autonomy combined with some degree of structure, a nd they used language communicating trust. As presented in earlier excerpts, they we re likewise found to speak supportively of adolescent outcomes such as self-confide nce and accomplishments, social involvements with friends and peers, helping be haviors, and community attachment. Parents also talked in no n-supportive tones that sugge sted conflict with their teenage children. These conversations were generally characterized by tones of distrust and/or condescension.

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97 Summer, for example, expressed frustrat ion over not being able to learn much about the wilderness trip from her da ughter. Her tone however came across as condescending and controlling. Well, of course some of my first questi ons to her were—which put her off— were “Did you remember to wait your turn?” Or “not be so bossy?” Or “not get angry with others?” And of course those are the questions that she hates to hear from me, because they’re constant questions from me. Taffy, a mom who was struggling financially and “ . trying to keep [her] family together,” reflected annoyance at dealing w ith her son’s boredom in the home. (In a mimicking whining voice) “‘Ma, can I have th is? Ma, I need that. Please? Aw, come on.’ Oh brother! He’s like a mosquito on th e arm that you flick away and it just lands right back there again!” Ellie, mother of a female trip participan t, expressed distrust of her daughter and control of her free time. The problem is comp ounded by the fact that Ellie is often busy with other responsibilitie s away from the home. We’ll argue a lot about it. . If we do allow her to stay home . we don’t allow her to play outside or allow anybody insi de when we’re not home. . And she thinks we’re punishing her. That it’s boring. It’s that she can’t do what she wants when she wants. And we told her it’s b ecause she hasn’t earned the trust yet to, to be able to run around up and down the street by herself. Finally, Black Jack, whose son had previously served time in juvenile detention for bringing a BB gun to school, seemed to put heavy emphasis on rewards and consequences as a behavior management tool. For example: Ya know like if there was a treat in the wo rks ya know like, if we were supposed to go out to McDonalds or something and they don’t do what they’ve been instructed to do, we don’t go. . Ya know or I’ll take ya know their lit tle sister and—You guys didn’t do what you were supposed t o, she did. She gets the treat.

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98 She also described an ongoing power str uggle in which her son had brought home a music compact disc with “explicit lyrics,” an item she had banned from the home. The consequence was destructive in nature. They insist on bringing them in the house. And I will take them and I grind it on, concrete, like this. I used to break ‘em. Bu t . I could get cut. So I, I learned to just, rack it around on concrete and that does a real good job. The language of parents talking in uns upportive tones was char acterized by lacking trust and/or confidence in their children’s abil ities to be appropriate ly autonomous. Their interviews lacked encouragements for posttrip activity promoting outcomes similar to those of the wilderness trip. It should be noted, these same parents were also struggling with matters of either family c onflict, financial stress, or both. Summary In Chapter 1, I stated there is little kn own about the psychological experiences of youth therapeutic wilderness programming as understood through flow theory and self-determination theory. Because activities promoting the experience of flow and self-determination are thought to contribute to psychosocial well-being, the need to identify program factors facilitating these e xperiences was pointed out. Furthermore, a dearth in the literature regarding the generaliz ation and transfer of such experiences was identified, and it was suggested the professi onal field and the lite rature would benefit from an understanding of how this proce ss occurs. Research questions addressing adolescent experiences of flow and self -determination and the impact of those experiences were stated. In the process of answering the initial re search questions, addi tional questions were generated, and a bigger story developed around the three themes of challenge, community and key player relationships. While a ttending to the concepts of flow and

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99 self-determination, challenge was identified as a major th eme, and adolescent personal growth and social growth were discovered as outcomes. Helping behaviors were identified as contributors to these outcomes. Teens helping one another also contributed to the development of community throughout the program, fulfilling a significant need of the teen participants. Exte nsion of these outcomes beyond the wilderness trip was, however, mixed, as reported in interviews. Post-trip life was repor ted as a mixture of experiences in terms of their support fo r these outcomes. Whereas some accounts supported personal growth, social growth, a nd helping activity, many others failed to promote these outcomes. Community attachme nt was also portrayed as a mixture of strong and weak among everyday experience, however in the context of follow-up activities, commun ity was strongest. Finally, key player relati onships, and their roles in supporting and extending outcomes, were identified as major component s to the overall portrait of this study. Analyzing the nature of these relationships revealed both strengths and limitations with respect to supporting adolescent outcomes.

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100Table 6. Data themes summary Theme 1: CHALLENGE Descriptions of Challenge Sub-theme 1A: Personal Growth Sub-theme 1B: Social Growth Sub-theme 1C: Helping Theme 2: COMMUNITY Theme 3: KEY PLAYER RELATIONSHIPS Wilderness Trip Phase Future/goal oriented Physical Psychological Strength Accomplishment Confidence Personal control Perseverance Social skills Social confidence Overlaps with personal growth & social growth Solidifies social bonds Contributes to community Trust Group support Friendship Program-teen: strong supportive bonds Program-parent: weak attachments Parent-teen: supportive to unsupportive Post-Trip Phase Passive Emotional Active pursuits (limited) v. passive (predominant) Strength (for household chores) Having friends v. social isolation Follow-up group: (see community) Eagerness to help others Actual helping is limited to household work Helping is unconnected to community Weak outside of follow-up group Stronger within follow-up group Program-teen: supportive bonds, though follow-up lacks challenging activity that facilitates transfer Program-parent: weak attachments Parent-teen: supportive to unsupportive

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101 Figure 1. Thematic relationships in youth development Parent-Teen Relationship: Supportive to Unsupportive Program-Parent Relationship: Weak Attachments Helping Personal Growth Social Growth CHALLENGE PARENTS PROGRAM (Staff) TEENS Program-Teen Relationship: Supportive Bonds

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102 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This study included 36 interviews of indivi duals who had a direct connection to the ACE program during the summer of 2004. Us ing methods informed by the flow and self-determination frameworks, teenage partic ipants, their parents, and staff members were interviewed. The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of the students’ experiences during the ACE wild erness trip, the meanings of their experiences, how the learning transferred beyond the trip, and the overall impact of the program. In the process of exploring the participan ts’ stories, interview transcripts were analyzed from which three themes were constructed, coded, compared, recoded, re-compared, reconstructed, and organize d, as initially guided by the flow and self-determination frameworks. The thr ee themes were identified as challenge, community, and key player relationships. Within these three themes th e characteristics of structured youth challenge experiences were described, resulting growth and community bonds were articulated, and the influences of relationships between teens, the program, and parents were examined. A contrast wa s further developed between the wilderness trip and post-trip reports of the research participants. Behaviors, attitudes, and feelings in the absence of structured challenge were identified, as were gaps and disconnects occurring in relationships between teens, parents and the program. While there was both similarity and di versity among the accounts of the youth, parents, and staff members interviewed, what was articulated amounted to a “story” of

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103 the ACE program. The story is one of gr owth, courage, optimism, and community building, tempered by stagnation, cynici sm, disappointment, and isolation. The contrast that was drawn between wilder ness and post-trip reports identified a disparity between the two phases, in which w ilderness accounts were full of enthusiasm, whereas post-trip reports were mixed with both positive and negative language. Keeping the problems associated with negative acc ounts in mind, it is the potentialities of youth that will be the emphasis of this chapter. As positive development was most strongly communicated in wilderness trip contexts, and weaker in post-trip contexts, the question arises: Why does the disparity exist and how c ould it be reconciled in a positive fashion? Additional review of literature pertaining to youth development informs these issues. Therefore, in the tradition of grounded theory, major topics that have been identified will be discussed, previously cited literature will be revi sited, and new concepts will be identified to inform the proposed relationships. Specifically, theoretical concepts of social capital and optimism will be introduced into these relationships and synthesized within the concept of positive youth developmen t. The integration of these new concepts with those previously constructed will be provided as the basis for a proposed grounded theory model (Figure 2). Social Capital Theory The theoretical frameworks used for this study, flow and self-determination, were adopted to identify the psychological expe riences of youth part icipants during the wilderness trip, and how their experiences during the trip were generalized beyond the wilderness experience. The emergence of the salient theme “community” suggested that social interactions exerted a major influe nce on the adolescent experiences during the wilderness trip, and the role of that community was not nearly as strong in their post-trip

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104 accounts. In examining the influence of co mmunity on the adolescents, social capital theory informs one’s understanding of this them e. Therefore, social capital theory will be the topic of this section. The discussion will then propose links to both the flow and self-determination frameworks as a basis for the grounded theory model generated. Additionally, social capital as a feature of youth development will also be discussed. Background The central premise behind soci al capital theory is that social networks have value (Putnam, 2000). Social capital theory in tegrates two longstanding themes in social history. First is sociability, the idea th at human beings manage better when bonded together. Also included is the idea of ex change, that human interaction involves the sharing and transfer of resources (Bow ling & Hemingway, 2004). Specifically, the concept refers to social connections among gr oups of individuals in which norms of trust and reciprocity arise (Putnam, 2000). With su ch norms in place, human action tends to provide for common benefit of group members, and sometimes for non-members as well. Putnam’s conceptualization of social capital is embedded within a community context suggesting that social transactions are more efficient and communal problems are more easily resolved when community members interact regularly and trust one another. However, this conceptualization further suggests that indivi duals within such communities additionally benefit from these transactions (Jarret, Sullivan, & Watkins, 2004). For example, those with trusting and dynamic connections to community tend to develop positive character traits such as “civic-ness” (p.43), participation in matters of civic importance. Furthermore, individuals involved in communities with greater social

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105 capital can get things accomplished more eas ily, including things that are personally beneficial (Jarret et al.). As it pertains to this study, the idea that social capital facilitates social support and the transfer of resources relates to both the self-determination and flow frameworks adopted for this study. The connections to these two concepts will hereafter be explained. Self-Determination and Social Capital As described by Ryan and Deci (2000), self-determination is not solely an individualistic construct. Ra ther, across the lifespan, self-determination is more likely to flourish in contexts characterized by a secure sense of relatedness (Ryan & LaGuardia, 2000). Research has shown that meaningful talk and feeling understood and appreciated through social interaction bot h facilitates feelings of emotional well-being and contributes to feeling self-determined in daily life (Reis, Sheldon, Gable, Roscoe, & Ryan, 2000). Relatedness has also been found to be associated with several forms of social activity such as hanging out with othe rs, doing fun or pleasant things, and avoiding self-consciousness, and these social activities ha ve in turn facilitated feelings of intrinsic motivation and self-determi nation (Reis et al.). Especially for youth and adolescents, acting in a self-determined manner is dependent upon one’s ability to engage in so cial networks and colla borate with others (Serna & Lau-Smith, 1995). Seeking informa tion, joining activitie s, and enlisting the help of others to achieve goa ls are examples of networki ng skills (Serna & Lau-Smith) that support “one’s capacity to choose and have those choices be the determinants of one’s own actions” (Deci & Ryan, 1985, p. 38). Social skills and co llaboration skills

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106 such as conversation, problem solving, a nd teaming to develop and pursue goals additionally support overall youth self-determination. Therefore, as sociability, relatedness and so cial networking are i ndicators of social capital, the presence of social capital arguably facilitate s the expression of self-determination. Among the youth in this study, being part of a group, making contributions to that group, and being suppor ted by the group (including staff members) facilitated feelings of competence, contro l, and confidence both during and after the wilderness trip. Flow and Social Capital As a context for understanding the experi ence of internally rewarding activity, enjoyment, or happiness, the flow framework also provides a lens through which social capital can be viewed. Simply stated, when individuals face complex, challenging activities in which they feel adequately sk illed to perform such challenges, and during which goals are clear and feedback is immediate, optimal experiences occur (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Voelkl & Ellis, 2002 ). Flow moments are characterized by intense concentration, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, merging of action and awareness, and the transformations of time. Researchers have suggested outcomes of the flow experience include positive affect and self-affirmation (Csikszentmihalyi; Voelkl & Ellis). While flow is commonly understood as i ndividual experience, the concept also has social implications. Mitchell (1988) fo r example, proposed perceived competence, “the process of recognizing one’s abilit ies and applying them meaningfully and completely,” (p. 44), is a prer equisite of flow and resides wi thin a social context. The

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107 perception of competence is socially infl uenced in so much as it depends on the perception that one’s abilitie s are roughly equal to one’s responsibilities, which are socially constructed. According to Mitchell, competence emerges when a person’s skills, talents, and resources are usefully applie d in meeting a commensurate challenge, or problem. Yet the perception of competence can be the ability to completely satisfy socially defined role expecta tions. Social environments can therefore have an influence on one’s perception of competence. As previously stated, norms that develop when social capital is present include the tendency of people to do things for one anot her. An environment that fosters social capital is one that supports ne tworks of individuals to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives (Putnam, 2000). In goal-directed activity, expectations are set, and the expression of competence enacted. Flow is therefore more likely to occur when individuals have opportunities to demonstrate competence in such environments. Understood as a state of happiness, flow is additionally threatened by lack of social support and connecte dness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). For example, research has demonstrated that social conn ections inhibit depression. Lo w levels of social support tend to predict depression whereas high le vels of social suppo rt decrease symptom severity and speed recovery (Putnam, 2000). On the other hand, people who have close friends and confidants, suppor tive coworkers and friendly neighbors are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness, and poor se lf-esteem (Putnam). Simply put, being connected to supportive comm unity facilitates happiness and greater well-being.

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108 Social Capital and Youth Development As the relationships of soci al capital to the developmen t of self-determination and the experience of flow have been pointed out, the further significance of social capital to youth development cannot be ignored. Research has shown where the presence of social capital among families has positively influenced youth outcomes. For example, in a longitudinal study of low-income and poverty st ricken families in Baltimore, youth were followed into early adulthood, and their leve ls of socioeconomic success in adulthood were compared with measures of social capital among families during the subjects’ youthful years. The extent to which their fa milies were embedded in a protective social network, and were themselves a closely bonded unit with mutual expectations, trust, and loyalty consistently related to indicator s of socioeconomic success in young adulthood (Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995). As a boon to youth development, social capita l is particularly effective when youth become actively involved in matters that dire ctly impact their lives. Youth engagement in decision-making processes, whether in school, community groups, or youth organizations, has been recognized as an essential component to youth development (Zeldin, 2004). Involving youth in decisionmaking processes has the potential to maximize youths’ sense of community with those around them. Such involvement concurrently ensures that young people have the opportunity to be active agents in their own development while improving the communitie s in which they live (Zeldin, 2004). When a sense of community membership a nd belonging is inten tionally facilitated through programming, research has shown youth ar e less likely to engage in antisocial

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109 and other risky behaviors (Catalano, Be rglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 1998; Gambone & Arbreton, 1997). Community engagement occurs in many settings. For youth, however, social capital has particular relevance to educationa l environments. Research, for example, has demonstrated that social capital within sc hools has multiple benefits to students. As summarized by Putnam (2000), multiple studies going back more than thirty years have shown that smaller schools typically outperf orm larger schools mainly because smaller schools provide more opportunities and encourag ement for students to engage with one another in face-to-face extracurricular activi ties and to take responsibility for school clubs and student activities. The Role of Adults While building community attachment is a key aspect of developing social capital among youth, parents and non-familial adults are key to supporti ng its growth. As Furstenberg and Hughes (1995) reported, in low-income families where high levels of emotional support existed between a mother a nd child, and where the mother had a strong support network, the child was substantially mo re likely to gradua te from high school, go to college, and obtain a steady job. “In other words, ‘at-risk ’ children can succeed in life if their mothers have enough social capital” (Putnam, 2000, p. 306). This outcome points out the importance of parent s having social capital and co mmunity attachment to support child development. While parents need social capital to help their children succeed, such strengths are gained through active engagement in the developmental interests of their children. As research has shown, when parents take act ive involvements with their children’s

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110 education, children tend to perform better in school and the school s they attend show better performance overall. Acco rding to Henderson and Berla (1994): The evidence is now beyond dispute. When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to succeed not just in school, but throughout life. . When parents are involved in their childre n’s education at home, their children do better in school. When pa rents are involved at school, their children go further in school, and the schools they go to are better. (p. 1) Additional research indicates that youth with stronger attachments to school (staff and students) and family show significantly lower rates of emotional distress, violent behavior, substance use, and higher rates of altruism and respect toward others (Zeldin, 2004). As suggested earlier, engaging youth to take active roles in community decision making reduces the likelihood of young people feeling isolated and engaging in risky behavior (Zeldin, 2004). While a dults are clearly key facilitato rs of this process, adults tend to place minor importance on such activities. A national sample of adults was asked to rate the relative importance of activities that communities could take on behalf of youth. Among the higher priorities were: t eaching shared values; guiding decision making; and reporting misbehaviors. Howeve r, the two actions that most reflect community involvement—“asking young people’ s opinions when making decisions that reflect them,” and “giving young people lots of opportunities to make their communities better places”—received the lowest ratings among adults (S cales et al., 2001). However, as Jarrett et al. (2004) demonstrated, such involve ments are critical to youth development, particularly when youth develop trusting and meaningful relationships with supportive, non-family adults. Such relati onships have provided youth with access to adult resources, such as information, assi stance, support and encouragement. The

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111 importance of youth community engagement is clear. However, adults’ recognition of this need is particularly lacking (Jarret et al.). While it is important for adults to su pport youth development of social capital external to the family, social capital within families likewise has a powerful influence on developmental growth of young people (Coleman, 1988). Families that enjoy close social bonds and parents who instill the value of reciprocity in their children are more likely to achieve a greater degree of comp liance and adherence to their common values (Putnam, 2000). Furthermore, youth whose parents are closely involved with their children and their schools are much less likely to drop out of high sc hool than children who lack such forms of social capital in th e family. As Putnam additionally summarized, children of parents who attend their school programs, help with homework, and monitor their children’s behavior outside of school are more likely to ha ve higher grades, are more engaged in the classroom, and tend to avoid drugs and delinquent activity. Implications for Youth Development As the participants in this study clearly communi cated, the community that developed during the wilderness trip arose from, and contri buted to, the individual and social development of the students. The s eeds of social capital were sewn during the wilderness trip. Norms of reciproc ity emerged through the commonplace helping behaviors that students demonstrated. Trust was developed among group members through both informal socializing, the shari ng of emotional content, and through goaldirected challenging activity in which group members necessarily re lied on one another. Opportunities for leadership were seized, and resources of both physical effort and emotional support were further shared among group members throughout the trip, to the

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112 point where group members were willing to s acrifice physical comfor t (e.g., jumping into cold water to pull canoes up rapids) fo r the greater benefit of the group. The wilderness experience provided the teen s with opportunities to build social capital within their community of peers a nd adult staff. Students gained access to friendships, social support, and social resources they previo usly did not have, and they had continual opportunities to draw on the soci al resources of their team members. Furthermore, they were supported in their e fforts by the encouragement of staff members, adults perceived as both caring and supportiv e of teen autonomy. Parents however, considered primary agents in youth devel opment and community development (Autry, 2003; Coleman, 1988; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Jarret et al., 2004; Putnam, 2000; Zeldin, 2004), were le ft out of the community. The building and employment of social capital during th e wilderness trip was limited to the youth participants and staff members. While social capital seemed to make gains among the youth during the wilderness trip, there was an apparent br eak in social capital after th e trip concluded. Parent and teen accounts showed that soci al capital was limited in transf er to post-trip life. The major link to community was the follow-up group that met regularly post-trip. This group provided features of so cial capital in th at it offered the teens invaluable opportunities to maintain friendship and pr ovided an environment of communal support and social networking. However, the followup group was very different in nature from the wilderness trip as it lacked substantia l opportunities for participants to challenge themselves, enact roles of leadership, and take initiative of intensity similar to that of the wilderness trip. Like the teen/staff expedition, parents’ roles in fostering community

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113 attachment among teens were limited post-trip. Furthermore, parental attitudes toward teens reflected a range of support—minimal to substantial—for and beliefs about their children’s potentialities. Based on the data and additional review of literature, therapeutic wilderness programs clearly have substantial potential to build social capital in tandem with facilitating flow-like expe rience and self-determination development among youth. Extending this kind of positive development beyond the wilderness program requires structured efforts on the part of a program and parents to consciously work toward that end. Programs such as those offered by CFS must offer continual opportunities for youth to voluntarily challenge themselves in goal-directed activity and to reap the developmental benefits of so lving self-chosen problems. Additionally, parents must be given significant roles in supporting youth participation. A therapeutic wilderness pr ogram, for example, could invite parents’ involvement at the beginning of interactio ns with the family through more intensive pre-trip participation and posttrip parent participation. In such a dynamic, a program could help to build social capital among youth and parents by inviting parents to co-participate on some level, and additionally instruct parents as to how to best support youth prior to and following the wilderness tri p. Additionally, efforts could be made to educate parents on the effects of positive versus negative parenting attitudes on child development. Optimism Theory As the flow and self-determination fr ameworks guided this study toward the construction of the community theme, so too did these constructs guide the development of the major themes challenge and key player relationships. Challenge was particularly

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114 characterized by personal growth, and one stri king aspect of growth was found in the recounted stories of remarkable persever ance in the face of tremendous physical obstacles. Throughout the interviews, it becam e clear that youth pa rticipants gained strong feelings of personal competence thr ough their accomplishments during challenges in the backcountry. This competence s eemed to propel them through subsequent wilderness obstacles. And for some it seemed to carry over into generalized talk about newfound self-confidence, social confidence, physical strength, skill development, and the ability to cope with negative events. As Taylor illustrated when she related doing unpleasant homework to overcoming a difficu lt portage, challenging experiences were transformed into positive accomplishments, wh ich in turn influenced youth’s attitudes toward future challenges. An additional future-oriented concept found among the themes of community and key player relationships was tr ust. As Halo and Brett poin ted out, a strong sense of group trust and emotional support developed among the group members and staff. In addition to trust among the wilderness group members, some of the parents, such as Grimace, Marge, Halo, and Dark Eyes used la nguage indicating tr ust and emotional supportiveness, whereas othe r parents spoke in language that was condescending, unsupportive, and suggested a sense of distrust of their children. Research has shown that a child’s mistrust grows when intimate ot hers repeatedly fail to safeguard his or her emotional, contractual and/or physical welf are (Eisner, 1995), a nd a child’s future expectations for such interactions tend to be negative. Conversely, trust is fostered by significant others who safeguard a child’s we lfare, and these children tend to expect

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115 fewer aversive events than do mistrustful indi viduals, and are more likely to have positive orientations toward the future (Abramson, Garber, Edwards, & Seligman, 1978; Eisner). A positive future orientation has been referred to as optimism (Tiger, 1979), a theoretical concept that informs interpretation of the major themes. A discussion of optimism will therefore follow. Additionally, li nkages will be proposed to the original theoretical frameworks as a dditional basis for the grounded theory model generated from this research. Background While optimism and hope are valued as st rengths by most cultures, in American society there has been a dramatic rise in psychological difficulties that signal hopelessness, and this increas e has been particularly steep among young people (Gillham & Reivich, 2004). For example, by the time youth graduate high school, as many as 20% of youth may experience clinical depre ssion (Lewinsohn, Hops, Roberts, & Seeley, 1993). Similar rises in youth anxiety and suicide rates have likewise been reported (Centers for Disease Control, 2004; Twe nge, 2000). Such statistics suggest the importance of fostering optimism and hope among youth. Optimism as a protective factor against such harms is largely an attitudinal strength. Tiger (1979) proposed a useful de finition for optimism: “a mood or attitude associated with an expectation about the social or material future—one which the evaluator regards as socially desirable, to his [or her] a dvantage, or for his [or her] pleasure.” By this definiti on, there can be no objective or single optimism because what is regarded as optimism depends on what th e individual considers desirable (Peterson, 2000).

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116 In his review of optimism research, Peterson suggested optimistic dispositions have been linked to “…positive mood and good morale ; to perseverance a nd effective problem solving; to academic, athletic military, occupational, and political success; to popularity; to good health; and even to long life and fr eedom from trauma” (p. 44). Pessimism, in contrast, tends to indicate passivity, failure, social estrangement, morbidity and mortality (Peterson). An inherent trait of optimism is that it is future oriented. As outlined by Sheier and Carver (1992), dispositional optimism is the global expectation that good things will be plentiful in the future and bad things, scarce. This conceptualization adopts a perspective of how people pursue goals, defined as desi rable values (Peterson, 2000). To Sheier and Carver, nearly all realms of human activity can be cast in goaloriented terms, and people’s behavior entails the identification and adoption of goals and the regulation of action in relation to these goals. As Peterson (2000) explained, optimism beco mes a self-regulatory construct when people ask themselves about impediments to achieving the goals they have adopted. “In the face of difficulties, do people nonetheless believe their goals can be achieved? If so, they are optimistic; if not they are pessimistic” (p. 47). Pessimism leads to giving up whereas optimism leads to continued efforts to attain one’s goal. In this way, optimism is an expectation oriented construct. In a separate but overlapping conceptu alization, Seligman and colleagues have approached the concept of optim ism in terms of an individual ’s characteristic explanatory style: how one explains the causes of bad events (Buchanan & Seligman, 1995). Viewed as explanatory style, optimistic individuals explain bad events as circumscribed, with

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117 external, unstable, and specific causes. Thos e who attribute negative events to internal, stable, and global causes are likewi se described as pessimistic. Optimism described as explanatory style ar ose from the attributional reformulation of the learned helplessness model (Abr amson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978). The original helplessness model held that after experiencing repeated uncontrollable aversive events, animals and humans become passive and unresponsive—eff ectively helpless— presumably because they have learned, after re peated failure, that there is no contingency between actions and outcomes (Abramson, Se ligman et al., 1978; Peterson, 2000). This learning is further generalized to expectations about future events. In short, the learning is represented as the generalized expectati on of response-outcome independence that later produces helplessness. With the inclusi on of explanatory style in the learned helplessness model, research was directed to explore how people explain bad events (Abramson, Seligman et al., 1978; Peterson & Seligman, 1984). Yet explanatory style was eventually reframed by Seligman (1991; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), who described how his lifelong interest in what can go wrong changed into an interest in what can go ri ght. Transforming helplessness research into what Seligman termed optimism, studies turned to examine antidotes to helplessness such as mastery, effectance, and control (B uchanan & Seligman, 1995; Peterson, 2000). Human potential and agency therefore became a focus of optimism research. Compared with the Sheier and Carver ( 1992) approach, optimistic explan atory style is more infused with agency than is dispositional optimism. An additional conceptualization of optimism, proposed by Snyder (2000c), integrates both of the above visions of optim ism: expectation and agency in the unifying

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118 theme of hope. In Snyder’s view, goal-dire cted expectations are composed of two separate components. First is agency, which reflects an in dividual’s determination that goals can be achieved. The second piece is id entified as pathways, or the individual’s beliefs that goals can be reached by ge nerating successful plans for attainment. Self-Determination and Optimism The optimism and self-determination constructs have much theoretical relevance to one another. For example, Wehmeyer (1992) proposed that self-determination partly refers to “acting as the primary causal agent in one’s life” (p. 17). An indicator of this agency is what Wehmeyer referred to as psychological empowerment. In this view, self-determined people believe they have cont rol over circumstances that are important to them; they are confident that they have skil ls to achieve desired outcomes; and if they choose to apply those skills, the identified outcomes will result. This conceptualization of self-determination most resembles S nyder’s (2000c) approach to optimism which entails both agency and goal-directed planning. The perception of competence in self-selec ted, goal-directed be havior is a strong factor in feeling self-determined, (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Reis et al., 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000), and thus motivated. Optimism theory likewise suggests that people who feel control over events will positively infl uence outcomes (Gillham & Reivich, 2004). Additionally, the optimistic individual is motiv ated to set goals and perceives oneself as capable of meeting goals (Snyder, 2000c). Overall, Gillham and Reivich (2004) suggest, optimistic people are hopeful, generally expect good things to happen, and see themselves as capable of controlling events in their lives. These individuals al so have goals and the motivation and plans to

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119 meet goals. Finally, skills and abilities to thi nk flexibly about alternat e routes to goals are important to building optimism. Similarl y, self-determination involves feelings of competence, goal-setting behavior, and belie f in one’s abilities to achieve desired outcomes. Flow and Optimism As with self-determination, unifying th emes between optimism and flow include competence and goal-directed action. Csiks zentmihalyi (2000), for example, suggested having clear goals helps facilitate flow experience. Additionally, the balance of challenge and skills is paramount to the flow model. As a facilita tion of hope (Snyder, 2000c) and optimism (Buchanan & Seligman, 1995) feeling flow is the experience of activity in which individuals feel competent an d in control of challenging pursuits, goals are clear and progress towa rd those goals clearly unde rstood, and individuals are self-affirmed in the pursuit of such activ ities (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Voelkl et al., 2003). Self-affirmation arguably facilitates the attribution of positive flow-like events to one’s own efforts. In other words, experien cing flow is likely to foster the optimistic attitude that one is capable of challenging oneself and competent enough to handle the challenge. Optimism and Youth Development Optimism is associated with numerous positive outcomes and should be nourished for this reason (Gillham & Reivich, 2004). I ndividuals who are optimistic have greater success in school, on the job, and on the playing field (Rettew & Reivich, 1995; Schulman, 1995). Optimistic people report le ss anger and depression (Scheier & Carver, 1992). Furthermore they report enjoying be tter physical health, live longer than

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120 pessimists, and enjoy greate r life satisfaction (Buchanan & Seligman, 1995; Gillham & Reivich, 2004; Scheier & Carver, 1992; Seligman, 1991). Conversely, pessimism is thought to be a risk factor re lated to negative life events. For example, Abramson et al. (2000) found young adults with pessimistic explanatory styles were more likely to develop clinical depression and anxi ety than their optimistic peers. Empirical research on optimism suggests th at environmental factors play a major role in its development among youth. Among the influential agents in fostering optimism are parents, teachers, and other adult commun ity members. Parents play a particularly important role in the development of optim ism and hope. “Adolescents and adults who report their parents were cari ng and affectionate report highe r levels of hope” (Gillham & Reivich, 2004, p. 150). Parental modeling of hope is also thought to play a role in the development of optimism (Seligman, Reivich, Jaycox, & Gillham, 1995; Snyder, 2000b). Additionally, parents can influence their childre n’s optimism through the expectations and explanations they voice abou t events occurring in their children’s lives. Children who are continually criticized for bei ng difficult or lazy, or who repeatedly hear “that won’t work,” may be especially pr one to pessimism (Gillham & Reivich, 2004; Snyder, 2000a). Overall, children’s explanatory styles appear to be more closely related to parents’ explanations for child events th an parents’ explanation for parent events (Gillham & Reivich). People other than parents can have an influence on child optimism as well. For example, youth may learn optimistic or pessimist ic thinking styles from teachers, peers, and other community members. Children ma y internalize attributions made by their teachers regarding failures and successes (G illham & Reivich, 2004). Close friendships,

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121 feelings of belonging, and attachment to pe er groups can be both motivational and healing (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; McDermott & Hastings, 2000). Whether influenced by parents, non-family adults, or peers, youth optimism is further susceptible to support or blockage in terms of the challenges youth face. As Gillham and Reivich point out, the developmen t of coping skills is important for hope. While repeated negative events and failu res may instill pessimism, a life without difficulty, in which one is shielded from a dversity and failure, is unlikely to promote optimism (Snyder, 2000b). As in the origin al flow model (Csi kszentmihalyi, 1975), when challenges are too great, youth ma y become overwhelmed and helpless. Conversely, when challenges are too little, chil dren may feel bored and fail to develop skills or a sense of mastery. To foster hope and optimism, parents, teachers, and adult leaders should thus pay careful attention to th e child’s individual level of competence and keep challenges near or just above this le vel. Knowledge of the relationship between challenge and skills helps caregivers to decide wh en to best jump in and solve things for a child, when to facilitate, or when to let the child struggl e on his or her own (Gillham & Reivich, 2004). Implications for Youth Development As illustrated by the data, youth adopted at titudes of courage and perseverance in the face of major physical and mental challe nges during the wilderness trip. Multiple research participants, youth a nd staff alike, used derivatives of the phrase “just do it” in reference to overcoming obstacles such as portaging through waist-deep mud and paddling for hours on end. Teens and staff to ld a collective story of youth courage, accomplishment, and self-demonstrated co mpetence. Moreover, the adolescents

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122 generally left the wilderness feeling a gr eater confidence in themselves and their capabilities, including physical, mental, and social competencies. As a group, teens reflected the development of optimistic attitudes in facing challenges during the trip and left the wild erness trip with optimistic thoughts about themselves. However, like social capital, expression of optimism following the trip was mixed. Activities that fostered further development of optimism were limited in number and strength. Furthermore, parental suppor tiveness for optimism was also mixed. Most parents had little information about what thei r children had accomplished during the trip. Additionally, while some parents used la nguage that seemed “tuned-in” to their children’s development and were actively suppo rtive of such, others spoke in ways in which they were annoyed by and di strustful of th eir children. This data demonstrated how youth optimis m could be supported through structured, meaningful, engaging recreati onal activity. Offering adoles cents continual opportunities to challenge themselves, build competence and confidence, experience flow, enact self-determined choices, and take active ro les in decision-making processes, encourages expectations for engagement and success in the future. Additionally, hope for the future is facil itated by strong attachments to community (Autry, 2003). The data has demonstrated how the follow-up group transformed what would have otherwise been a short-lived co mmunity into a lasting social network. Parents, however, were not included in th is community, as show n by their lack of knowledge about teens’ experi ences during the wilderness tr ip. Parents need to be involved in the community-building process fr om the point at which families enter the program. In this way, information channels could better flow between program, parents,

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123 and teens, and parents could be better equipped to be suppor tive and encouraging of their children’s efforts, thus supporting ch ild hope and optimism (Eisner, 1995). Proposing a Theory of Positive Youth Development As guided by the flow and self-determinati on frameworks, and as constructed from the data through the constant comparative pro cess, three major themes emerged in this study. Challenge, community, and key player relationships were found to be among the most salient topics among the data. Further understanding of these themes was developed through the introduction of two a dditional concepts: so cial capital and optimism. Having analyzed and summarized th e data and explored relevant literature, this research is ready to emerge into a pr oposal of new theory grounded in data on which it is built. At the heart of the problem proposed as th e basis for this study was the issue of risks to youth development, and the young peopl e in question were addressed as at-risk youth. Youth have indeed remained the focus of the investigation. However in the spirit of optimism, youth risk shall henceforth be reframed in terms of positive youth development (Peterson, 2004), an underlying common thread to the data themes and relevant concepts. This next section w ill discuss positive youth development as an emerging field of scholarship and propose a th eory of structured youth programming as a means for positive youth development. Positive Youth Development The term “positive youth development” has emerged from more than a decade of research concerned with the promise of youth potential. In defining positive youth development, Damon (2004) outlines the concep t as an approach to research focusing on children’s unique talents, strengths, interests, and future potential. Partly in reaction to

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124 media and social distortions of youth, this ne w approach to youth development introduces a more affirmative and welcome vision of young people. In the view of positive youth development, young people are envisioned as resources rather than as problems for society. “The positive youth developmen t perspective emphasizes the manifest potentialities rather than the supposed incapacities of young pe ople—including those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and th ose with the most tr oubled histories” (p. 15). The positive youth development approach, according to Damon (2004), recognizes the existence of adversities and developmental challenges that affect children in various ways. However, this perspective resists con ceptualizing the developmental process as an effort to overcome risk and deficits. Rather, it begins with “a vision of a fully able child eager to explore the world, gain competence, and acquire the capacity to contribute importantly to the world (p.15). This positiv e youth development perspective aims to understand, educate, and engage children in pr oductive activities rath er than correcting, curing, or treating them fo r maladaptive tendencies. While Damon’s definition provides a basi s for understanding the meaning of positive youth development, Peterson (2004) poi nted out the lack of a unified definition in research literature. As wide-ranging research has identif ied itself under this umbrella term, the label has been used to descri be “any and all programs that involve young people” (Peterson, 2004, p. 8). However, as Pe terson stated, while th e coherence of the youth development field may not be in agreem ent as to what qualifies as positive youth development programming, the overall conclusions of research concur. The vision of the good youth that emerges is a young person who experiences more positive affect than negative affect, who is satisfied with his or her life as it has

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125 been lived, who has identified what he or she does well and uses these talents and strengths in a variety of fulfilling pursuits, and who is a contributing member of a social community. . A positive youth development program is one that effectively targets one or mo re of these facets. (p. 9) In summarizing research on positive youth development, Peterson identified several characteristics of in tervention approaches that encourage successful youth outcomes. First, sustained programs in which youth spend many hours over extended periods of time should be favored over one-s hot lectures and shor t duration workshops. In general, more contact is better whereas sh ort-term programs tend to be ineffective in producing outcomes. Secondly, Peterson suggested that structured pr ograms with clear planning and ongoing monitoring have more fa vorable outcomes than those that are unstructured. Additionally, Peterson added, the broader the scope of the program, the better the outcomes. Effectiv e programs target several systems simultaneously, such as home and school. They addi tionally provide multiple ways for youth to not only think differently but also act differently. Finally, the more sophisticated the program the better the outcomes. Peterson indicated interventi ons that work best address both internal factors and external (e.g., ch aracter strength and physical activity). Ultimately, youth programs need to impart skills and competenci es to contribute to positive development of youth. Initiative Development Larson (2000) proposed a refocusing of youth programming and research on initiative development—empowering young peopl e to engage in self-motivated, goaldirected, complex activity—as a core quality of positive youth development. This focus on initiative was proposed in response to research findings from a study of how adolescents experience daily life (Lars on & Richards, 1991). In that study, a

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126 representative sample of white, worki ng-class and middle-cl ass young adolescents—“a group that seemingly has everything goi ng for them” (Larson, 2000, p. 170)—reported feeling bored 27% of the time. While indi viduals differed in these rates, the most surprising finding was that honors students were just as likely to report boredom as those involved in delinquent activities. In most cases, Larson (2000) argued, high rates of boredom, alienation, and disconnection from meaningful challenge are not signs of psychopathology. Rather, these are signs of deficiency in positive deve lopment. Additionally, he contended, rather than attributing problem be haviors (e.g., drug use, premat ure sexual involvement, and delinquency) to responses to family stress, emotional disturbance, or maladaptive conditions, such behaviors, in this view, may be more adequately described as resulting from the absence of engagement in a positive life trajectory. Larson (2000) suggested a central question of youth development is “how to get adolescents’ fires lit, how to have them develop the complex dispositions and skills needed to take charge of th eir lives” (p. 170). In itiative development is proposed as the solution, and is further suggested as a core requirement for other components of positive youth development such as creativity, lead ership, altruism, a nd civic engagement. Initiative is described by Larson (2000) as involvi ng three critical elements: intrinsic motivation, concerted engagement in the environment, and a temporal arc of effort directed toward a goal. Beginning with intrinsic motivation initiative involves the experience of wanting to be doing an activity and being invested in it. This notion includes the concepts of agency and self -determination (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Wehmeyer, 1995), or experiencing that one’s thoughts and actions originate

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127 voluntarily from within oneself. Yet intrinsi cally motivated activity in a vacuum does not entail initiative. Drawing upon the flow construct (Csi kszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984), Larson proposed a second requirement of initiative—t hat intrinsic motivation be experienced in-tandem with concerted engagement in the environment “with exertion of constructive attention in a field of action involving the types of constr aints, rules, challenge, and complexity that characterize external real ity” (p. 172). Devotion of thought and effort indicates constructive at tention. Constructive attention me ans directing this thought and effort not randomly, but toward creating order or synergy. The third and final requirement is that motivation and concerted engagement occur over sustained periods of time. Initia tive involves what Larson (2000) termed a “ temporal arc” (p. 172) of effort directed toward a goal. The temporal arc might include setbacks, re-evaluations, and adjustment strate gies. In this way, initiative is not just starting things, but also invol ves sticking with them. La rson argued that to develop agency, “…one must be able to mobilize one’s attention, one’s mental powers on a deliberate course of action, w ithout being deterred by the fi rst obstacle one encounters. Initiative is the devotion of cumulative e ffort over time to achieve a goal” (p. 172). In Larson’s conceptualization, these thr ee elements must come together for initiative to develop. Initia tive is fostered when indivi duals experience all three in consort and learn to regulate them. The de velopmental stage of adolescence may be a particularly valuable time for developing in itiative as the acqui sition of deductive or formal reasoning facilitates growth of cogni tive strategies for self-regulation (Larson, 2000).

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128 As a context for facilitating initiative development, Larson (2000) asserted that structured voluntary activities ar e particularly suited for this cause. The ACE program in part exemplifies this assertion. Indica tions of intrinsic motivation, concerted engagement, and a temporal arc of effort toward a goalduring the wilderness phase suggests that teen participants were havi ng the experience of di recting and regulating their actions toward the pursuit of clear goals. In short, dur ing the wilderness trip, youth participants were developing and exercising in itiative. Yet post-tri p reports of everyday teen experience included strong indications of passive activity interspersed with suggestions of active pursuits. In additi on, follow-up activities provided by the ACE were weak in relation to the full range of principles of in itiative proposed by Larson. As described by Karlita, activities were larg ely social in nature and lacked challenge, complexity, and sustained goal-directed behavior Therefore, to foster youth initiative, youth programs such as ACE need to implem ent procedures that motivate and engage youth in sustained goal-directed activity. The initiative concept has been introduced as the precursor to the final proposal of grounded theory. In Chapter 1 it was stated that a knowle dge gap exists as to how flow and self-determination are experience d in wilderness programming, and to what extent characteristics of those experiences are carried on beyond the program. Those questions have been answered as pertains to this case study. Having come full circle, the addition of Larsons initiative model unites th e flow and self-determination frameworks under the concept of initiative. Furthermor e, adding the initiative model to this study globalizes the relevance of these issues to include positive youth development programming in general.

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129 Grounded Theory of Structured Yout h Programming and Positive Youth Development Discussion now turns to the synthesis of literature and data previously explained. What follows is a culminating synthesis of theoretical framework, constructed data themes, and added concepts emerging in a grounded theory model of positive youth development (Figure 2). As Larson articulated and the data su ggested, youth gain substantial growth benefit from structured challenge experiences that foster development and expression of initiative. When engaged in challenging act ivities together with supportive, non-family adults such as program staff persons, bonds develop and community emerges. Programs have the opportunity to include parent s in this community by opening lines of communication and inviting parent al involvement. By engagi ng parents in program goals and activities, parent-staff-youth relationships are likely to develop that potentially support the youth in their end eavors, and quite probably be nefit parents and the overall program as well. By broadening the system of activity and communication to better involve parents, a program builds social capital among participants In addition to building social capital, this kind of program fosters flow, self-d etermination, and optimism among youth through structured and purposive appl ication of goal-oriented ch allenging activities. These activities afford opportunities to express ag ency, feel intrinsically motivated, gain feelings of competence and control, devel op self-confidence and hope for the future, and persist through and adapt to adversarial situations. Youth initiative development, a target goal of positive youth development (Larson, 200 0), is proposed as an outcome of such

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130 experiences. In this way, structured yout h programming becomes a means of fostering positive youth development. Future Research Future research in relation to this study would explore the theo retical concepts of social capital and optimism among therap eutic adventure programming and youth recreation programming in general. Features of youth programs that either foster or hinder social capital and youth optimism ought to be identified. A quantitative approach could be applied to measure these outcome s, programs could be compared, and a combined quantitative-qualitative approach could be used to identify programmatic influences on social capital and opti mism. Additionally, measures of flow, self-determination, social capit al, and optimism could be used to determine quantitative relationships among each domain. Attitudes of both youth and adults also ought to be explored in relation to youth community involvement and adult support for su ch activity. This may help to better understand distinguishing characteristics of families that support youth engagement versus those that do not. Finally, the pr ocess of engaging both young people and parents in youth development programs should be further explored. Developing a greater understanding of this process would further in form the field of contributing factors to positive youth development.

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131 Optimism Flow Self-Determination Social Capital Teens Non-Family Adults Parents Relationships Structured Challenging Activity YOUTH INITIATIVE Figure 2. Structured youth programming as a means for positive youth development

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APPENDIX A ADVENTURE CHALLENGE EXPERIENCE REFLECTION QUESTIONNAIRE

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133 Adventure Challenge Experience Reflection Questionnaire Congratulations on having made it to t he conclusion of the wilderness trip! A lot has happened since your trip began and we would like to know how you feel about your experiences with the ACE program So for the next 20 minutes or so, we’d like you to think about your expe riences and respond to a few questions. Before you start, please remember, you do not have to answer any questions you do not wish to answer. This is not a test, and there are no right or wrong answers. When you are done, please seal this packet in the envelope provided. A staff person will collect the sealed envelopes, but they will not open or read your responses Have fun thinking abo ut the trip, and if you have any questions, you may ask a staff person for help. 1. Now that the trip is almo st over, what does the word challenge mean to you? Now, please turn to page 2.

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134 2. Looking back on the tr ip, what have been the most satisfying challenges? Please tell what was satisfying about it. 3. Throughout the trip, what have been the least satisfying challenges? Please explain. Please turn to page 3.

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135 4. What aspects of the trip have helped you feel like you can mentally focus on challenges? 5. What has kept you from feeling mentally focused on challenges? Almost there! Please turn to page 4.

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136 6. Thinking about your wilderness experience, what does the idea of personal control mean to you? 7. Thinking about the wilderness trip, do you feel like you’ve had personal control? Please explain. Just one more page! Please turn to page 5.

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137 8. What goals, if any, have you set for yourself as you return home? 9. Please put a star (*) next to t he goal in question #8 that is most important to you. 10. What reasons do you have for setting this goal? 11. Is there anything you would like to add? That’s it! Thank you for your help with this project.

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138 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW GUIDES Youth 1. Tell me a little bit about yourself. 2. How did you come to sign up for the Adventure Challenge Experience? 3. Now that you’ve had time to reflect, what were your most and least favorite aspects of the course, and why? 4. Is there anything about the course you would like to do again? 5. Tell me a little about how you’ve been spendi ng your time since you’ve been home? 6. Since you’ve been home, how have you been able to use what you learned during the wilderness trip? 7. In the questionnaire you completed, you wrote this about ___________[read quote]. What did you mean by that? [Repeat this with other items to be clarified.] 8. One thing I am studying is the idea of challenge Here is how you de fined challenge [read response from questionnaire]. Can you expand on that? 9. Can you give me some examples of what was challenging for you during the wilderness trip? Probe at least 3 challenges: o How it felt at the time. o What else was going on around you? o How does it make you feel to think about it now? o Negative/positive aspects? o Skills used? o Skills not used? o Skills needed to do better? o Skills learned? How do they help you? 10. So far we’ve talked about ___________(physical, mental, or social) challenges. Have there been any other kinds of challenges? Tell me about that. o Probe physical, mental, social challenges 11. Just before the course ended, here’s what you wrote about getting into challenges mentally: _____________[read quote]. Since you’ve been home, have you had any similar experiences?

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139 Probe: o How was it like what you did during the wilderness trip? 12. Another thing I am studying is the idea of boredom. What do you think boredom means? Probe: o Were there any times you felt that way during the course? 13. Since you’ve been home, have you felt like anyt hing has been too easy or boring for you? Probe: o Is there anything you learned from the course that could help you make things more interesting? 14. Has anything been especially challenging for you since you’ve been home? Probes: o Did you have any skills you didn’t use? o What skills did you need in order to do better with those challenges? o Was there anything you learned in the Adventure Challenge Experience that could help to improve those situations in the future? 15. Here is something you wrote about personal c ontrol [read response from questionnaire]. Can you expand on that? Probes: o What made you feel that way during the wilderness trip? o Tell me about when you felt you had choices. o When did you not have choices? 16. Do you feel you have been able to use what you learned about personal control since you’ve been home? If so, how? 17. Has anything kept you from feeling a sense of control since you’ve been home? Probe: o What did you learn during the trip that could help you feel a better sense of control? 18. Here are the goals you wrote for returning home: ____________________[read goals from questionnaire]. How do you feel you are doing with that? Probes: o Is there anything that helps you work on your goals? If so, what? o Does anything keep you from working on your goals? Tell me about that. 19. Is there anything different about you now th at you have been through the Adventure Challenge Experience? If so, how are you different? 20. How are you the same as before you left?

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140 21. Overall, how do you feel about the Adventure Challenge Experience? 22. Is there anything you would like to add? Parents 1. Tell me a little about yourself (age, education, and anything else you would like to tell me). 2. How has ____________[participant] been spendi ng his/her time since returning home? Probe: o How is that similar to before the wilderness trip? o How is it different? 3. Do you feel the Adventure Challenge Experien ce has influenced the way he/she spends his/her time? If so, how? 4. In your opinion, what did _____________[participant] like most about this course? 5. What did he/she like the least? 6. Do you feel the course has had an im pact on _____________[participant]? o Tell me about that. o What changes in behavior have you noticed? o What has stayed the same? 7. What do you feel are the most important thi ngs he/she has learned from the course? 8. Have you noticed any changes in your relationship with ___________[participant]? Probe: o What kinds of changes have you noticed? 9. One of the concepts I am studying is the id ea of personal control. How would you define personal control? 10. What do think personal control means to __________[participant]? Probe: o Have you seen it? o How do you think it relates to th e Adventure Challenge Experience? o How is his/her sense of control different than before he/she left? o How is it the same? o What role do you feel you play in ______________[participant] feeling a sense of personal control? 11. In general, what impact do you feel this program has had on your family?

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141 12. What suggestions do you have for the program? 13. Is there anything you would like to add? Staff Focus Group 1. Each person please introduce yourself, and tell a littl e bit about your background (name, age, education, professional background, or anything else you would like). 2. How did this group of participants compare to the “typical” group of teens participating in the Adventure Challenge Experience? 3. In general, what did the teen participants like most about the course? What did they like the least? 4. What were the group’s most challenging experiences? Probe: o Were these rewarding experiences? If so, how do you think they felt rewarded? 5. [Hand out Flow Model graphic depiction with written description (Appendix C), one copy to each participant.] As you may know, one of the concepts I am st udying is how participants feel about the challenges they face during the wilderness course. A concept called “flow theory” is used to describe the optimal experience, and has b een widely used to understand how people experience adventure-based activities. Here is a description of the model. Please take a minute to look it over and let me know if I can answer any questions. When you are done, I’d like to ask you a few questions about how th is model applies to your participants. [Pause to allow time to read.] Ask: Thinking about this specific group, how di d these kinds of flow experiences happen for the teen participants? Probe: o How would it come about? o Tell me about the barriers to flow during the wilderness trip. o Is this typical of most ACE trips? 6. What connections do you see between partic ipants having flow experiences during the wilderness trip and having the same kinds of experiences back home? Probe: o What roles do you play as staff in regard to the participants feeling flow? 7. Another concept I am studying is the idea of personal control. How would you define personal control? What do you think it means to the participants? Probe: o When do you think the teens felt a sense of personal control during the wilderness course? o What were the barriers to participants feeling a sense of personal control?

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142 8. How did teens on this trip connect personal c ontrol in the wilderness to having personal control in their lives overall? Probe: o As staff, what roles did you play in this process? 9. The participants set goals to work toward dur ing the trip. What do you feel were their motivations for working toward goals? Probes: o Did motivations seem to change throughout the trip? If so, how? o Describe the main motivational tools used by the staff to help participants work on goals. 10. What do you think this group of staff has done best to facilitate transfer of learning in general? 11. If given the chance to lead this trip over again, what might you do differently? 12. Is there anything you want to add or wanted to say that you didn’t get a chance to say? Staff Follow-Up Interviews 1. Do you remember the flow model we discussed during the focus group interview? [Provide a copy of the Flow Model handout that was previously reviewed during the focus group. Briefly review the concept.] Do you have any questions about the flow concept? 2. Based on your knowledge of the participants, what is your assessment of how they transferred what they learned from flow-like experiences? Probe: o What were the barriers to transfer of flow during the wilderness program? o What were the barriers during follow-up? 3. Here are some of the thoughts you and your colleagues shared about the idea of personal control during the focus group. [Briefly summarize focus group definitions of personal control]. How do you think participants tr ansferred what they learned about personal control? Probe: o What were the barriers to transfer of personal control during the wilderness phase? o What were the barriers during follow-up? 4. What did the staff do best to facilitate the ove rall process of generalization and transfer of learning ? 5. What do you think the team could have done better? 6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

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APPENDIX C STAFF FOCUS GROUP HANDOUT

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144 A Model for the Flow Experience Adapted from Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Here are a couple of quotations that descr ibe a certain kind of positive feeling called flow experience Please take a minute to read them. “My mind isn’t wandering. I am not thinking of something else. I am totally involved in what I am doing. My body feels good. I don’t seem to hear anything. The world seems to be cut off from me. I am less aware of myself and my problems.” “I am so involved in what I am doing, I don’ t see myself as separate from what I am doing.” This concept has been named “flow” because of its seamless nature. In th eory, flow occurs when we feel a challenge is well-balanced with the sk ills we have for meeting that challenge. Take a look at the diagram above and picture where a hypothetical Adventure Challenge Experience participant, Suzie, (S=Suzie) may fall on the chart. At position S1, Suzie’s skills are low. Yet challenge is equally matched, setting the stage for a positive experience. Position S2 shows Suzie where her skills have increased, but the challenge has not. At this point she is most likely bored. To get back into flow, Suzie needs more of a challenge (S4). At position S3, on the other hand, Suzie feels somewhat anxious because the activity is too challenging for her to be successful with her limited skills. In this case, by improving he r skills, Suzie can begin to feel flow again (S4). When we are “in flow,” we tend to feel a sense th at we know what we have to do to be successful (clear goals) and we know how we’re doing in m eeting those goals (immediate feedback). We also tend to experience intense concentration and a sense of control in what we are doing. During the flow experience, time seems to pass differently than normal (faster or slower). Ultimately, flow tends to generate positive feelings, a nd the experience often feels self-affirming. The Flow Experience: Clear goals and immediate feedback Intense concentration Feeling in control Time passes differently than normal Positive affect and self-affirmation

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145 LIST OF REFERENCES Abramson, L. Y., Alloy, L. B., Hankin, B. L., Clements, C. M., Zhu, L., Hogan, M. E., et al. (2000). Optimistic cognitive styles and invulnerability to depression. In J. E. Gillham (Ed.), The science of optimism and hope: Sc ientific essays in honor of Martin E. P. Seligman. (pp. 387-395). Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press. Abramson, L. Y., Garber, J., Edwards, N. B ., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1978). Expectancy changes in depression and schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87 49-74. Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E. P., & Teasda le, J. D. (1978). Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87 49-74. Autry, C. E. (2001). Adventure therapy with girls at-risk: Responses to outdoor experiential activities. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 35 (4), 289-306. Autry, C. E. (2003). Exploring the voices of the "Gle nview" neighborhood: An ecological approach to studying at-risk youth, recreation, and community social organization. Unpublished doctoral dissertati on, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Bartko, W. T., & Eccles, J. S. (2003). Adol escent participation in structured and unstructured activities: A person-oriented analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32 (4), 233-241. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117 (3), 497-529. Bowling, C., & Hemingway, J. L. (2004, October). Social networks, soci al capital, and leisure. Paper presented at the National R ecreation and Park Association Annual Congress, Reno, NV. Buchanan, G. M., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1995). Explanatory style Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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154 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Sydney L. Sklar received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English/communications in 1993 from Albright College (Reading, Pennsylvania). In 1997, he received his Master of Science degree in recreation administ ration, with a specialization in outdoor therapeutic recreation, from Aurora University (A urora, Illinois). He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in health and human performance, with a specialization in therapeutic recreation and a minor in rehabilitation c ounseling, in May 2005 from the University of Florida (Gainesville, Florid a). His research in terests include youth development, adventure education, commun ity-based therapeutic recreation, and the social psychology of leisure.


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Title: Positive Youth Development: The Case of a Wilderness Challenge Intervention
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POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT:
THE CASE OF A WILDERNESS CHALLENGE INTERVENTION















By

SYDNEY LEONARD SKLAR


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005





























Copyright 2005

by

Sydney L. Sklar















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Stephen Anderson, my supervisory

committee chair, for his full and unconditional commitment to mentoring me through my

doctoral education and this dissertation. He has been a limitless source of support and

kindness that I will never forget. My sincere thanks go also to my committee members

Robert Beland, Cari Autry, and Linda Shaw for their guidance, support, flexibility, and

responsiveness. I am grateful to have been able to work with such a group of caring and

committed individuals.

My heartfelt appreciation goes also to the youth, families, and counselors who

participated in this study. They shared their time, energy, and stories, to which I hope I

have given accurate voice. Additionally, I am ever grateful to "J Rudy 0" and "Doc" for

their instrumental roles in implementing this study. Sincere appreciation also goes to

Patrick Bird for his generous dissertation award, which funded a portion of this study.

I am especially grateful to my parents, Harris and Bonnie Sklar, and Phyllis Sklar,

for their limitless love and support over the years, and throughout the pursuit of my

doctorate. I thank them for believing in me, standing behind my decisions, reminding me

of my strengths during my weakest moments, and always encouraging me to be my best.

My deepest appreciation also goes to Edward and Lucia Haas, whose love and kindness

have made them more like parents than in-laws, and whose ongoing encouragement and

supportiveness were instrumental in completing this degree.









The deepest of gratitude also goes to my children, Frank and Etta, for the joy,

wonder, hope, and play with which they brighten every day of my life. Most of all, I am

eternally grateful to my wife, Beverly Sklar, a life partner in every sense of the word. I

thank her for all that she has sacrificed over the last four years; for the patience, energy

and effort she has given to this project; and for standing by me with love every step of the

way. This journey has been a long haul, yet rich and rewarding, made immeasurably so

with Bev by my side.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii

LIST OF TABLES .......................................................... .. ........ ........ vii

LIST OF FIGU RE S ........ ........ ........................................ .. ................. viii

ABSTRACT .............. .......................................... ix

CHAPTER

1 IN TR O D U C T IO N ............................................................. .. ......... ...... .....

State ent of the P problem ............................................................................. ........ .2
P u rp o se o f th e S tu dy .............................................................................. .. ... ..
R research Q u estion s............ ................................................................... ...... ....... .4
Limitations and Delimitations .............................................................................4

2 L ITER A TU R E R E V IEW .................................................................... ....................6

Problems Facing Contemporary Youth ............................................... ............... 6
F lo w .................. ........................................................... ................ 8
Self-Determination .................................. .... ......... .............. 13
T therapeutic A dv entire ........................................................................ ..................20

3 M E T H O D .............................................................................2 4

Research Paradigm .................................... .... ......... ............. 24
S e ttin g .................................................................................................................... 2 5
P a rtic ip a n ts ............................................................................................................ 3 0
P ro c e d u re ....................................................................................................... 3 1

4 R E S U L T S .............................................................................4 2

T h e m e s .........................................................................................4 4
P re-T rip A adolescent P rofile ................................................................................... 46
W ild ern ess T rip ................................................................50
P o st-T rip ..............................................................................7 8




v










5 DISCUSSION .................. ................................... ........... .............. 102

Social C capital Theory ........................................ .. .. .... .......... ....... 103
O ptim ism Theory .................... .... ....... ....... ............ .................... .......... .... ... 113
Proposing a Theory of Positive Youth Development..............................................123
Future Research .................................... ........................... .... ........ 130

APPENDIX

A ADVENTURE CHALLENGE EXPERIENCE REFLECTION
Q U E ST IO N N A IR E ...................................................................... ...................... 132

B IN TERV IEW GU ID E S .................................................. .............................. 138

C STAFF FOCUS GROUP HANDOUT ............................................................143

LIST OF REFEREN CES ........................................................... .. ............... 145

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................. ............... 154
















LIST OF TABLES

Table p

1. A adolescent dem graphics ........................................... .................. ............... 40

2. Parent dem graphics ........ ........ .................................. ............. .. ...... 40

3. Participant family household income....... .. ........................ ................ 41

4. Staff demographics ................................... .. .. ........ .. ............41

5 S taff in co m e .............. ........ .... ......... .. .. ................................................................4 1

6. Data themes summary ............................................... 100
















LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1. Thematic relationships in youth development........ ....... ... .... ...... ............ 101

2. Structured youth programming as a means for positive youth development.............131















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT:
THE CASE OF A WILDERNESS CHALLENGE INTERVENTION

By

Sydney Leonard Sklar

May 2005

Chair: Stephen C. Anderson
Major Department: Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management

The purpose of this interpretive case study was to explore how a wilderness

challenge experience was experienced for "at-risk" adolescents, to uncover the meanings

of those experiences, and to assess the generalization and transfer of their experiences

beyond the intervention. Two motivational frameworks involving theory of optimal

experience and self-determination were used to guide the study. Using in-depth,

semi-structured interviewing as the main source of data collection, 40 participants

involved with a therapeutic wilderness program were interviewed. Fifteen youth and 18

parents were individually interviewed, seven staff members participated in a focus group

interview, and two staff members were interviewed in follow-up. Three themes

encompassing the topics of challenge, community, and key player relationships were

constructed from the data using constant comparison as the method of analysis. Data

analysis led to the construction of optimal experience, self-determination, social capital,

optimism, and youth initiative as a grounded theory of positive youth development.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Adolescents in today's society face a number of challenges. Inadequate

family-support structures, peer pressure, and the disappearance of social norms have

contributed to problems such as underachievement, delinquency, and overall poor

judgment. Teens who are ill-equipped to deal with the pressures and forces around them

frequently suffer from low motivation and low self-esteem, failure to act responsibly, and

an inability to satisfy needs appropriately (Pommier & Witt, 1995). At this vulnerable

developmental stage, adolescents who face such pressures may be at-risk for social,

psychological, and behavioral challenges that manifest into problems such as school

dropout, suicide, delinquency, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases (Serna

& Lau-Smith, 1995).

At-risk adolescents who are not adequately equipped with skills to generate

self-motivated, meaningful activity are often prone to boredom (Iso-Ahola & Crowley,

1991). Lacking skills to independently seek complex, challenging situations in leisure

and discretionary time, teens become vulnerable to peer pressure and activities of

immediate gratification. In turn, adolescents are often inclined to alleviate boredom

through dysfunctional leisure such as skipping school, substance use (Faulkner, 1991),

risky sexual activity, and delinquent behavior.

Alternatively, adolescents equipped to engage in complex, internally rewarding

experiences in their leisure (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984) are likely to perceive such

experiences as a sense of freedom and self-determination, and they may be more likely to









persist in such behaviors (Coleman & Iso-Ahola, 1993; McCormick & Dattilo, 1995).

Similarly, individuals who feel autonomy, competence, and social support in daily

activity tend toward self-determined behavior (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Optimal or "flow" experiences have been found to produce feelings of well-being,

freedom, positive affect, and self-affirmation (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Voelkl &

Ellis, 1998, 2002; Voelkl, Ellis, & Walker, 2003). The ability of adolescents to engage in

complex flow-like situations is associated with overall growth tendency and potential

(Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984).

Statement of the Problem

Adventure programming is thought to generate flow experiences through the

purposive facilitation of challenging activities that require skills, and through the clarity

of goals and immediacy of feedback (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999;

Freeman, 1993; Haras, 2003). Though documented in nontherapeutic ropes course

programming, the flow experience has not been studied in the context of

wilderness-based adolescent risk-prevention programming. It is unknown to what extent

wilderness challenge experiences for this population are perceived as flow or otherwise,

nor have program factors that produce such experiences been identified. Additionally,

although the literature has documented the need for programs to follow-up with

participants to facilitate learning transfer (Durgin & McEwen, 1993; Gillis & Simpson,

1993; Russell, 2002) research has not examined post-intervention transition in the context

of flow theory. It is unknown whether graduates of these programs are better equipped to

engage in flow experience upon completion of a wilderness experience.

Self-determination (also associated with feelings of well-being) is thought to be an

attribute central to adventure education philosophy (Hill & Sibthorp, 2004; Schoel,









Prouty, & Radcliffe, 1988; Sklar & Gibson, 2004). However, program factors that

influence self-determined experience have not been clearly identified. Autonomy and

competence, both qualities of the self-determined experience (Ryan & Deci, 2000), are

similar to qualities described as flow. It is likely that the two global concepts of

self-determination and flow overlap (Deci & Ryan, 2000). However, relationships within

and beyond the wilderness program context remain unclear.

Wilderness program factors that influence self-determination need to be identified

(Sklar & Gibson, 2004). Likewise, although the adventure education literature purports

to incorporate flow theory into practice (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999;

Freeman, 1993; Haras, 2003), actual participant experiences of flow in wilderness

challenge programs have not been documented. Finally, if flow and self-determination

are considered to promote psychosocial growth and well-being among adolescents

(Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984; Kleiber, Larson, & Csikszentmihalyi, 1986; Ryan &

Deci, 2000), the nature of how these traits are generalized and transferred must be

documented. Such knowledge can inform instructor training, development, and practice,

as well as overall program design and structure.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to describe how a wilderness program for at-risk

adolescents is experienced by students, as understood through the theoretical frameworks

of flow and self-determination, and how these experiences impact transition back to the

home. Specifically, this study aimed to explore program factors and conditions that both

promoted and inhibited flow and/or self-determined experiences. Additionally, this study

aimed to ascertain the meanings of these experiences to the participants. A final purpose

was to assess the generalization and transfer of students' experiences relative to flow and









self-determination. A specific wilderness challenge intervention for at-risk youth, the

"Adventure Challenge Experience" (ACE) was selected as the setting in which to address

these research goals.

Research Questions

* Research question 1: How is a youth wilderness intervention program experienced by
youth as understood through flow theory? What program factors promote flow
experience? What are the barriers to flow experience?

* Research question 2: How is self-determination experienced during a youth
wilderness intervention program? What program factors promote self-determination?
What are the barriers to self-determination?

* Research question 3: What meanings do the students attach to these experiences?

* Research question 4: How are flow and self-determination generalized and
transferred?

* Research question 5: What are the leadership team's perceptions of program factors
that influence students' experiences of flow and self-determination. What are their
self-perceived roles in facilitating these experiences? How do instructors facilitate
generalization and transfer of flow and self-determination?

* Research question 6: What are the parents' general perceptions of the impact of the
program on the students?

* Research question 7: What are the parents' general perceptions of the impact of the
program on the families?

Limitations and Delimitations

Limitations

Limitations involve restrictions on a study over which a researcher has no control

(Glesne, 1999). Limitations in this study included aspects of the sample demographics,

data, and research methods. First, the sample lacked substantive racial and

socioeconomic diversity as nearly all participants were Caucasian Americans living

within several neighboring suburbs of a major metropolitan city in the Midwest.

Additionally, as a method of data collection, questionnaires were administered by









program staff and completed by teens during the drive home from the wilderness trip. I

was unable to control the administration of these questionnaires and could not verify the

method in which all questionnaires were completed. Furthermore, several participants

scheduled for interviews failed to keep their appointments and thus were not represented

among the data. A final limitation involved the interpretation of data. I am a white,

middle-class, male academic who specializes in therapeutic recreation and adventure

education, and I guided the data analysis and interpretation.

Delimitations

Delimitations refer to limitations a researcher has imposed deliberately and usually

restrict the populations to which the results of a study can be generalized. (Rudestam &

Newton, 2001). Although results of this study are expected to have theoretical and

practical implications in youth-focused therapeutic adventure, the results should not be

generalized to the entire population of at-risk youth participating in such programs.

Therefore, one delimitation for this study arises from its focus on a specific, racially

homogeneous group of participants of a therapeutic wilderness program. A second

delimitation arises from the selection of the ACE as a research site. This program is not

representative of all wilderness intervention programs for at-risk youth.














CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Problems Facing Contemporary Youth

The well-being of society depends on the ability of communities to prepare

well-adjusted, responsible, well-educated young people to step forward as the older

generation passes, yet many of today's youth are falling by the wayside (McWhirter,

McWhirter, McWhirter, & McWhirter, 2004). Risky sexual behavior, rising rates of teen

pregnancy, youth gang involvement, poverty, crime, drug use, social isolation, physical

violence, poor access to healthcare, physical inactivity, obesity, and depression are

among the multitude of problems confronting contemporary youth. In a world such as

this, young people face numerous obstacles to achieving healthy psychosocial

development.

Over the past two decades, the term at-risk youth has been widely used (in the

literature on education, psychology, medicine, social work, economics, as well as in state

legislation and reports produced by the federal government) to describe a segment of the

youth population (McWhirter et al., 2004). While use of this term has been controversial

at best, and the literature has lacked consensus on its meaning, one useful definition has

been offered:

At risk denotes a set of presumed cause-effect dynamics that place an individual
child or adolescent in danger of future negative outcomes. At risk designates a
situation that is not necessarily current but that can be anticipated in the absence of
intervention. (McWhirter et al., 2004, p. 6)









Elaborating on this definition, McWhirter et al. (2004) proposed that risk is not a

discrete, unitary diagnostic condition, but rather resides on a continuum as a series of

steps. Beginning with minimal risk, youth who experience favorable demographics;

experience positive family, school, and social interactions; and have limited psychosocial

and environmental stressors fall into the lowest of risk categories. Increasingly

throughout the continuum, risk factors rise as stressors are compounded, environmental

conditions degrade, and interactions with support systems are negative. Following

minimal risk, levels of risk intensify increasingly through the categories of remote risk,

high risk, imminent risk, and "at-risk category activity" (meaning the individual is

already involved with the activity that defines the risk category), respectively.

Among the many problems confronting at-risk youth is the challenge of structuring

time in productive pursuits. Adolescents spend nearly 40% of their waking hours as

discretionary time (Bartko & Eccles, 2003), and the times when youth seem to make the

poorest activity choices is when they are not in school (Pawelko & Magafas, 1997).

Experience sampling studies show that large portions of adolescent daily life are

experienced as boredom (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984; Larson, Csikszentmihalyi, &

Freeman, 1992; Larson & Richards, 1991), even among those teens considered to be at

lowest end of the risk continuum (Larson & Richards).

According to Witt and Crompton (1996) developing skills for the constructive

management of discretionary time is paramount to youth development. Yet for all youth,

avoiding boredom by finding constructive and interesting ways to occupy time can be

challenging (Witt & Crompton, 2002). Those who have been exposed to the excitement

of illicit activities and the action and entertainment of video games and popular media,









may require interesting, challenging activities to retain their attention in developmentally

positive pursuits (Witt & Crompton, 2002).

The ability of youth to engage in growth-oriented, appropriate, meaningful,

self-motivated pursuits is an underlying concern of the current study. The absence of

skills for such engagement can lead to boredom; which, when prevalent, may signal a

deficiency in positive development (Larson, 2000). A theoretical approach to resolving

the problem of boredom is discussed next.

Flow

The concept of boredom has been studied extensively from a socio-psychological

perspective. Research in this area has been a prevalent theme in the field of leisure

studies for nearly two decades. Researchers have been particularly interested in the

concept of optimal experience, the state of high psychological involvement or absorption

in activities or settings (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997). Csikszentmihalyi's (1975) concept of

flow is particularly useful for defining optimal experience since it identifies various

features of mental activity that can be used to identify perceptions of optimal experiences.

The flow model was originally developed on the basis of extensive interviews with

people who engaged deeply and intensely in their leisure and work. The first studies

included rock climbers, basketball players, dancers, chess players, and surgeons

(Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Participants described the most intensely absorbing

experiences (in which challenges matched the individuals' skills, and in which they lost

track of time and self-awareness) as the most rewarding of experiences. Later studies led

Csikszentmihalyi to suggest that flow-like feelings such as "concentration, absorption,

deep involvement, joy, and sense of accomplishment-are what people describe as the

best moments in their lives" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993, p. 176).









A simple model has been used to summarize the basic features of flow theory

(Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1990, 2000). Central to the theory is the concept of balance

between challenges and skills. Essentially, the two must be in balance for flow to occur.

When challenge outweighs one's skill level, feelings of anxiety are likely to occur.

Conversely, when an individual's skill level outweighs the challenge presented by an

activity, boredom is likely to result. The complexities of flow states are determined by

the level of the challenge-skill balance experienced. A low-level challenge-skill balance

indicates a less complex flow state than a higher-level challenge-skill balance.

According to flow theory, this optimal balance creates the conditions for a positive

psychological experience characterized by seven specific conditions: clear goals,

immediate feedback, intense concentration/absorption, a sense of control, a loss of self

consciousness, the merging of action and awareness, and the transformation of time

(Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Flow

experiences have been found to produce feelings of well-being and freedom, positive

affect, and self-affirmation (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Voelkl & Ellis, 1998, 2002; Voelkl

et al., 2003).

Studies of adolescent development use flow framework to research the adolescent

experience. Apart from the early qualitative interviews from which the flow model was

developed, many of these studies have used the experience sampling method (ESM)

(Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984), in which electronic pagers are employed to monitor

how people experience everyday life. Using the ESM, research participants are typically

signaled multiple times throughout the day at random intervals over the course of about

one week. Each time the participant is signaled, the participant is to take out a booklet of









brief questionnaires and complete a series of open-ended and close-ended items assessing

the individual's psychological state at the moment of signaling.

In a study of adolescent school experiences, Mayer (1978) used the ESM to sample

84 high school students as to their relative experiences of challenges and skills, and

compared these reports to the enjoyment of activities throughout the school day. Mayer

found that compared to the most enjoyable of activities, school classes were more likely

to be enjoyable when skills were perceived to be greater than challenges. An interesting

finding was that students were generally not bored while at school. In fact, even when

students had classes that were too easy, they tended to enjoy them rather than feel bored.

Mayer concluded that most of this enjoyment was derived from the recognition and

praise of the teacher, feeling exceptionally competent or superior in the eyes of fellow

students, and simply receiving good grades.

Kleiber, Larson, and Csikszentmihalyi (1986) conducted a study of adolescent

leisure experiences also using the ESM. They collected data on leisure activities and

settings in which the teenagers experienced the most positive moods and became most

psychologically involved. One scale addressed mood and affective states. An

involvement scale asked participants to rate the levels of concentration, challenge, and

skill they experienced in an activity. Additional scales measured intrinsic motivation and

perceived freedom associated with the activity. Activities defined as leisure were

generally experienced as more positive and free. Kleiber et al. pointed out that these

findings are consistent with the view that leisure is relaxing. However, the results

suggest that the leisure activities of adolescents rarely demand much in terms of effort

and concentration, or what might be called flow.









When different kinds of leisure activities were further examined, Kleiber et al.

(1986) found evidence for two categories of leisure experience. One type, "relaxed

leisure" (watching television, socializing, listening to music) provided pleasure without

high levels of involvement. The second category of activities (sports, games, artwork,

and hobbies) was labeled "transitional." These were experienced as freely chosen,

intrinsically motivated and very positive; yet also challenging and demanding of effort

and concentration. Kleiber et al. suggested that transitional leisure offers teenagers a

bridge between childhood and adulthood by demonstrating that enjoyment found in these

activities of their youth can also be found in the demanding activities required of them as

they move into adulthood.

Another time sampling study of youth (Larson et al., 1992) investigated alcohol

and marijuana use among adolescents. In their study, alcohol use was associated with

social contexts and happy, gregarious states. Marijuana use, on the other hand, was

reported across a wider range of situations and differed much less than alcohol from

ordinary experience. Larson et al. suggested that marijuana tended to be a more private

drug, most often used with one or two friends. Unlike alcohol, marijuana was not related

to positive affect; and in school, it was frequently used as an antidote to boredom.

Findings showed that motivations for alcohol and marijuana use had less to do with

seeking positive states than escape from boredom and feelings of oppression in

adolescent life. In related research, the concept of mimetic optimal experience

(pseudo-optimal experience) has been used to describe the experiences of drug addicts

seeking flow through drug use, but failing to experience engagement, control of the

situation, and intrinsic motivation (Delle Fave & Massimini, 2003).









Outdoor adventure education and therapeutic adventure programming is thought to

equip adolescents with skills that contribute to youth development, reduce risk factors,

and improve motivation. Studies of adventure activities have used the flow framework as

a lens for gauging participants' experiences of outdoor-challenge activities. Freeman's

(1993) study of ropes course participation, showed that flow was more common during

later portions of the program sequence, during activities perceived as more challenging

than earlier ones. Increase in flow for some participants was related to an increase in

anxiety for others. More recently, Jones, Hollenhorst, Perna, and Selin (2000) reported

similar findings among whitewater kayakers. As rapids became more challenging,

reports of flow and anxiety tended to increase concurrently.

Finally, Haras (2003) conducted a study of adolescent ropes course programs in

which meaningful involvement was assessed partly using the flow framework. Results

showed that purposive manipulation of program delivery could influence participants'

feelings of anxiety, enjoyment, and meaningful involvement in the adventure activity.

Challenging activities that were more inclusive of wide-ranging ability levels and

personal strengths, and that sought to include all participants at each individual's optimal

level of participation were generally perceived as less anxiety-producing and more likely

to produce group efficacy. Additionally, approaches that "invited optimal participation"

(p. 158) were perceived as providing more choice, a quality of activity congruent with

facilitating flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975).

Although adolescent flow experiences have been documented in adventure

education programs such as ropes course programming, the flow experience has not been

studied in the context of a wilderness-based youth intervention. Furthermore, little is









known about the generalization and transfer of flow-like experiences from

adventure-based settings back to everyday life. It has been suggested that the ability to

engage in flow promotes overall psychosocial development of adolescents

(Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Those who are able to engage in complex

flow-producing activities are less prone to boredom and anxiety and may have

developmental advantages over those who are less inclined to have such experiences.

The adolescent who readily engages in prosocial flow-producing activity, and is

internally motivated to seek more of the same, may face substantially fewer risk factors

than the adolescent prone to anxiety and/or boredom.

Self-Determination

The theoretical concept of self-determination has been related to the concept of

optimal experience (Deci & Ryan, 2000). According to Wehmeyer (1992)

self-determination refers to "acting as the primary causal agent in one's life and making

choices and decisions regarding one's quality of life free from undue external influences

or interference" (p. 17). To the degree that one consistently exhibits self-determined

actions, he or she can be considered to be self-determined.

Causal agency is thought to be an innate human need that stems from motivation

(Deci & Ryan, 1985). According to Wehmeyer, "causal agency implies that an outcome

was purposeful and the action is performed to achieve that end" (p. 17). A causal agent is

therefore someone who acts purposefully, and makes or causes things to happen in his or

her life (Wehmeyer, 1995).

Acting in a psychologically empowered manner is considered an indicator of causal

agency and thus self-determination. According to Wehmeyer, self-determined people act

on the basis of a belief that (a) they have control over circumstances that are important to









them, (b) they possess the requisite skills to achieve desired outcomes, and (c) if they

choose to apply those skills, the identified outcomes will result. The psychological

empowerment element of self-determination is theoretically grounded in Bandura's

(1977) theory of self-efficacy.

Another characteristic of self-determination is self-realization. Self-determined

people are self-realizing in that they use a comprehensive (and reasonably accurate)

knowledge of themselves and their strengths and limitations to act in such a manner as to

capitalize on this knowledge (Wehmeyer, 1995). "This self-knowledge and

self-understanding forms through experience with and interpretation of one's

environment and is influenced by evaluations of significant others, reinforcements and

attributions of one's own behavior" (p. 21).

Studies on sport and exercise (conducted in a self-determination framework) offer

much to the therapeutic adventure literature. Thompson and Wankel (1980) tested the

proposition that perceived choice is positively correlated to intrinsic motivation. They

examined the perceived choice of activities in relation to participation persistence in an

adult women's fitness program. Registrants in a commercial fitness program were

randomly assigned to either an experimental or control condition. Subjects in the control

(no-choice) condition were led to believe that a program of exercise had been assigned to

them without considering their preferences. Subjects in the experimental (choice) group

were told that their exercise program had been designed based on their preferences. In

actuality, both exercise programs were designed with an equal degree of activity

preferences. Therefore, only their perception of choice actually differed. Attendance

records over the next six-week period showed significantly higher attendance among the









perceived choice group. These findings support the proposition that self-determination is

basic to persistence in physical activities.

Self-determination is also thought to play a significant role in individual

well-being. Iso-Ahola and Park (1996) examined the roles of self-determination

disposition and leisure-generated social support as buffers against the negative effects of

life stress on mental health and physical health. Self-determination was denoted by

indicators of perceived leisure freedom and intrinsic motivation. The study was

conducted with adults participating in Taekwondo as a leisure activity. Data provided

evidence that social support, an element of self-determination (Ryan & Deci, 2000) is a

moderator of stress. A separate study (Coleman, 1993) used the same measure with a

randomized sample from the general population. Perceived leisure freedom additionally

buffered the negative effects of stress. The combined findings of these two studies

suggest that those who feel their leisure is constrained or not supported are likewise

deprived of a source of coping with stress (Iso-Ahola & Park, 1996). This issue warrants

further study. In terms of therapeutic adventure programming, perceptions of freedom

may be influenced by program structure. How varying perceptions of freedom impact

feelings of well-being is unclear.

Other researchers have acknowledged the need to evaluate client motivations for

therapy within a self-determination framework. Ryan, Plant and O'Malley (1995)

examined (a) the relation of initial treatment motivations to alcoholics' involvement in

outpatient treatment and (b) dropout and the relations among patient characteristics,

severity, alcohol experiences, motivation, and treatment retention. A treatment

motivation questionnaire (TMQ) was developed, using determination theory (Deci &









Ryan, 1985), to assess both internal and external motivations of alcoholic patients for

treatment, as well as confidence in the treatment and orientation toward interpersonal

help seeking. Patients who reported internalized motivation showed greater involvement

and retention in treatment. Those who were high in both internalized and external

motivation demonstrated the best attendance and treatment retention, while patients low

in internalized motivation showed the poorest treatment response, regardless of external

motivation. Problem severity was also related to a greater degree of internalized

motivation, following the presumption that the greater the perception of one's alcoholism

problem, the more motivated the individual would be to follow through with treatment.

The data support the proposition that it is helpful for mental health service providers to

understand the motivations of their clients for treatment.

Similarly, Pelletier, Tuson and Haddad (1997) also evaluated clients' motivation

for psychotherapy. Within the self-determination framework (Deci & Ryan, 1985),

Pelletier et al. developed a scale to assess the specific therapeutic conditions that may

hinder or facilitate clients' motivation toward therapy as well as various consequences

that may arise as a result of this motivation. Construct validity of the scale was

established, as well as support for a motivation continuum relative to self-determination

levels.

As Pelletier et al. (1997) suggested, an understanding of client motivations provides

useful information to the therapists planning and structuring therapy to most effectively

meet client needs. When motivations are high and more internal, it follows that a more

self-determined course of therapy might be appropriate, whereas clients lacking internal









motivation and self-determination for therapy might respond better in treatments that

emphasize therapist control.

Knowledge of clients' self-determination in therapeutic adventure settings would

be helpful in the planning of intervention as demonstrated in the treatment of chemical

dependency. Pelletier et al. (1997) found that clients who perceived motivation for

therapy as more self-determined were more likely to experience less tension, less

distraction, and more positive moods during therapy. They also considered therapy to be

important, reported higher levels of satisfaction with therapy, and had stronger intentions

of continuing therapy. Conversely, clients who perceived their motivations to be less

self-determined showed the opposite pattern of associations.

For those who are deficient in self-determined choice-making skills, there are

educational approaches to fostering self-determination among students. Field and

Hoffman's (1994) model of self-determination holds that self-determination is promoted

or inhibited both by factors within the individual's control (e.g., knowledge, values, and

skills) and by variables that are by nature more external or environmental (e.g.,

opportunities for choice-making and support of important others). While recognizing the

importance of environmental variables, the model focuses mainly on factors that are

within the individual's control-the knowledge and skills that enable one to be

self-determined in environments of varying levels of receptivity and support.

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-569 (1992)

supported the human need for self-determination by clearly stating the rights of all people

to self-determination. This legislation is particularly relevant to educators of youth

because it requires them to emphasize skills that prepare students for the expectations of









the next environment. The growing recognition of the need for self-determination among

youth with special needs took the form of two federal initiatives intended to build a

foundation on which self-determination skills could be taught using systematic methods.

A self-determination-based curriculum was developed by Field and Hoffman (1994) as

part of these initiatives. The curriculum provided an applied methodology to building

self-determination skills for students with disabilities. The provision of such a

curriculum implies that self-determination can be taught and is an educational outcome

necessary for successful transition from school to community integration.

Young people identified as at-risk are thought to be among those who would

benefit from self-determination skill-building. Serna and Lau-Smith (1995) explicated

the necessity of systematically addressing self-determination skills of at-risk youth by

offering a curriculum aimed to help students overcome barriers to successful participation

in school, and family and community relationships. Based on literature review and

construct validation, a self-determination skills list was generated identifying seven

domains relevant to the self-determination of at-risk students: prerequisite social skills,

self-evaluation skills, self-direction skills, networking skills, collaboration skills,

persistence and risk-taking skills, and dealing with stress. A result of the validation

process, Serna and Lau-Smith expanded Deci and Ryan's (1985) definition to include a

philosophy concerning the responsibility one has to oneself or others.

According to Serna and Lau-Smith (1995), self-determination refers to an

individual's awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses, the ability to set goals and

make choices, to be assertive at appropriate times, and to interact with others in a socially

competent manner. A self-determined person is able to make independent decisions based









on his or her ability to use resources, which includes collaborating and networking with

others. The outcome for a self-determined person is the ability to realize his or her own

potential, to become a productive member of the community, and to obtain his or her

goals without infringing on the rights, responsibilities, and goals of others.

Kiewa (2001) synthesized conceptualizations of self-determination from previous

literature into one unifying concept. In a qualitative study utilizing j ournaling and

in-depth interviews, self-determination was described through the salient theme of

personal control that emerged throughout the course of interviews and analysis. Kiewa's

study was unique in that the sample consisted of a community of rock climbers, and

self-determination was studied within an adventure context. Among the climbers, the

concept of control was divided into two categories of meaning. First was the importance

of control over oneself, or feeling competent, in stressful situations. Second was feeling

control over the structure of activity as an important element determining satisfaction

with the rock climbing experience.

Other researchers have applied the self-determination construct within an adventure

programming setting. Sklar and Gibson (2004) found indications that a multi-day

therapeutic wilderness intervention program for adolescent girls positively influenced

self-realization (Wehmeyer, 1995), one of several components to Wehmeyer's

self-determination model. In a separate study of outdoor youth programming, Hill and

Sibthorp (2004) found that a camp experience, when intentionally delivered to support

autonomy and facilitate self-determination skills, had a positive influence on posttest

scores of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, three major components to Ryan and

Deci's (2000) conceptualization of self-determination.









Many adolescents lack the competence necessary to act in a self-determined

manner (Pommier & Witt, 1995). Among other problems, at-risk adolescents may face

peer pressure, isolation, and family stress, complicating efforts to satisfy basic

developmental needs. An effective response to the developmental requirements of youth

includes an approach that helps teach young people to choose alternative, acceptable

behaviors (Eron, 1987), an approach of skill development that advances

self-determination (Pawelko & Magafas, 1997).

Therapeutic Adventure

Therapeutic adventure programming is thought to provide opportunities for youth

to learn and practice developmental skills for successful adaptive behavior. Several key

studies have investigated therapeutic adventure programming for at-risk youth. Witman

(1993) documented characteristics of adventure programs valued by adolescents in

psychiatric treatment. The characteristics rated highest by adolescent participants were:

helping/assisting others; taking risks/meeting challenges; realizing the importance of

caring about self; and getting support of other participants. In concept, these

characteristics are closely related to the self-determination construct. In terms of

self-determined events, taking risks/meeting challenges suggests an orientation toward

self-initiated, competent action (Ewert, 1989; Ewert & Hollenhurst, 1989). Realizing the

importance of caring about self falls within the autonomy domain as well. Helping and

assisting others is an issue of interpersonal relationships as is getting the support of other

participants. Some level of self-determination would be necessary for any of these

characteristics to be acted upon.

Witman's (1992) research suggested that participants valued the activity process

over content. Suggestions for future research included examination of the specific









characteristics (e.g., taking risks/meeting challenges) to discover participants' perceptions

of necessary components and most valued components of each characteristic.

Developing an understanding of why certain characteristics are valued was also

recommended.

Expanding on this research, Autry (2001), explored the feelings, attitudes, and

perceptions of at-risk girls participating in adventure therapy activities. Empowerment

was identified as a major experience valued by the participants. Participants referred to

adventure experiences as having helped them gain a "sense of accomplishment" (p. 298),

motivation and sense of control over themselves. Psychological empowerment, which is

characterized by the perception of control in one's life, is a factor contributing to

self-determination (Autry, 2001; Wehmeyer, 1995). Autry's research, however,

identified a disconnect between adventure therapy experiences and the process of

transferring valued aspects of these experiences to the greater context of everyday life.

One implication of this research centers on the critical element of processing facilitators

can use to help clients achieve a deeper level of understand, thus facilitating

generalization and transfer (Gass, 1993; Kimball & Bacon, 1993; Luckner & Nadler,

1997). Both Autry's and Witman's results warrant further investigation of how

adventure programs can help at-risk youth improve feelings of motivation, control and

empowerment, and how such outcomes are generalized among the lives of youth

participants. The self-determination and flow constructs together provide a theoretical

framework for such research.

According to Deci and Ryan (2000), self-determination theory shares a conceptual

correspondence with flow theory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975) in the common focus on









intrinsic motivation as well as the importance both place on phenomenology. With the

strong emphasis on experience, both concepts appear to have significant application in

the delivery of therapeutic adventure programs. The foundational concept of challenge

by choice (Gillis & Simpson, 1994; Schoel et al., 1988), for example, is widely used in

therapeutic adventure. Challenge by choice links the two concepts through a common

emphasis on participant autonomy and control. Of specific interest to this research is

how the application of these theories may converge among wilderness-based

interventions for at-risk youth.

Therapeutic interventions based on wilderness challenge experiences have been

widely used to help adolescents who have serious difficulties in a number of

psycho-social areas (Davis-Berman & Berman, 1999; Russell, 1999, 2002). Included

among these are low self-esteem, poor self-image, poor decision-making skills, repeated

failures, refusal to take responsibility for actions, lack of motivation, ambivalence,

susceptibility to negative peer pressure, and impulsive behaviors (Hurricane Island

Outward Bound School, n.d.). Considering the definitions of self-determination and

optimal experience presented earlier in this chapter, it would be expected that such youth

might also be poorly self-determined and inadequately equipped to satisfy the need for

flow. These adolescents would likely benefit from the facilitation of self-determined,

flow-producing experiences. The therapeutic adventure literature, however, lacks

substantial research on these concepts. Thus, whether therapeutic adventure programs for

at-risk youth are purposefully addressing self-determination and flow, and whether these

programs are impacting these adaptive skill areas has not been determined. In summary,

there is a paucity of literature describing the conditions that produce self-determination









and flow in therapeutic wilderness programming, as well as the generalization and

transfer of such experiences back to everyday life.

Flow experience is arguably a target goal of wilderness challenge programming.

Similarly, facilitating self-determination is central to adventure education philosophy.

Whether such experiences are being facilitated in therapeutic wilderness programming

for adolescents is unclear. How these experiences can be generalized and transferred is

also unknown. Researching this knowledge gap will better inform the field of therapeutic

adventure and the broad field of youth development as to how youth can engage in and

generate intrinsically motivated, self-rewarding, active, growth-oriented experiences.

This study addresses this gap in the literature.














CHAPTER 3
METHOD

Research Paradigm

The interpretive paradigm of naturalistic inquiry (Henderson, 1991; Lincoln &

Guba, 1985) will guide this research. According to Hultzman and Anderson (1991), the

study of perceptual phenomena, such as those of interest to leisure researchers, demands

methods that investigate phenomena in their natural settings. Denzin and Lincoln (1994)

state that qualitative researchers study things in their natural environments, attempting to

interpret or make sense of phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.

This approach assumes that there are multiple interpretations of reality and that the goal

of research is to understand how individuals construct their own realities within their

social contexts.

In this study, the perceptual phenomena of interest were participants' experiences

of flow and self-determination. The contexts in which these experiences were studied

were within both the wilderness program setting and the participants' post-trip lives. I

sought to interpret the meanings of these experiences as understood by participants. The

purpose of this research was then, in part, to explore how participants' challenge

experiences were perceived within the context of a wilderness program, and how the

experiences were generalized and transferred to one's day-to-day realities.

Within the naturalistic paradigm, a case study method was used to research the

specific phenomena of self-determination and flow within the contexts of participants'

lives both during and after the challenge program. According to Lincoln and Guba









(1985), case studies may be used for multiple purposes including the description and

chronicling of events and phenomena. They are particularly useful when the focus is

some contemporary phenomena within some real life context, over which the researcher

has little control.

According to Yin (1989), there are three criteria for a case study design. First,

research questions should take the form of "how," "what," or "why" questions. The

research questions for this study are both descriptive and exploratory in nature and satisfy

the "what" and "how" criteria. Second, the research requires no control over the

behavioral elements of the study. The topics being investigated in this study call for no

control over participants' behaviors. Rather, the research questions inquire as to

psychological processes that occur both during and after a specific intervention. Finally,

Yin contends a case study must focus on contemporary events. In this study, the

intervention of interest is a current wilderness challenge intervention. The program is

offered once annually, and the research will focus on the experiences of one group of

participants on a given trip. Therefore, the study of self-determination and flow

phenomena will be limited to the experiences of these one-time participants. The context

specific nature of this intervention, combined with the exploratory nature of the research

questions, calls for a case study approach.

Setting

"Community Family Services" (CFS) is a pseudonym for a not-for-profit

community-based counseling agency serving a diverse population in the suburbs of a

major city in the American Midwest. The agency mission is to provide counseling "to

families and individuals who are facing issues which interfere with their lives," and to

"offer consultation and education in response to community needs." CFS offers a range









of services including individual and family-oriented counseling, youth crisis and

stabilization, an employee assistance program (EAP), prevention and wellness

programming, and early intervention programming. Among the early intervention

services is the ACE (a pseudonym), the specific therapeutic wilderness intervention under

investigation. Before describing the ACE, an overview of the agency is offered.

CFS counseling services address the needs of children, adolescents and their

families with problems such as peer/sibling conflicts, disruptive behaviors, substance

abuse, physical or sexual abuse, and depression. Individual, couple, or family counseling

for adults may address concerns such as depression, marital discord, grief, post-divorce

conflict, domestic violence, parenting, stress, sexual abuse, and anxiety.

The youth crisis and stabilization service is intended to help emotionally and/or

behaviorally troubled youth remain at home and in the community while avoiding

psychiatric hospitalization or other out of home placement. This service involves a

90-day intensive home-based crisis intervention including screening, assessment,

counseling, and the coordination of support services from other community agencies.

CFS offers an EAP as a service in which businesses can enroll to provide

counseling support for their employees. Included in the EAP is 24-hour crisis

intervention, face-to-face counseling appointments for non-emergency situations,

assessment services, follow-up care and referrals as needed.

Prevention and wellness programs include counseling and support groups as well as

community education workshops available to the public. One counseling group

addresses the needs of children of divorce. Another offers educational and supportive

opportunities to single mothers. The Family Forum Series offers one-time workshops on









topics such as "How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid," "Parenting, the Early Years," and

"Marital Communication."

Among the early intervention programs offered is "Family and Schools Together,"

in which students with their families participate in activities to build communication

skills, positive habits, and attitudes of respect transferable to the home, school, and

community. A postpartum support group offers support and education about postpartum

depression and its effect on the family. The "Tobacco Reduction Among Kids" program

is for youth abusing tobacco products. It is designed to help youth learn triggers that lead

to use, recognize obstacles to quitting, the effects of tobacco on their health, and ways to

manage stress and social pressure.

An additional CFS early intervention programs is the ACE, the program of interest

to this study. The ACE is a therapeutic wilderness program targeting youth considered

at-risk of problematic transition to high school. At the time of data collection, ACE was

in its fifteenth year of existence. Operating with financial support from local public and

private funding sources, the program has been made available on a partial or full

scholarship basis to graduating eighth graders from junior high schools and middle

schools within the CFS local service area. Both males and females are recruited for the

program. CFS characterized ACE participants as being at high risk of a problematic

transition to high school life. According to "Doc" (personal communication, May 11,

2004)-a pseudonym for a CFS staff member-the target group includes youth, ages 13

to 15 years-old, characterized as bored, unmotivated, or under-achieving in class. Some

participants may have difficulty with uncooperative/non-compliant behavior at home or

school. Many of the participants may be seen as socially isolated and/or ineffective, and









severely lacking in self-esteem. Additionally, teens struggling with family or peer

problems are commonly referred to the program. Referrals are made by school guidance

counselors. Past profiles of ACE participants have also included youth from lower

income, divorced or re-married families with histories of family problems. Many of the

youth participants have, at the very least, experimented with drugs and alcohol, and may

be at-risk of developing substance abuse problems (Doc, personal communication, May

11,2004).

Program candidates for the summer of 2004 (many of whom also participated in

this study) were initially referred to the ACE prior to the end of the 2003-2004 school

year and invited to participate in a screening interview in early May. Once selected,

participants began a team building process through orientation and training sessions prior

to the trip. About one month prior to departure, candidates participated in a half-day

challenge course experience and swim test to initiate the process of group development

and provide the senior staff an opportunity for further screening. Candidates were

screened-out and referred to other services if they were unable to pass the swim test, or if

they were behaviorally inappropriate for the program, based on staff assessment.

Additional orientation occurred two to three days prior to departure when selected

students came to the agency site to drop off gear, discuss program expectations, and turn

in personal goal statements for the trip. At this meeting, the students read and signed a

"Full Value Contract" (Schoel et al., 1988) communicating the program expectations of

participants as well as participant rights and responsibilities.

An eight-day canoe trip, occurring in late June, was led by an agency therapist with

extensive experience planning and guiding trips of this nature. He was assisted by a









senior CFS staff member, two junior staff members, experienced ACE volunteer leaders

and other adult volunteer staff members.

Throughout the trip, an "expeditionary learning" model was applied in which

participants were encouraged to continually challenge themselves both physically and

mentally in the unfamiliar and often uncomfortable context of a wilderness environment.

These experiences are generally thought to improve life coping skills and empower youth

for facing future life challenges (Doc, personal communication, May 11, 2004).

The expedition began with a 14-hour van trip to a canoe outfitter in northwestern

Ontario, Canada. The group spent the night at a hotel near the outfitter camp, and

day-two began a six-day wilderness experience in which participants learned and

practiced outdoor living skills in a primitive and remote environment. Prior to launching

canoes, or "putting-in," the large group of 25 students was broken-up into four small

groups of six or seven students with at least two staff members to each group. Each

group then traveled self-sufficiently over the next six days, over the same routes, though

staggered apart. However, the staff members among groups communicated with one

another via portable radios as a safety precaution.

During the six-day wilderness expedition, each group traveled 27 miles, mostly by

canoe. However, the group was frequently confronted with challenging portages in

which canoes and gear were precariously transported over rough terrain.

Portage trails generally vary in condition from compacted and easily-traveled to

extremely rocky, overgrown, hilly, and/or muddy trails. Often more of the latter,

portages are often characterized as some of the most physically and mentally challenging









aspects of the experience. A successful portage often requires significant cooperation,

physical stamina, and determination.

Throughout the 2004 ACE trip, participants encountered numerous physical,

mental and social challenges posed within the natural environment and group context.

Challenges were further influenced by purposive facilitation of staff, the social living

environment, and one's own self-perception. Staff persons routinely provided feedback

to participants regarding counter-productive individual and group attitudes, values, and

behaviors. During the final days of the wilderness trip, the staff begins preparing the

teens to transfer learning by facilitating personal goal-setting for the transition back to

home (Doc, personal communication, July 24, 2004).

On day-seven, each group arrived at a "take-out" location, returned to the outfitter

and spent the night at a nearby hotel. Day-eight began with an early van departure to

return to the agency office that evening, at which point the students were picked-up by

their families.

A follow-up component to the wilderness program began in July, about three weeks

after the students' return home. A bi-weekly social group was facilitated by a CFS

counselor who was also an ACE staff member. The group was intended to facilitate

transfer of learning from the wilderness experience into real-world contexts, and to

provide ongoing opportunities for shared recreation, leadership opportunities, peer

support, and further development of friendships between group members. The social

group was to meet on an ongoing basis throughout the subsequent school year.

Participants

The primary sample was drawn from one group of adolescents, ages 13-15,

participating in the ACE in June 2004. Following a case study method, the case being the









group of individuals involved with a single ACE trip, I sought to recruit all students

enrolled in the program. The maximum possible enrollment level was 25 students.

Among the 25 teen participants, five had participated in the ACE program in June 2003

and were invited back as peer leaders. One parent or guardian of each student was also

asked to participate. The final sample included 15 youth, four of whom were returning as

peer leaders. Additionally, 17 parents were recruited, as well as one guardian (who will

be grouped with parents from this point forward). Seven staff members were also

recruited. Staff members were interviewed as a focus group, and two staff members were

interviewed in follow-up. Adolescent, parent, and staff demographics are summarized in

Tables 1 through 5.

Procedure

Recruitment

An ACE staff member who was trained in the recruitment protocol conducted

recruitment. Recruitment occurred one to three days prior to the trip's departure during a

meeting in which participants dropped off gear and signed the Full-Value Contract. The

recruitment process consisted of the recruiter meeting together with the students and

parents to describe the purpose of the study, the methods to be used, and to request their

participation. An appreciation gift was offered to adolescent participants in the form of a

$15 gift card to a local department store. Compensation was not offered to adult

participants. Adolescent research participants were chosen based on their enrollment in

the program, assent to participate, and the completion of an informed consent document

signed by the parent or legal guardian. Parents were chosen for the study based on their

completion of the informed consent document and the child's willingness to participate.









Both children and parents were given the opportunity to choose a pseudonym to help

ensure confidentiality. Those who did not choose a pseudonym were assigned one.

Additional data sources were sought through recruitment of ACE staff members. I

met with these individuals as a group, prior to the start of the trip, to explain the purpose

of the research, the methods to be used, and to request their participation. Informed

consent was obtained at the time of the focus group interview. ACE staff members also

provided pseudonyms.

Data Collection

Data were obtained and triangulated through multiple qualitative methods including

open-ended questionnaires, active semi-structured interviews (Henderson, 1991; Holstein

& Gubrium, 1995), and a staff focus group interview. Additional triangulation occurred

by obtaining data from multiple sources, including the students, staff persons, the

students' parents, and my field notes. Individual and focus group interviews were

audiotape recorded for later transcription. Data collection was divided into two

categories: (1) the wilderness experience, and (2) follow-up.

Wilderness experience

Students' experiences. To address students' experiences of flow and

self-determination during the wilderness expedition, written data were sought on the final

day of the wilderness trip. An open-ended questionnaire (Appendix A) was administered

by the program staff on the final day of the trip. The questionnaire prompted the students

to reflect on the trip in terms of their experiences of flow and self-determination and to

consider the goals they had set for transition back to home. These questionnaires were

administered by the ACE staff. To enhance truth-value and protect students'









confidentiality, students were provided an envelope in which to seal the completed

questionnaire. Students were asked to seal their completed questionnaires inside their

individual envelopes and return them to the staff members. The directions explained that

although staff would be collecting the questionnaires, returning them in a sealed envelope

was meant to ensure student responses would not be viewed by staff. Upon return to the

agency office, the questionnaire envelopes were consolidated into one package by the

ACE coordinator and sent to me by certified mail.

Staff perspectives on flow and self-determination. According to Kreuger and

Casey (2000) focus group interviews are appropriate when the researcher is looking for a

range of ideas, insights or feelings that people have about something. The focus group

interview can further facilitate the emergence of ideas from the group. "A group

possesses the capacity to become more than the sum of its parts, to exhibit a synergy that

individuals alone don't possess" (p. 24).

To gain insights into staff perceptions of students' experiences with the ACE, a

focus group interview was conducted with staff members who agreed to participate in

this study. The focus group took place in an office at the CFS facility five weeks after

the wilderness trip.

Morgan (1997) argued for the use of audio tape as the principle means of capturing

observations within a focus group interview, and that the physical facility be carefully

chosen and setup with the tape recording in mind. Morgan further cautioned against the

use of videotape for recording focus group interviews. Although a tempting alternative to

audiotape, video recordings add an element of intrusiveness and often require

complicated setups with multiple assistants and high quality equipment. Given the









greater invasion of privacy, and that actual data analysis is most often based on

transcripts, audio taping is accepted as the most practical method for recording focus

group interviews (Morgan, 1997).

An audiotape setup, therefore, was chosen as the method for recording the focus

group interview. Participants were seated in a circular fashion in the office and I acted as

the moderator. Three tape recorders were used. The primary tape recorder was located

in the center with two backup recorders at opposite ends of the circle. Good recording

quality was obtained from the primary tape recorder.

Developing a question sequence that naturally flows from one question to another,

and following a progression from general questions to specific, is critical to the success

of a good focus group interview (Kreuger & Casey, 2000). Following the questioning

route model (Kreuger & Casey, 2000), I moderated the interview process which began

with opening questions and progressed through introductory, transition, key questions

and ending questions (Appendix B).

Prior to the focus group interview, staff members were mailed a handout orienting

them to the concept of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000; Voelkl et al.,

2003) (Appendix C). During the interview, just prior to introducing key questions, staff

participants were reoriented to the concept of flow and introduced to the concept of

self-determination. They were then asked to share insights as to how flow and

self-determination were facilitated during the trip, and to identify barriers to such

experiences. Additionally, I asked members to make projections about what skills they

thought were taken from the course related to flow and self-determination. The focus

group interview lasted approximately one-and-a-half hours.









Follow-up

Students' reflections, generalization, and transfer of flow and

self-determination. To further assess experiences of flow and self-determination, and to

explore the generalization and transfer of learning, follow-up interviews were scheduled

with youth who had participated in the wilderness trip. Fifteen youth interviews were

conducted over a two-and-a-half week period. During the adolescent interview, I asked

the students to reflect on experiences of flow and self-determination during the

wilderness phase, and to discuss the meanings of those experiences. I also explored the

issue of whether teens were able to generalize what they had learned, and if so, how.

Eighteen parents were also interviewed during the same timeframe, though separately

from the students, to gain parental perspectives on the impact of the course (see "parents'

perceptions of course impact on students and family," below).

Assessment of generalization and transfer requires a time lapse to occur from the

wilderness program conclusion. Therefore, follow-up interviews were scheduled to begin

no sooner than three weeks after the wilderness course. All interviews lasted a period of

about forty-five minutes to one-and-a-half hours. The previously administered

questionnaire was used as a partial basis for the in-person interviews (Appendix B).

Parents' perceptions of program impact on students and family. Interviews of

one parent of each student were conducted (Appendix B). The parent was asked to

discuss the impact of the course on his or her child and the family. Parents were also

asked to indicate any observations of behavior changes demonstrated by the adolescent,

and to consider the role of the ACE program in influencing those changes.









Follow-up staff observations. The follow-up group facilitators, as mentioned

earlier, had recurring contact with students in the weeks and months following the actual

trip. Therefore, those individuals were asked to provide insights as to the generalization

and transfer of flow and self-determination among the students, and to discuss course

factors they felt influenced this process (Appendix B). These interviews were conducted

via telephone, approximately three months after completion of follow-up interviews.

Relevant comments from the earlier staff focus group were revisited and used to inform

the follow-up interviews.

Researcher field notes. Researcher field notes consisted of notes taken while

observing behavior and nonverbal cues during the interviews. Additionally, insights and

reflections were recorded immediately after interviews and while transcribing tapes.

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed using the constant comparative approach, "a systematic method

for recording, coding and analyzing data" (Henderson, 1991). Using the three major

stages of constant comparison, categories of data were first coded and incidents fit within

categories. The categories and their properties were then integrated by comparing them

to one another and with the data. Finally, the categories were delimited for parsimony

and scope and the process of comparison continued until saturation was achieved. The

focus of this technique was to compare individuals, groups of individuals, and the data to

enhance the overall trustworthiness of the research (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln &

Guba, 1985). According to Glaser and Strauss, the constant comparative method causes

one to look continually for diversity. Through the ongoing process of comparison, a

researcher specifies concepts, provides assurance of accurate evidence, establishes









generality of a fact, verifies theory, or generates theory grounded in the data. The theory

that emerges may not be a perfect theory, but rather a theory relevant to the behavior and

context in which it is observed (Glaser & Strauss, 1999).

The constant comparative method, as a systematic approach to building theory,

calls for a high degree of intimacy with the data. As interviews are constantly revisited in

the process of coding, recoding, and developing categories, a systematic method of data

organization and retrieval is essential. N-6, a computer assisted qualitative data analysis

(CAQDA) software package designed to relate to the logic of the constant comparative

method was used to this end. According to Seal (2002), a major contribution of this and

similar software is the automated retrieval of text segments that have been categorized to

correspond with some analytical concept. The process can enhance data analysis by

encouraging rigor, though it is not capable of enforcing rigor on the researcher.

According to Dohan and Sanchez-Jankowski (1998), although the researcher can achieve

a high degree of rigor without software, fatigue and memory can impose biases against

which software can help protect. Through the program's ability to scan vast quantities of

data for category-related text, a more careful reading of the text is encouraged.

Therefore, software can simplify and enhance data analysis for the researcher. Yet it

does not replace the process of rigorous human analysis.

Data quality is directly tied to the ability of the researcher to observe significant
phenomena in the course of fieldwork and to recognize what he or she has seen.
While CAQDA can compensate for small failures of detailed observation or sharp
insight, it is no substitute for either (p. 496).

To further enhance the trustworthiness of this research, member checks were

carried out throughout the data collection and analysis process. As Lincoln and Guba

(1985) argued, member checks provide evidence of credibility, a criteria analogous to









internal validity in the positivist paradigm. Further trustworthiness was addressed

through investigator triangulation in which I, my supervisory committee chair, and a

supervisory committee member separately read through the interview transcripts and

questionnaires to produce initial coding, categorization, and broad data themes

(Henderson, 1991). Throughout the data analysis, I met twice with both committee

members as a group, and multiple times separately, to discuss and compare emerging

codes, categories, themes, and theoretical concepts.

The constant comparative technique in this study began with review of post-trip

questionnaires and continued throughout the interview and transcription process.

"Incidents" or units of responses were coded into as many categories of analysis as

possible as categories emerged and as data emerged that fit into existing categories

(Glaser & Strauss, 1999). The categories and their properties were continually

reevaluated through comparison with one another, with new emerging categories, and

with the data (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Finally, themes were

constructed from the categories and their properties which were again reviewed and

compared with one another, and with the data, to confirm the data had reached theoretical

saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Through the constant

comparative process, themes emerged into a system of relationships, or grounded

theoretical concepts, that were built on the continuity of participant responses, data

categories, and their properties (Glaser & Strauss, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Using the constant comparative method "makes probable the achievement of a

complex theory that corresponds closely to the data, since the constant comparisons force

the analyst to consider much diversity in the data" (Glaser & Strauss, 1999, p. 113-114).






39


In the present research, the development of theory occurred through the construction of

diverse conceptual categories and themes, and these themes were illustrated through

interview excerpts. The theory was further studied for similarities and convergences with

concepts from the literature review and modified as such. As the theory was delimited,

relatively universal concepts and relationships emerged that were informed by and

supported with concepts from new literature as well as by concepts that were presented

previously in the literature review in Chapter 2.










Table 1. Adolescent demographics
Participation
Pseudonym Age Gender Race Yar
Year
Bruce 13 M Caucasian 1st
Hydro 13 M Caucasian 1st
Cari 14 F Caucasian 1st
Chip 14 M Caucasian 1st
Frank 14 M Caucasian 1st
Jessica 14 F Caucasian 1st
John 14 M Caucasian 1st
Megan 14 F Caucasian 1st
Nicole 14 F Caucasian 1st
Taylor 14 F Caucasian 1st
Jeff 15 M Caucasian 1st
Iroquois 15 M Caucasian 2nd
Jiggle Billy 15 M Caucasian 2nd
White Knight 15 M Caucasian 2nd
Wolf 15 M Caucasian 2nd


Table 2. Parent demographics
Pseudonym Age Gender Race
Corcho Not provided F Hispanic
Ellie Not provided F Caucasian
Scuba Dude 36 M Caucasian
Butch 41 M Caucasian
Safe One 43 M Caucasian
Halo 44 F Caucasian
Jenn 45 F Caucasian
Esther 45 F Caucasian
Mae 45 F Caucasian
Summer 45 F Caucasian
Marge 48 F Caucasian
Laughter Lady 49 F Caucasian
Blackjack 49 F Other
Taffy 49 F Caucasian
Mountain Gal 52 F Caucasian
Madonna 52 F Caucasian
Grimace 52 M Caucasian
Dark Eyes 69 F Caucasian










Table 3. Participant family household income
Income in thousands n
<$15 3
$16-30 2
$31-59 0
$60-75 4
$76-100 2
No Response 7


%


Table 4. Staff demographics
Pseudonym Age Gender Race Highest Degree Role
Karlita 24 F Hispanic Bachelor CFS Intern
Brett 29 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff
Kate 30 F Caucasian Master CFS Staff
Elizabeth 33 F Caucasian Master ACE Volunteer
Candace 34 F Caucasian Master ACE Volunteer
Doc 49 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff
J Rudy 55 M Caucasian Master CFS Staff



Table 5. Staff income
Income in thousands n %
$0-10 1 14.3
$11-50 0 0
$51-60 2 28.5
$61-80 1 14.3
$81-100 1 14.3
>$100 1 14.3
No Response 1 14.3


I














CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

In Chapter 1, research questions were stated inquiring as to the psychological

experiences, and the meanings of those experiences, of the adolescents participating in

the ACE program. Additional questions were stated to gain the insights and observations

of program staff members and the teenagers' parents, both of whom were key players to

the teens' participation in this intervention program. Adolescent participants completed

post-trip questionnaires. Thirty-six interviews were conducted, including individual

interviews of 15 adolescents and 18 parents, a group interview of seven staff members,

and two individual follow-up interviews of staff members.

Through the constant comparative method of analysis, key concepts, categories,

and themes were constructed throughout the process of interviewing, reading, and

rereading questionnaire responses, approximately 1500 pages of transcripts, and

researcher memos. Examination and saturation of categories and themes facilitated the

development of grounded theory, presented in Chapter 5. Data analysis resulted in

saturation of three major themes including 1) challenge; 2) community; and 3) key player

relationships. Conceptually, the three themes that were constructed from the accounts of

the youth participants, the parents, and the staff members, interrelated with one another as

an interdependent system of youth development (Figure 1). Representation of these

themes and their relationships will be addressed in the remainder of this chapter.

"Writing up" qualitative research cannot be approached as a straightforward task,

(Coffey & Atkinson, 1996, p. 109). Reconstructing and representing social worlds and









social actors depends on disciplined, principled choices made by the researcher. As no

single analytical approach ought to be adopted without critical reflection, similarly,

principled choices direct how research accounts are written up and represented (Coffey &

Atkinson).

To develop a deep understanding of the emergent themes, I went through a process

of constantly comparing the themes and categories with one another and with the data,

and tested these themes and their relationships as they fit within the two temporal phases

of the ACE program addressed by the research questions. These phases were "wilderness

trip," and "post-trip." My in-depth understanding of the interrelationships between and

among the three themes ultimately developed within the contexts of both phases.

Therefore, although all data were collected post-trip, I determined the emergent themes

would be represented within the contexts of either phase of the ACE program.

Participant talk relating more strongly to wilderness trip experience was categorized as

the wilderness trip phase whereas talk relating to post-trip experience was placed within

the post-trip category.

Before proceeding, it should also be emphasized that in the process of interviewing,

data were inadvertently collected that were not specifically addressed by the research

questions. While the research questions addressed the concepts of experience of the

program and transfer of learning, a portrait of the teens prior to the trip also emerged, and

this illustration ultimately enhanced my overall understanding of the emergent themes.

Therefore, a category of"pre-trip adolescent profile" was constructed, not for the purpose

of fitting the system of thematic conceptual relationships, but rather to represent a

broader context for understanding the emergent themes. The pre-trip adolescent profile









will be presented in the following pages as a foundation for representing the wilderness

trip and post-trip phases of the program.

Finally, the research process was initially informed by the flow and

self-determination theoretical frameworks. While this research was initiated with these

frameworks in mind, the stronger themes that emerged extended beyond the original

purpose of the study. In the pages that follow, it is the bigger story that is told as

illustrated by the three themes derived from the research participants' own accounts.

Themes

Before discussing the temporal phases of the program in which the themes will be

illustrated, a brief introduction to each theme will be presented to provide an overall

conceptual overview of the emergent system of interrelated themes (Table 6).

The first among the major themes was that of "challenge" which was broken out

into the three interrelated sub-themes of "individual growth," "social growth," and

"helping." It was no surprise that the concept of challenge would be a major theme of

these research results. Indeed, the method of the intervention program under study was to

purposefully use a major group challenge experience to facilitate positive development

among the youth participants. However, what emerged from the data was a strong

contrast between the characteristics of wilderness trip challenge versus post-trip

challenge.

Wilderness trip challenge was largely viewed as physically strenuous and

sometimes mentally and/or socially taxing. Overcoming these challenges, both as

individuals and as a group, was perceived (with one exception) as both personally and

socially rewarding. As sub-themes of challenge, both individual growth and social

growth seemed to develop by nature of surmounting challenges as a group and by the









overlapping roles of adolescents necessarily helping one another. The process of

taking-on, negotiating, and overcoming challenges as a group further contributed to the

solidification of group bonds. The reciprocal helping dynamic that emerged in turn

facilitated the formation of community among the peers and staff members.

In contrast to the wilderness trip phase, post-trip challenges-meaning the kinds of

challenges teens faced in their everyday lives after the trip had concluded-had a largely

different set of characteristics. In terms of pastimes, or how teens were spending their

time, a mixture of active and passive activity was reported. Feelings of anxiety and

avoidance of emotional challenges were also reported, as was boredom and frustration in

the absence of challenging activity. Personal and social growth, while prevalent

throughout the wilderness trip, was somewhat weaker among the post-trip accounts.

Compared to the wilderness trip, opportunities to act as helpers among peers were

substantially less prevalent among most post-trip accounts. The act of helping was

instead characterized as teens' willingness to do chores and help around the home.

Furthermore, after the trip concluded, the primary link to peer community was

found in the teens' participation in the follow-up group. The group meetings served to

reinforce social bonds and community established during the wilderness trip. However,

the follow-up group lacked activity with the kinds of physical, social, and mental

challenges experienced during the trip.

An additional theme of key player relationships also emerged. I observed from the

data that bonds between staff and students were strong and supportive of students'

personal development and community building during the trip. Parents, however, who









effectively were non-participants of the program, were absent from wilderness trip

support of adolescent development.

Post-trip links between the program and teens were characterized by strong

supportive emotional bonds. These relational bonds, however, were combined with

program procedures disconnected from extending some of the stronger outcomes of the

wilderness trip. Additionally, post-trip communications between the program and parents

were characterized by an extreme information gap as displayed by parents' limited

knowledge of what their children had done or accomplished during the wilderness trip.

Parent-teen bonds were further characterized by a mixture of supportiveness and lack of

supportiveness.

Pre-Trip Adolescent Profile

In the process of interviewing and discovering data, much was learned about the

families and life conditions of the adolescent program participants. Doc, a long-time

social worker and counselor at CFS, and co-founder of the ACE program, described the

profile of youth who were likely to participate.

Our buzzword has always been at-risk youth, and I think over time we've all found
that means a lot of different things. But kids that are at-risk of possible psychiatric
kinds of [problems]. Hospitalization is the traditional form of it. Kids who are
at-risk of doing poor academically and losing their education. Or dropping out of
high school.

Doc explained how initial goals of the program were to target struggling students during

their transition out of middle school "to enhance their initial adjustment to high school."

Suggesting a possible contributor to such struggles, Doc estimated that in over the

fifteen years of the ACE program, nearly "seventy percent of the kids in the program

have been through a divorce, and are either living in a step family life or a single parent

life." Such a high divorce rate was not reflected among this year's participating families.









However, of the total group of 25 families involved in this year's program, 11 (44%) had

been through, or were going through a parental divorce. Of the 18 families interviewed,

six (33%) had experienced a divorce in the immediate family.

Frank, a first year teen participant described how he ... just needed a week out

from the house. 'Cause everyone was like fighting at my house." He returned home

from the wilderness trip to learn his parents were "getting a divorce." Hydro, another

first-year male, reiterated Frank's sentiment, describing severe home related stress. "It's

really hard to be happy when I'm at home because my parents are fighting or they're

talking bad things about each other. They're saying mean things or doing mean things."

A female teen participant, Nicole, also suggested feeling frustration over parental

conflict, stating, "My parents are kind of unhappily married. ... It's really confusing."

While parental conflicts caused stress among certain families, some had other life

stressors such as a parent being unemployed. Jiggle Billy, a second-year peer leader,

related how his mother's unemployment had created financial pressures. "My family had

severe money problems 'cause no one would hire my mom." Similarly, Wolf described

how his feelings of social isolation seemed related to his father's unemployment. "I was

having family issues 'cause my dad got unemployed, and we're starting to lose our house,

and I was just more depressed and didn't feel like doing anything with anyone." Marge,

a single mother who was previously unemployed, described how her lack of a job had

been emotionally difficult for her. "It's hard not to take it personally. (In an exaggerated

self-pitying voice) "Why does everybody else have a job and I don't! Wah wah, ya

know?"









Black Jack, a single mother of five children who works as a third shift hotel night

auditor, related multiple stressors contributing to family strife and conflict. Her concerns

included ongoing harassment caused by her ex-husband and father of her children who

was also an active alcoholic.

The rules are if he comes out he can't be drunk and he can't have the attitude. And
uh, he chooses not to come. I cannot do anything about that but my kids don't see
it that way. So some of [my son's] yelling is that I'm keeping their father away.

As presented above, family strife and/or family conflict in some form was apparent

in all but a few families participating in the study. The stressors faced by the teens

participating in the ACE program were best summed up by Doc, who stated, "My

overwhelming feeling was that these kids in our group had all been through some really

hard times in their young lives already."

Apart from having to cope with issues of family conflict, most adolescents were

described as having social difficulties among their peers. Lacking confidence to be

assertive with one's peers was a common issue illustrated by Taylor, a first-year female

adolescent. In a situation at school, Taylor felt scared to "be herself' for fear of losing

friends.

I had all these friends and then this one person got mad at me. So she got like all of
'em to turn against me. 'Cause they're scared of her. ... I'd always sit there quiet
'cause I didn't know what to say. And I was always scared. ... I didn't want to
lose them as friends.

Other teens seemed to have difficulty making or keeping friends. Cari, another

female first-time participant, seemed resigned to being socially alone. "Making friends?

Well I can make friends, but then I lose them." Laughter Lady, mother of a male

participant, described her son as having problems initiating friendships. "He's really hard

to make friends. He doesn't really feel like he has any friends." Similarly, Corcho,









mother of a first-year male participant, described how her son had seemed to give up on

making friends. "He doesn't, um, have friends to go out with. Yeah he has trouble

making friends. He always has. And he used to try really hard, but I think he stopped

trying." She further connected her son's peer troubles to a deficit in social skills.

He always wants to be in charge. And I think that that's why kids walk away from
him. Because he wants to be in control. ... He always wants to pick what game
they're gonna play or what they're gonna do next.

Doc elaborated on social-behavioral aspects of the adolescent profile describing

them as ". kids that are struggling socially and don't quite know how to fit into their

social experience. [They] get ostracized, get kidded, or get teased."

These teens were lacking friends, as well as skills for making and keeping friends,

suggesting a pre-trip deficit as a predominant theme of this research. Prior to the trip,

most of the adolescent participants lacked attachment to a community of peers. Wolf, a

male returning student/peer leader, described a lack of attachment to peers in his school.

"I've got a lot of problems with the kids in my school. It's just, not the kind of people I

really want to socialize with. So at school I just tend to like ignore people." Candace, a

fourth-year staff member, who is also a middle school English teacher, and former

guidance counselor, provided some insight as to the social barriers these adolescents face:

A lot of these kids come from, at least from our school, they're coming from
experiences where they don't have friends. And they work and work and work to
get into a group, and they're shut out... almost everywhere they turn.

Whether students lacked skills and/or motivation for building friendships, one thing

was clear. Social isolation and failure in building social networks typified the social

experiences of these adolescents prior to the ACE wilderness trip. Additionally, some of

these teens experienced stressful home life situations.









Wilderness Trip

Research questions stated in Chapter 1 sought to evaluate student experiences of

the ACE program, as understood through flow theory and self-determination theory.

Considering that challenging activity was an intentionally applied major element of the

program, experiences of challenge and feelings of control during the trip were thoroughly

investigated and probed to gain an understanding of the students' experiences within

context of the proposed theoretical frameworks. Through the constant comparative

method of data analysis, three major themes emerged: challenge, community, and key

player relationships.

Theme 1: Challenge

Descriptions of challenge

To gain a general understanding of how students thought about challenge, the teens

were asked to define challenge in writing and to elaborate on their definitions during an

interview. Definitions of challenge varied from highly internal experience, to

experiences influenced by environmental and social factors. However all were consistent

in relating challenge to expectations toward the future.

Jessica, a first-time participant, described challenge as having rewarding,

future-oriented outcomes, "Something that's really hard. That you really don't like doing

it, but it would be like worth it at the end." John, also a first year participant, similarly

framed challenge in the context of accomplishment, and connected the concept to future

goals.

If you face a challenge and you go through with completing whatever challenge is
ahead of you, then basically you've got that accomplished. [And] if you ever have
to go over that bridge again, you'll have a little more idea of what's going on. And
what you'll have to accomplish.









Bruce's definition diverged slightly from John's. His definition was more

problem-focused and it included both physical and social elements, but also suggested a

goal-orientation. "Challenge to me is having to overcome a problem that [takes] time to

answer." In a similar fashion, Jiggle Billy defined challenge as having to do with solving

a problem, stating, "I think a challenge basically is something you don't think you can

overcome."

When asked to define the term, Nicole described the perception of challenge as

relative to one's abilities combined with the social resources and supports available. For

Nicole, one's experience of challenge could involve both individual effort and reliance on

others for help. "Sometimes if you can't work through it, then you might need help from

someone else."

Megan also suggested a relationship between challenge and skills by stating, "It's

gonna take time and you need to learn about it in order to get it done. So it's gonna be

above your ability to do, but you can still get it done with a little work." When asked to

elaborate, like Nicole, Megan indicated that using social resources was a way to negotiate

challenge. "Maybe there's somebody else there that's done it and helping you through

it." Both Nicole and Megan alluded to a challenge-skill relationship, a major element of

Csikszentmihalyi's (1975) theory of optimal experience. They also both suggested a

goal-orientation to facing a challenge, another aspect of the flow concept.

While comparison of the adolescents' definitions with one another revealed a range

of meanings-from personal, internal experience to social, external experience-one

feature of their definitions was consistent. In the eyes of the youth, challenge is a

goal-oriented, forward-looking, future-focused concept.









Research participants were also asked to describe what was challenging for the

teens during the wilderness trip. What emerged from this line of inquiry were primarily

descriptions of camping activities and interactions with the physical environment.

Among these descriptions were activities related to backcountry travel such as paddling,

portaging, and camping. When asked to talk about what was challenging during the trip,

John described his experience with paddling against the elements.

Constantly in the waves, against the wind, against the current. Like, a few of the
days the wind was going one way and the current was going the other way ... so
you had to paddle extremely hard on one side for a few hours. You couldn't switch
off to give one arm a rest.

Paddling was one sort of physical challenge. Portaging canoes and gear packs over

rugged trails was another. Jiggle Billy vividly described struggles with mud and rocks

while portaging a canoe on his shoulders.

The weight isn't the problem, it's just, if you lose balance it becomes the problem.
So you're walking, trying to keep your balance, and then you're stepping in mud.
And one foot might sink deeper than the other, or you might have to slowly pull
your foot out without having your shoe fall off. ... Or then stepping on rocks,
make sure you don't hurt your ankle or you don't slip off and drop the canoe.

From a staff member's perspective, Candace portrayed the interaction between

activity and environment as especially challenging for some of the teens.

For the first two days, we had some pretty tough paddling because of the wind.
And I think right away, kids were forced to figure out what's going on. You know,
[two boys] coming through those narrows. And they were going back and forth
and spinning. You could see 'em give up at times. They just both put their
paddles down and the wind would just take them.

A final salient aspect of the physical environment was the recurring topic of coping

with wet weather and equipment. As depicted by Frank:

We flipped a hundred yards from the starting point. All my stuff was wet, and I
wasn't very happy about it. We get to camp, my tent's wet. My sleeping bag is
soaked, my comforter's soaked so when I went to bed, I went to bed with a cold,
very cold sleeping bag.









As illustrated by these common depictions, the physical nature of the wilderness

trip was predominantly characterized by manual travel through rugged terrain and

somewhat foul weather. Additionally, all challenges were initially compounded by the

fact that the adolescents were mostly undeveloped in their outdoor skills training. As the

trip progressed, however, outdoor skills developed and as demonstrated later in this

chapter, negotiation of physical challenges was ultimately perceived as personally

rewarding.

In addition to the physical nature of challenge, teens and staff members described

psychological characteristics of challenge. For example, many students described

elements of the physical challenge experience as requiring intense concentration, a

characteristic of optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000). This property of

challenge was evident in Jeff s description of portaging.

I had to really think what I was doin'. I wasn't really thinking' of giving up, then.
'Cause I didn't really want to hurt myself. ... I had to really focus on what I was
doin', looking' forward instead of behind me. .... My friend, he had tripped over a
log and sprained both of his wrists. I didn't really wanna end up like him, so I was
watching ahead of me, and making sure I won't trip over anything.

Frank had a similar, though more intense description of concentration while

portaging.

I just wanna' get it over with, so I stay focused on it. So I have the canoe up on my
shoulders and it's one of those mile portages. And there's mud and rocks all
over .... I'm hopping from rock to rock. Through trees and stuff. And just going
as fast as I can. Get it over with. And just not taking my eyes off the trail. Not
talking to anyone. Cause I'd need to stay perfectly focused on what I'm doing. ...
I don't want to hop to another rock and miss it, and twist my ankle, have the canoe
fall and break. ... So I have to stay focused.

Similarly Nicole demonstrated how she would stay mentally "in the moment" while

portaging. "When you're going through the portage ... you have to think about what's









going on at the time. And at that time you can't worry about what happened earlier in the

day, and you're not really thinking about what you're going to do next."

One final salient characteristic of the challenge theme was also noticeably

descriptive of the flow framework (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 2000). As reported by the

teens, perceptions of competence were connected to feelings of control and enjoyment of

challenges. Some indicated that as their outdoor skills and feelings of competence

improved, challenges appeared less frustrating and more enjoyable. For Megan,

frustrations with canoeing decreased as her paddling skills improved.

Before I figured it out, I got frustrated because I didn't know how to do it, and, I
just wanted to get it done. And like, just to be able to go. And then afterwards ...
[I] didn't have to think about it that much. It's, it's like a second nature almost.

Likewise for Megan and another female participant, setting up a tent initially

produced frustration, but as familiarity and experience increased, it became

commonplace.

We did not know how to put our tent up. It was, it was awkwardly shaped, and
like, we were missing a pole or something. And so, I got really frustrated, but we
finally figured it out and from there on it was like, a snap to put it up. It was really
easy.

Jeff also illustrated feeling competent when asked to tell about the difficulty level

of portaging, particularly when he was feeling highly focused. He described carrying a

canoe as, "Just right. Not too hard, not too easy. Just like, right, for me. Where I can

handle it."

Many also described activities of the trip as "fun," in which enjoyment was

connected to novelty, a concept also related to optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi,

1975). Nicole, for example, described strenuous portaging as enjoyable. "A lot of them

were, like, just a lot of fun. Like, it's fun to go through." Asked to explain what could









make a portage fun, she described a combination of frustrating activity and welcome

novelty:

Well, even though it made it really hard and really annoying at the time, and you
just wanted to get over with it. ... I don't know, they just kind of like changed
things for you, gave you something new to do for the day.

Overall, challenge as experienced during the trip was described as having distinct

physical and psychological properties. Physical characteristics related to both activities

of backcountry travel and the physical environment. Among the psychological

descriptions of challenge were accounts of intense concentration, attitudes of

perseverance, perceptions of competence, and feelings of both frustration and enjoyment.

With the exception of one teen participant whose account diverged from the stronger

theme of challenge, students talked about challenging experiences within positive

contexts reflective of the flow framework. Where obstacles or barriers to optimal

experience were encountered during the wilderness trip, students reported engaging with,

pushing through, and ultimately surmounting these challenges.

As introduced to the reader earlier in this chapter, the pre-trip lives of the ACE

adolescents were characterized by multiple struggles and life constraints. By

participating in this intervention program, these youth encountered situations apart from

and unlike those of their everyday lives. A review of the major theme of challenge

revealed trip characteristics covering a range of experience.

As the research participants talked about challenge, an underlying positive tone

emerged from the dialogue, indicating a sense of growth among the teens. The topic of

growth was therefore explored among the data, and what emerged were two sub-themes:

personal growth and social growth.









Sub-theme 1A: Personal growth

Exploration of interviews, questionnaires, and field notes revealed personal growth

as both experiences and outcomes of the trip. Several data categories were classified as

growth. Among those classified as personal growth were strength, accomplishment,

confidence, personal control, calmness, and perseverance.

Personal growth: strength. As a category of personal growth, both teens and

parents reported feeling physically strong as an important experience and outcome of the

program. For Chip, being "one of the three people" in his group who was able to carry a

canoe made him feel good, that you're physically strong." Similarly, Iroquois

described the "Highway to Hell" portage as ". .. a good test of my hulk-like strength," a

portage where he carried a heavy pack and a canoe at the same time. "It's like to prove to

myself that I'm stronger than I think I am. Because I just think of myself as weak .. ,"

whereas portaging made him feel physically strong.

Nicole described how carrying a canoe on her shoulders was not as difficult as she

had imagined and that it actually made her feel stronger. Upon returning home she was

more willing to take on physically challenging tasks and chores.

There's a lot of things now that I didn't have to do before I went to Canada
Because my dad decided to test my strength a little more give me chores that
I'd never do before .... I'll just go out and do it every once in awhile or help him
with something that requires a little more strength. Because before I would have
been like, "No, I can't lift that." And [now], I might actually go do it.

Esther, mother of a female first-time participant, related her daughter's sense of

gratification to the physical definition she had acquired.

She was pretty proud of her muscles when she got back. She really built up some
muscles and really defined the ones in the forearm and the biceps. You could tell
she was proud of that, because ... we had gone to Sam's to get the salt for the
water softener, and a forty pound bag, she says, "I'll get that." [laughs] No
problem!









Hydro also gained a sense of satisfaction from building strength. When asked what

he liked most about the trip, he replied, "Rejuvenation and physical strength through the

program. I really liked that."

Teen participants were also asked to explain how they gained satisfaction or reward

from challenge experience. Wolf, a peer leader, had initially described portaging as

devoid of rewards. However, when probed he identified strength as an unexpected

reward. "I didn't realize that I could do something' like that. [It] made me stronger. Now

that I look back, I realize I got stronger. I didn't really realize that [before]."

As properties of personal growth, both discovery of strength and development of

strength were referred to as experiences and outcomes of the trip. Exercising one's

strength was further interrelated with other outcomes of personal growth, such as

accomplishment

Personal growth: accomplishment. With the exception of one teen participant

interviewed, a strong sense of accomplishment was derived from participating in the

ACE wilderness program. As an internal, personal experience, John related the idea of

accomplishment to feelings of personal power:

Knowing that you didn't need an engine to go probably thirty, forty kilometers in
the water against current. Just that I had gone all that way under my power. I
had done all that. I felt a sense of accomplishment there.

Specific examples of accomplishments during the trip were related on many levels.

For Taylor, learning to set up a tent was especially meaningful.

Ever since the first day, I put up the tent. ... It [meant] a lot because I had never set
up a tent and I had never known how and then when I had set it up, I was all proud
of myself. Because I had done it right.









Pushing through a long paddle into the waves and wind was recounted by Hydro as

being a major accomplishment. Asked to talk about an example of what was challenging

about the trip, Hydro recounted paddling through an open-water bay.

The waves were three feet to five feet high and I pushed myself until I actually
started to cry from the pain in my arms but after getting through I was so proud of
myself and me and my partner. And it felt so good to get through that part of the
trip. It was great. 'Cause you knew you pushed yourself that hard. And you knew
that you got through.

In addition to camping and paddling, portaging was described as one of the most

challenging activities that created feelings of success. When asked to describe the most

satisfying challenges, Nicole declared, "The most satisfying part was being able to

complete a long, hard portage and looking back at it and being able to say, 'Wow! I

portaged a canoe over that?'"

As a topic of accomplishment, Jiggle Billy demonstrated tenacity associated with

overcoming or defeating the recurring obstacle of potentially spirit-breaking mud.

"There was so much of it, and I swear sometimes mud is put there to make you fall.

Or, not be able to move. And when you do the opposite of what it's there for, you've

truly beaten it." I wondered aloud if he was "making a game out of it." Jiggle Billy

continued:

[That's a] good way of saying it. It's like, okay the mud's trying' to beat me. ...
The whole idea is ... you're trying' to beat the mud at its own game. It's trying' to
make you fall. ... It's trying' to tip you, it's trying' to get you stuck. Do the opposite.
Don't get stuck, don't fall over and keep goin' through it.

Frank was a first year student whose goals for the trip included controlling his

anger. While some related the idea of accomplishment in terms of physical experience,

for Frank, accomplishment was represented by a combination of overcoming physical

obstacles while controlling his emotions. Asked to describe his accomplishments he









stated, ... Just getting that closer to your destination and actually accomplishing

something. Getting this trip done, without complaining, bursting out in anger, or

anything like that."

Parents additionally related multiple examples of how they felt their children

returned with feelings of having accomplished something big. Mae, for example,

remarked about the deep meaning of the ACE trip experience to her son.

He had so much more in him than he'd realized. He was astounded, himself, that
he could paddle a canoe so long and he had never done it before. I definitely know
that that was a big part of this. Just realizing how much he could do. And proud of
himself!

Similarly, when asked what his daughter liked most about the trip, Safe One, stated:

I think just the self-fulfillment that she could do what she did, actually. She came
out of it. I hear it was tough, it sounds like. And ... it sounded like she took a
leadership role and she's, came out of, uh, with, m, I think she feels more
confident.

It became clear from the many references to accomplishment from students, parents, and

staff alike, the vast majority of adolescents emerged from the program with a sense of

major achievement.

Personal growth: confidence. Intertwined with talk about accomplishment was

the related topic of confidence, both aspects of personal growth that were commonly

discussed together. Safe One's statement above, for example, suggested a link between

his daughter's accomplishments and increased sense of confidence. This illustration was

a sentiment communicated by others. Marge, a mother of a male peer leader, spoke about

how her son had grown and gained confidence through his perseverance and success with

the program.

[He] has always had the problem of being scared of doing new things. And, it
definitely has, shown him he's capable of accomplishing a lot. He just needs to set
his mind to it. And that type of self-confidence, he did not have before.









Taffy, mother of a first-year male interpreted her son's change in behavior as

self-confidence. "He used to always walk around and say, 'I'm ugly.' I don't hear that

no more. He does have confidence in himself, to where it's better and not, putting'

himself down." This kind of observation of her son was similar to what Grimace had

noticed in his son, a peer leader.

He walks, he sits differently. ... He used to be more withdrawn or more insecure
out in public. Now he's got his shoulders back. He's walking tall and he's just a
lot happier kid than he used to be.

Nicole more directly pointed out how the program had helped her develop

self-confidence. When asked how she had been able to use at home what she learned

during the trip, Nicole described feeling more confident in her abilities as a result of the

wilderness experience.

... you do realize that things aren't exactly that hard. Like, when you're out in the
middle of nowhere and your resources are limited and you have to deal with and be
with the same group of people all day for a week. You can just go through a lot
more without even thinking about it. When before you might have been, like, "No,
I can't do that." And this time you might actually go out and try it.

Similar to Nicole, Wolf specifically addressed confidence as a self-perceived outcome of

the program. He described how after serving as a peer leader, leadership came more

naturally to him. "Seems like I've got more confidence in myself now. ... I was like, 'I

can do this.'"

Personal growth: personal control. While strength, accomplishment, and

confidence emerged naturally as categories from the sub-theme of personal growth, a

fourth category of personal control emerged from a line of questioning related to

self-determination. As a theoretical basis for this study, both the experience of

self-determination during the wilderness trip, and the generalization of such experience,

were addressed through questions to teens, staff, and parents regarding feelings of









personal control (Kiewa, 2001). What emerged from this line of questioning was an

underlying meaning of controlling one's anger in stressful situations.

Megan defined personal control as "Having control over your anger and

frustrations over certain things." Asked to talk more about it, she elaborated, "If you can

control your .. like, if you wanna kick this person's butt, you can control that,

controlling your anger, you will just set it aside and do something else or use your anger

in a different way." She was then asked to describe what made her feel like she had used

personal control during the trip, and she stated, "When I did get angry I didn't yell at

people, I didn't take it out on them. I took it out on either, like if we were paddling or

something, I took it out on, just, paddling."

Using the physical challenge of paddling or portaging seemed to help others control

their anger as well. Frank, for example, described how he dealt with his frustration over

another group member's behavior. Canoeing and portaging were key outlets for his

anger.

Paddling, we would actually go much faster, because I would be paddling so hard
and so fast, I would just paddle as hard as I possibly could. At the portages, I
would double pack. And carry the canoe and my backpack at the same time. ... So
that was really hard and it would be over those long portages. That would help get
my anger out.

Associated with anger control was the observation by parents of calmness among

the teens after returning from the wilderness. Jenn, a parent of one of the male

participants, observed a reduction in her son's typical bouts of anger. "He hasn't gotten

as angry as quickly as he used to. ... He's more fun. He's more part of the family."

Another parent, Butch, noticed his son seemed more relaxed and thoughtful about

problem management after returning from the trip. "He seems a lot calmer. He's not,

um, jittery like he used to be."









Another aspect of teen calmness observed by multiple parents was a reduced

inclination toward conflict. Safe One's daughter, for example ". .. doesn't argue. She'll

[say] "Yes I'll do it," and she'll get to it. ... There's been a definite change in havin' to

prompt her and push her all the time with doin' stuff."

The parents' observations of teen calmness were supported by the adolescents' own

accounts. During the interviews, teen participants were asked to tell about how they had

been able to use what they had learned during the wilderness trip. Giving the question

some thought, Jessica responded, "Hmm. I think that not freaking out when [I] really

want to. Usually I'm just like, "Oh my god I don't want to do this!" And just totally

freak out and not do nothing." Similarly, and more specifically, Nicole responded, "I can

be a lot more calm about certain situations with arguments and other people."

Personal growth: perseverance. An attitude of perseverance was a prevalent

characteristic of the wilderness challenge experience. Jiggle Billy, using alternating

voices to represent an internal dialogue, illustrated how portaging required a high degree

of determination and perseverance.

".. my foot hurts." "Keep moving." "Oh my shoe's about to fall off." "Keep
moving." Because, every step you take is one step closer to the end of the thing.
Sometimes the mud's terrible, or these rocks are pullin' me. You just want to put
the thing down. "Keep moving." Your shoulders might start to hurt. "The faster
you move, the faster it'll be off your shoulders" (laughs).

While the adolescents reported perseverance in multiple forms, staff member J

Rudy connected this concept to perceptions of competence among the teens. "Well my

sense is that typically their life is involved with failures and they're excused from the

experience, or they escape from the experience, or cop-out of the experience." Yet the

ACE program offers youth a different experience:









... the chance to stay with a challenge and see themselves succeed on the other
side of it, that's kind of one of the critical elements of the trip. "Well I don't
know how to get from here to there unless you just do it!" And simply sailing by,
sitting here, and doing nothing is not an option. And I think they see that. Forced
into succeeding, they begin to see themselves as competent.

J Rudy's assessment develops a link between the necessity of pushing through a

challenge, and the outcome of positive self-perception. It is important to note that the

wilderness challenge experience is partly characterized by this link. Compared with

post-trip pastimes and experiences (detailed later in this chapter) the wilderness trip is

unique in this attribute.

From a personal growth perspective, the attitude of "just do it" seemed to also

carry over beyond the trip. Connecting this attitude to everyday experience, Nicole

described how she would now push through conflict situations with a parent.

Just to get it over with and just do it, 'cause it's not like, as much as I might not
want to do it, it's not all about me and I know that. And I'll just find different ways
to just deal with it.

Relating the work of the wilderness trip to his responsibilities at home, Chip

reflected this attitude in tackling his more challenging chores. "Just thinking' about it,

think of how it was so hard, you worked at it, you eventually got it. So just think if you

work hard you can get it."

In a more metaphorical line of thinking, Taylor suggested a parallel between

homework and portaging.

If the teacher gives you homework that you don't want to do, just like think of the
portages that you really didn't want to do. And how you did 'em anyway. And
then you felt, like, good that you had gotten through the mud and stuff.

Finally, in the questionnaire completed at the trip's conclusion, the student's were

asked to state their goals for returning home. Taylor's written goal best summed up this









category of personal growth. "When life has a portage that I really don't want to do, to

just do it."

Sub-theme 1B: Social growth

As outlined above, personal growth emerged as a sub-theme from the dominant

theme of challenge. While personal growth included categories reflecting internal

experience, other categories of challenge suggested external influences. When compared

with the sub-theme of personal growth, these categories grew into an overlapping

sub-theme of social growth. Among the categories classified in the social domain were

social skills and social confidence.

Social growth: social skills. As a category of social growth, development of social

skills was salient. Parents and teens alike indicated improvements in teen social skills.

Madonna, for example, discussed how she felt the trip had helped her son learn how to

interact in more appropriate ways with his peers.

I think going on this helps him learn to interact better, rather than being obnoxious.
... It's helped him being with a group of people day and night for a week. It's
helped him to interact and be more comfortable. ... 'Cause he sees that he doesn't
have to be as pushy to have people like him.

Introspectively, Bruce talked about how he has become a better listener through his

participation in the wilderness trip. Asked to described how he had been able to apply

the experience, he said, "It's helped a lot. ... I used to just talk about myself That's

changed .... I've actually listened to my friends more."

Both Madonna's and Bruce's language revealed how the ACE program helped

teens improve the quality of their social interactions among peers. As a general outcome

category, social skills overlapped with the outcome of social confidence.









Social growth: social confidence. As indicated by the student profile, participants

tended to lack socially supportive networks. Candace was a current staff member and

former middle school guidance counselor with experience in referring students to the

ACE program. She suggested the ACE trip provided teens with avenues for building

social confidence whereas previous efforts to make friends had been met with failure.

I think socially, making friends [during the trip] gives them so much confidence.
'Cause a lot of these kids come from experiences where they don't have friends.
And they work and work and work to get into a group, and they're shut out...
almost everywhere they turn.

The ACE trip, however, gave these teens opportunities to establish new friendships.

Candace continued, "They'd make friends. They're a part of the group, and I think that

confidence carries over into just how they approach school. It doesn't have to be the

socially scary place."

As Candace illustrated, an overlap emerged between social confidence and

self-confidence among the data. Candace's observations were additionally reflected by

the statements of several students. Iroquois, a returning student and peer leader, related

his feelings of self-confidence in the current year to his experience as an ACE participant

in the prior year.

It seemed like no pressure, really. .... 'Cause I know I'm funny enough and I'll end
up being liked. ... So I guess, from the last year it helped me realize it shouldn't
matter how I act, because everybody's gonna like me no matter what.

Taylor more specifically disclosed her view of how the wilderness trip had helped

her become a more socially confident individual.

I am less shy. I'm more talkative .... I'm more confident to be me. I don't have to
be there and act like everybody else is, or dress however everybody else does. I'll
do what I want to do.









Sub-theme 1C: Helping

The topic of helping was a third salient sub-theme of challenge. The importance of

this topic emerged from the exploration of data related to personal growth and social

growth. As students learned to see themselves as competent and capable of

accomplishing major physical, emotional, and social hurdles, they likewise viewed

themselves as capable of making contributions to one another and to the group. This

sub-theme, termed helping because of the assistive nature of teen behaviors, overlapped

with the two earlier sub-themes of personal growth and social growth, which in turn

overlapped with one another.

Asked to describe how challenge had been satisfying to the students, the topic of

helping was brought up repeatedly. Megan, for example, told about how her group had

encountered a set of rapids. She had suggested that paddling up the rapids would be

dangerous, and that someone would need to physically get into the water and pull the

canoes up against the current. Megan took the leadership and sacrificed staying dry for

the benefit of the group. She described how pulling her group up the rapids had been

personally rewarding for her. "I know I did a big thing for the group ... So, I just got in.

It was freezing .... The [satisfaction] came from keeping them dry, knowing that I

kept people dry and knowing I saved them from tipping."

Parents were also asked to relate what they thought had been most meaningful

about the trip to their children. Jenn suggested being helpful was the greatest source of

her son's enjoyment.

I think he liked most the fact that he was so helpful and that everybody looked up
to him. 'Cause he's, so big and tall and strong. ... [In a meek voice] "Oh, I can't
carry this, can you carry it?" So yeah, he'd carry everybody's stuff, because it









made him feel really important. I really think that his helpfulness is what he liked
the best. Feeling needed by everybody.

From a staff member's perspective, Doc commented on how intense challenge,

combined with helping behavior, promoted the kind of deep concentration that

characterizes optimal experience. This example was given in the story of one boy who

seemed totally focused on the chance to be of service to the group.

I'll never forget the, the big guy in our group who pulled all the canoes up [the
rapids]. And I think the act of giving and seeing that he could give so well to the
group in that context. He was just totally focused. I mean he went up and down
that rocky waste-deep water current a whole mess of times. And he was just totally
determined and totally focused on what he wanted to do for the group at that
moment. ... I don't think his life had many experiences where he felt that he could
go to that zone where he could really see himself doing something that really was
valued by others. The group was very supportive and rewarding to him of his
desire and his willingness to do that.

While self-sacrifice and helping others was one aspect of the helping sub-theme,

asking for and receiving help was another. Jiggle Billy, for example, proposed:

Don't think you have to do it yourself. 'Cause if you're trying, then you can ask for
help and someone will help you. 'Cause sometimes when you have a pack on your
back, once you fall down you can't get back up .... And so you gotta ask someone
else, "Can you help me?" and they push it up.

Among the many topics within the data, students acting as helpers to one another

was communicated as a powerfully rewarding experience. Compared with other

emergent categories and themes, it became clear that helping was a key link among the

challenge sub-themes. Furthermore, when factored into the overall theme of challenge, it

was evident that helping, combined with personal growth and social growth, facilitated a

norm of reciprocity that, in turn, contributed to the development of community.

Theme 2: Community

The combination of personal and social growth, having developed through

challenge, fostered an environment of interdependence and reciprocity in which teens felt









satisfaction in contributing to the their group. These ingredients, combined with a staff

intent on supporting student growth, developed into a community of teens and staff that

seemed to represent deep meaning for the program participants. Among the meanings of

community experienced during the trip were characteristics of trust, friendship, and social

support.

Trust

Multiple teens showed a development of emotional trust among the group members

that contributed to a sense of community. Trust as an important aspect of the community

experience was most articulated by Hydro.

Well, the people that you're with on the trip kind of be, sorta become your family
on the trip and you learn to share what you can't really share at home with them.
Because you know it's going to be confidential. And at home or specifically at my
house, you know it's probably not gonna be confidential and it's just gonna get
around. And usually come back and bites you in the butt.

Halo also referred to the sense of group trust communicated by her son, a first year

participant.

I asked [him] about what they talked about and he said, "Mom, we had a code of
confidence and silence." And I said, "Okay, okay. Say no more." And he said,
"Let me just tell ya." He said, "That we had some really good talks."

Development of trust was additionally mentioned by Brett, a staff member and

agency counselor. He described a sense of openness that had developed among the teens

involved in the program. When asked to explain how the adolescents had come by that

openness, he replied:

I think they've learned to trust each other as a result of the trip. We went through
some rough times and none of us gave up. We supported each other.









Group support

Group support, as a category of community, was discussed in several perspectives,

including assistance, encouragement and collaboration through a variety of challenges.

Within the context of physical challenge, Bruce talked about how supporting one another

in the group was central to getting the group over a beaver dam.

The communication skills. Trying to have one person at the top of the beaver dam.
Guiding the canoe while the other person at the bottom pushed it up in order to get
it to the top .... Some people were strong enough to do it, some people weren't ....
If you couldn't do it, then you had somebody else help you.

Asked if strength was a factor in negotiating the dam, Bruce replied, "Strength for

the group was a big key. Everything branched off of that. You have to have a strong

group in order to have communication, focus, patience and all."

Hydro also described the value of group support during challenging aspects of the

trip.

There was always someone to help. Even if they were doing something, they
would always come and help you if it was hard. [If] you were carrying a canoe
and couldn't really do it, someone would come up. Or two people sometimes ...
would help you carry the canoe to the end. And it was just really nice to have those
people help. It makes it easier on you because you know there's always someone
to help even in a rough situation.

Doc explained how one boy in the group had been struggling emotionally during

the first days of the trip. But as the week went on:

... you could just see his enthusiasm grow. ... I think this boy really found some
safety in the little community spirit that got created with this group. I think he felt
cared for. And I think maybe for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel so
alone.

Friendship

Friendship development during the wilderness experience was an additional

indicator of community development. The significance of building friendships was









strong. As mentioned earlier, most participants were unlikely to have strong peer

attachments or social networks. Various indications were relayed suggesting friendship

development was an important aspect of the trip. Jeff related how a major goal for his

trip was to make a friend. "I met a couple a new people and they became my friends.

Someone we could talk to on the trip, about our private, personal stuff without people

knownn'"

Jenn, also talked about how establishing friendships was important to her son. "He

made new friends. Which he doesn't do all the time. And he likes that."

The social bonds that developed among teens were evident when Taffy talked about

her son's excitement for the follow-up group. "He can't wait to go Friday. See

everybody again. And, that's givin' him something' to look forward to and, kinda like

reminiscin', and stuff like that."

Laughter Lady also indicated that while her son would generally have difficulty

making friends, the wilderness group seemed very nice. He felt real comfortable

with them." The level of comfort level was reiterated by Megan who described a sense

of family developing among the teens on the trip. "My group became, like a family and I

liked it. I like that bonding and everything."

Two major themes have been presented as they pertain to the wilderness trip. From

the challenge theme emerged the sub-themes personal growth, social growth and helping.

The combined influences of these sub-themes gave rise to an additional theme of

community, a group environment of friendship, trust, and support that grew out of group

challenge experiences. A final theme, key player relationships will now be introduced

and discussed in terms of its relationship to the previous two themes.









Theme 3: Key Player Relationships

The third major theme identified in this research was "key player relationships."

Key players were identified as three categories of research participants: staff members,

parents, and teens, and these relationships pertain specifically to links and bonds existing

between each type of research participant. As these relationships were explored, it

became clear that wilderness trip bonds between staff members and students were strong.

However, a disconnection emerged between both staff-parent relationships and

student-parent relationships, as they pertained to the program. These links and

disconnects are illustrated below.

Program (staff)-teen relationships

Supporting the teens' growth and development throughout the ACE trip was clearly

a goal and priority of the staff program leaders. The effort to help the teens develop and

discover their inner strengths was clearly communicated by Doc.

You want them to think, that it was a really hard experience. And from that came
some strength that you wouldn't have had otherwise. And it seemed like the
more we kind of told them how good they were doing, and how well they were
dealing with the struggle, the better they did.

As Hydro suggested, staff support was critical to his feeling a sense of safety with

sharing emotional material with the group.

I learned basically to be able to show my feelings a lot easier because before this I
didn't like to show my feelings. I kinda suppressed 'em and it's just easier to live
now that I'm able to show those, because thanks to like [my staff leader] they
just helped me to be able to get those out in the open.

For Hydro, a boy who suffered from depression, learning to open up to others was a

powerful experience that encouraged his enjoyment of the trip and further helped him to

enjoy life beyond the wilderness trip. Grimace related a similar observation of his son's

bonds with the staff members. "I think the encouragement and support he got from the









group leaders went a long way towards making him maybe reevaluate how he saw

himself."

In the process of staff supporting teen self-discovery, an overall emphasis in

supporting autonomous action became evident in statements made by students and staff

members. Nicole, for example, described a group situation in which she appreciated how

the students were allowed to work out a group problem without adult intervention.

The whole canoe switching was a really big, like, complete group effort. And I
really like the idea that instead of [our staff leader] being like, "Okay, why don't
you two go together, you two go together," he really let us decide. And he
kinda just, like started the topic and the conversation and sorta let us take it from
there. And it really helped our communication skills with each other.

During the staff focus group interview, Brett described his leadership philosophy in

terms of flow theory, one topic of the discussion. In his description, staff leadership was

geared toward helping the adolescents feel in-control.

Because I find that [we are] intervening a lot if they're really bored or if they're
really anxious. But once they get to the point where they're almost, ah, on
automatic pilot with what they need to do, regardless of the challenge, that's when I
feel like we're really bringing out the best in them.

Candace's observations supported Brett's comments and suggested a staff leadership

style that supported student autonomy and encouraged self-determination.

I think [Brett] is right in that the more we can step back and allow the kids to figure
out what works for them and what doesn't, the more likely that is to happen. I
mean obviously the first day or two, they need a little bit more guidance. But
then, really stepping back and letting them [go].

Facilitating students' sense of autonomy was one leadership style staff used to

support their personal and social growth throughout the trip. Another characteristic of

student-staff relationships was evident in how the staff supported development of

community among the groups of students.









As described by Brett, the staff members were intentional about encouraging

selflessness among the teens.

For part of the journey, our group was in front of people and we were getting later
in the afternoon and we were passing campsites, and the kids were like, "Why
don't we camp there?" We were like, "You know what? [Another group] is behind
us." In a way, that's us showing them the altruism of "We're gonna do this [to]
not be selfish."

Candace supported Brett's comments by indicating the collective nature of

individual canoe groups among the larger group of adolescents and staff.

Really we think of our group as our small canoe group, but it's really that whole
group of you know, all four of the groups. And we still make decisions so that all
four groups can be safe.

As a staff, the leaders made multiple references to, and directly acknowledged the

process of building community among the peers. They further illustrated leadership

styles that encouraged collective thought, action, and social bonding.

In addition to encouraging community, overall bonds between staff members and

teenage participants appeared to be strong. Staff-teen relationships were generally

illustrated as beneficial to students' personal and social development, supportive of their

autonomy, and encouraging of community building among the group. Various research

participants related teens' positive regard for the staff members. As told by Madonna,

her son loves the directors that go. ... Oh yeah, he's crazy about all of them. He

talks very highly of them all the time."

As described by adolescents, parents, and the staff members, the counselors

leading the wilderness group were clearly committed to facilitating personal and social

growth among the teenagers. They additionally developed supportive relational bonds

with the teens throughout the trip. Finally, they recognized the meaning of community as









a powerful uniting force among the group, and the staff made efforts to encourage and

help build the community environment.

Program (staff)-parent relationships

While the teens' interaction with staff members and the program facilitated

individual and social growth, as well as the building of community, the parents, in

contrast, sat largely outside of the wilderness trip support equation. The absence of

parents was evident, and a program-parent disconnect was manifest in the parents'

non-participation and lack of knowledge about what occurred during their children's

week in the wilderness.

What became clear was that parents were largely outsiders from the community

that developed among the teens and staff members. Many of the parents wanted to learn

about the trip from their children while the teens had not shared much information with

them. As Mae put it, "Gee. I'd liked to have known a little bit more about it. A little

more details."

A common exchange during the parent interviews involved the parent speaking in

generalities about his or her child's experience due to a lack of detailed information. Safe

One, for example, was asked to describe what was challenging for his daughter during the

trip. He answered, "I don't know enough about the specifics. ... I have a general idea of

what they did, but it, it just seems like it was a good solid program."

Laughter Lady, on the other hand, responded to the question with a tone of

frustration.

Well you know, it's hard because I really don't know what they've done! Ya
know, if they had sessions out there in the canoes, if they had sessions around the
campfire, he won't talk; tell us about it. And so, whatever he absorbed, other than
little tidbits of things, we don't know.









As the lines of communication between staff and parents were further explored,

there seemed to be little evidence of a working relationship. This observation was made

in stark contrast to the open and flowing relationship that existed between the staff

members and teens. Most of the parents simply lacked information about the trip. This

problem was compounded by the fact that teens were generally not apt to share detailed

information about the trip with parents. Summer pointed out:

I was hoping one of the adult leaders in [my daughter's] group would have
contacted me after they got back from the trip just to let me know any thoughts or
things that they observed, or any instances they had with [my daughter] ...
Because when she came home it was really hard to get a lot of stuff out of her ...
As a parent I would like to have feedback as to what they observed [her] to be like
on the trip.

Summer's comments illustrated a central disconnect between program and parents.

There appeared to be no formal mechanism for facilitating parental involvement with the

program or communication with the staff. Rather, the parents' involvement was largely

limited to an initial recruitment meeting, helping the students prepare for the trip

(gathering gear and packing), and transporting them to and from the agency. Beyond this

involvement, parents were mostly cut off from the teens' experiences and

accomplishments in the wilderness.

Parent-teen relationships

While the parents had no functional role in the program, they did relate overall

expectations of certain outcomes from the trip. Some parents were pleased with the

outcomes while others were disappointed. However very few of the parents seemed to

view themselves as connected to supporting or extending the outcomes of the trip.

Of the parents who talked about supporting what their children had gained from the

trip, Halo expressed deep interest in helping to extend the experience of her son, a first









year student who had been suffering from depression. Halo told of how she had written

her son a letter to take with and read during the trip.

So I wrote in his letter, "You're going to have to make a decision on how you're
going to act or respond to each thing that comes up. You're going to have to think
before you act." When he came home he had my note all crumpled up on his desk.
And I said, "Oh you read it." And he says, "Yeah." And he gave me a big hug and
he said, "Mom, it meant a lot. It really helped. It really helped." Because I
addressed the things in his personality that I knew that he might have difficulty or
challenge with on the trip.

Like Halo, Grimace appeared to share a close, supportive relationship with his son,

a second year student/peer leader. His language additionally suggested an awareness of

his role in helping his son apply what had been learned. Grimace was an uncommon

example of a parent who seemed to adjust his parenting style to support what his son had

gained from participating in the program.

I think it's improved the dynamic between the members of the family. Things are
[on] a much more mature level than they were before. It's gone from pretty much
myself, my wife, and my older son telling him step by step what [to] do, to
consulting [him] more. I mean, we value his opinions on stuff because he's a smart
kid. And he has insights sometimes that we don't have. So I think we're more of a
team than we ever were before.

Compared to all but a few parents, Grimace's valuing of his son's opinion, and his

encouragement of the team-like dynamic among the family was an exceptional account.

His descriptions of the parent-child relationship were unlike the prevailing attitudes

indicated by other parents who did not appear to see themselves as having a major role in

supporting outcomes of the program.

Of the parents who expressed somewhat disconnected attitudes regarding the

program, Jenn described how her son had been less argumentative with his brother upon

returning home from the wilderness trip. Her interest in relating that behavior to the trip,

however, was negligible. "I've thought about it, the fact that... I did see the difference









in him. But I didn't ... think where it came from. I didn't care where it came from,

quite frankly."

Other parents expressed a sense of disappointment in the lack of change resulting

from the trip. Corcho, for example, expected more change in her son than she actually

observed.

Maybe I was expecting too much. ... I guess because of what the counselors [said]
that [he] would be a changed man when he got back. ... I was expecting him to
have made some friends. ... I think he pushes people away because he's so
impulsive. So I was hoping that he would be a little more calm.

Like Corcho, Laughter Lady had higher hopes for program outcomes.

It was so nice when he came home. He was just happy, he was excited to see
everybody .... And then about after a week he just turned like his own routine
again .... And I wish it, I guess it's like "Okay we're goin' right back there
buddy!" Just crabby. Just mean, swearing at us and just not being a pleasant
person.

Though Corcho and Laughter Lady provided unusual examples of parents who

were disappointed with the lack of change, these conversations, combined with Jenn's,

demonstrate an observation discovered among multiple parent interviews. Many parents

failed to see themselves as having a major role in supporting or extending outcomes of

the ACE program.

Insights shared by Karlita, a first-time ACE staff member added to the portrait of

parents disconnected from the program. "I hope we can communicate more to the

parents what they did. That the parents could be more involved in helping that

transfer happen." She further described how the dominant post-trip interaction between

staff members and parents involved about five minute conversations in the parking lot

upon their return from the wilderness. Karlita suggested that parents could be key to

extending the outcomes of the wilderness experience. "There's so much the parents don't









know about that these kids did. That I hope that there's a time when they do know,

because the parents could really be so instrumental in helping that transfer happen."

As illustrated by Karlita, the parents were never truly part of the ACE program. Nor

were they ever included in the community that developed throughout the program.

Likewise, as outsiders of the ACE program community, many were apparently

unattached from seeing themselves in the roles of outcome supporters.

Wilderness Trip Summary

As the data have thus far demonstrated, challenges during the trip were

characterized by active physical, social, and psychological experiences. Wilderness trip

encounters fostered individual development illustrated by feelings of strength,

accomplishment, self-confidence, self-control, calmness, and perseverance. Social

development among the teens was typified by socializing, improved social-skills, and

feelings of social confidence. Challenging activity that encouraged both personal and

social growth also facilitated teens adopting roles as helpers to one another within their

groups. The overall challenge experience, as characterized by these attributes,

encouraged the development of community among the youth and staff participants. As

relationships between the key players in this narrative (students, program/staff, and

parents) were examined, strong bonds were revealed between the teenagers and staff

members. While these bonds represented a strong sense of community growing out of the

program, parents were primarily excluded from this group identity.

Post-Trip

Given the remarkable growth in personal and social domains as well as the

community attachment that developed from the wilderness program, I was prompted to

consider these themes and categories as they pertained to post-trip experience. An









underlying purpose of this study was to assess the transition and transfer of learning from

the wilderness program to the everyday home environment. While questions related to

that purpose were partly answered regarding experiences and outcomes of the wilderness

trip, to what extent those outcomes were sustained or supported beyond the trip have not

been detailed.

Comparison of post-trip life with wilderness experiences suggested major

differences in the nature of activities and also showed a range of support for adolescent

growth. An additional question, therefore, arose as to the nature of post-trip experiences.

Specifically, I was compelled to ask: Was there anything about the teens' post-trip lives

that helped them sustain or extend what they had gained during the trip (e.g., growth

through challenge and sense of community)? The data were therefore examined for

characteristics of challenge in post-trip experience and to what extent the teens' post-trip

experiences fostered the outcomes of personal growth, social growth, helping behavior,

and community.

Theme 1: Challenge

Descriptions of challenge

Through the exploration of the challenge theme within the post-trip phase, three

major categories emerged describing this theme: activeness, passiveness, and emotional

challenge. While activeness did emerge under challenge, this relates more strongly to the

sub-theme of post-trip personal growth and will be discussed later in the chapter.

Passiveness and emotional challenge, however, tended to describe the overall theme of

challenge post-trip and will be described in this section.









Descriptions of post-trip activity mostly developed from a line of questioning and

probes asking both teens and parents to describe how they had been spending their time

after returning from the trip. Many described what I classified as passive activity.

Wolf, for example, described his post-trip daily experience as generally

unchallenging. "Wilderness trip is like where you have to bust yourself. When I'm at

home, I don't really do much because there's nothing' really much I have to do."

Likewise, Jessica related her post-trip activities as non-challenging and boring. Asked

how she had been spending her time, she summarized, "I have just been sitting at my

sister's softball tournaments all summer long. And if I'm not there, sitting inside because

I'm not allowed to leave the house because I'm home alone." Asked what she would do

at home, Jessica replied, "I call all my friends. Just talk to every single one. ... I listen to

music really loud and just lay around with my dog and wrestle her."

Though seemingly a bit more active than Jessica, John described everyday

activities that were largely undemanding. "My normal stuff. Playing X-Box, going over

to my friend's house, taking bike rides. Um, just hanging around."

In their interviews, teens were asked to consider how being mentally focused in the

wilderness was like or unlike being mentally focused at home. Megan compared the two

concepts, stating:

Well, what helped me [stay] focused then was knowing there was nobody there to
do it, but [now] there is somebody at my house to help me, so that's why I'm not as
focused. There's somebody there that can do it for me.

Probing the idea of intense concentration, a property that emerged from the

psychological domain of wilderness challenge, post-trip activity was largely discussed as

mentally passive. Bruce, for example, said that since he had been home from the

program, he hadn't been involved in any activity that required much mental focus.









Like I said, I've been on the couch a lot. Hanging out with a few friends, but on
the couch mostly. So no mental focus there, except for grab remote, change
channel. That's about the only mental focus I've had to use (laughs).

Also pointing out the prevalence of passive experience, Hydro provided an

example of the how the home environment during summer encouraged boredom. Lack of

responsibility and expectations seemed to play a role. "There's nothing really important

to do at home. Summer is basically like a slack off time for me and it's basically like

the entire summer to me is boredom."

Parent data supported the teens' descriptions of torpid pastimes. Jenn provided a

typical example:

[He] spends his time either in front of the computer, video games, TV, and then
sometimes he'll go and do things with his friends, but usually they come over and
that's what they do. And he's, his new thing now is, staying up all night on the
computer and then going to bed in the morning.

Asked whether she had noticed any differences in activity engagement after the trip

versus prior, Jenn reflected, "Activity? I think when he came back he did-for a little

while-he did go and do more things. But, he's pretty much back to his normal routine

now."

An attempt was made to identify the characteristics of post-trip experience as

related to the theoretical frameworks of this study. It was learned that many teenager

pastimes were commonly perceived as non-challenging, boring, and generally inactive.

Some post-trip challenges seemed to have been anxiety-producing experiences and

led to avoidant or diversionary behavior. The more significant challenges discovered

post-trip were in fact emotional struggles involving family relationships.









Nicole related how her time at home following the trip had been characterized by

family conflict. Her attempts to deal with the conflict were described as a mental

challenge. Nicole admitted:

I haven't really had to go through a lot that's been too challenging for me, no.
Other than-my whole family situation is kinda', really sorta' messed up. And
that's more of a mental challenge that we were talking about earlier. Where I have
to get along with my mom. And that can, at times, get really hard for me ...
That's where I tend to get out of the house. So, I avoid that when I can.

Hydro described similar attempts to avoid ever-present family conflict in his

home. "I try to be out of the house whenever I can 'cause I really don't want to be in the

house. There's a lot of bad memories there. So I'm not really there that much." Asked

to elaborate on his frustrations, Hydro replied, "Just the family. They haven't been very

cooperative about much. For anyone. Mom and dad getting a divorce, sisters and

brother being annoying."

Both Hydro and Nicole offered examples of stress related to family conflict.

Other students such as Frank, Jessica, and Chip, and parents including Laughter Lady,

Black Jack, Esther, and Jenn alluded to family-related stress as well. For Hydro and

Nicole especially, pastimes were typified by conflict avoidance.

Sub-theme 1A: Personal growth

Personal growth: active pursuits. While post-trip activities did not rise to levels

of challenge and intensity as described in the wilderness, not all accounts of post-trip

pursuits were reported as entirely passive. As an exception, Jiggle Billy, reported being

normally energetic.

I'm pretty active, actually. I like to bike a lot. So if I can get to a place on a bike,
or with a car, I'd probably take the bike. So the last couple days I've been biking
down to [nearby town].









In terms of activity that appeared to contain properties of personal growth, such as

confidence or accomplishment, Jeff suggested he was more interested in challenging

himself after the trip. Describing his adventures with a swimming pool high-dive, Jeff

related his enjoyment with:

... pushing myself until I do something' very high. Which would be scary for me,
but I do it anyway twenty feet high. I flip and dive off of it. At first it's scary
because you're looking' down like, "Oh God!" But then after you do it once, you're
like, "Um, that's not bad. That's like fun."

Another exception to passivity was Esther's daughter who had been traveling with

a friend and attending various camps throughout the summer. Esther explained how her

teenager had spent little time at home since the end of the trip, and that she was currently

preparing to depart for another camp experience. "The girl's been busy. She goes from

camp to trip, to-this is the first time I've seen her since the wilderness trip for probably

four days. She's just been the little adventurous one this summer."

Since activities that challenged teens physically and mentally contributed to

personal and social growth during the wilderness trip, data representing post-trip active

pursuits were searched for similar properties. Limited representations of these

characteristics were found and described.

Personal growth: strength. In the course of interviewing, teens were asked about

what activities they had perceived as satisfying during the wilderness experience. As

noted earlier in the chapter, Chip and others suggested that portaging had been satisfying

as it made them feel strong. Asked to describe post-trip activities that made him feel that

way, Chip said, "I'm rolling hay everyday. I'll do it like a lot. Rolling hay really helps.

'Cause I, I could do it. Ya know it's really tiring but, yeah." Another reference to

post-trip feelings of strength was related by Nicole.









We have a pool in our backyard and sometimes at night we need to put the cover
on. I'd have to ask someone else to help me do it. And oftentimes, it'd be my
sister .... She'd be like, "Aw, I don't want to do that." And I'd be like, "Alright,
fine!" And I'd have to go do it myself. And now it's not that big of a deal to me
anymore.

Building and discovery of physical strength was a significant contributor to

personal growth during the wilderness trip. Limited examples of activities that contribute

to one's sense of strength were discovered in the post-trip data.

While there were several indications of active post-trip pastimes, the predominant

descriptions of post-trip activity contrasted sharply with activities of the ACE wilderness

program. Evidence of activity that fostered feelings of accomplishment, self-confidence,

personal control, calmness, and perseverance-as discovered in the wilderness trip

data-was sought among post-trip data. While only sparse indications of these kinds of

activities or outcomes were found, post-trip activity was more strongly described as

inactive or passive behavior. The theme of challenge was more clearly characterized by

emotional material related to family conflict.

Sub-theme 1B: Social growth

The sub-theme of social growth, as described during the trip, was also compared to

post-trip descriptions of experience. Like personal growth, indications of post-trip

experiences contributing to social growth ranged from nearly nonexistent to clearly

evident.

As a category of social growth, socializing was most apparent among post-trip talk.

Marge, for example, suggested her son was more social as a result of having made friends

during the challenge trip. "I think he's, he's more socially interactive now than he was. I

think now he's more reliant on his peer group. Instead of isolating, he's more likely just

to be, social."









Jiggle Billy further described his inclination toward increased peer activity. Asked

to talk about how he had been spending his time, he referred to, "Hanging out with

people. ... I have a lot more friends now. And, biking ... 'cause I've been biking to

hang out with people."

Jiggle Billy also indicated that his social involvement was connected to the friends

he had made during the wilderness trip. Other teens like Taylor, Iroquois, and Wolf

suggested the self-confidence they gained during the trip helped them become more

socially confident and more likely to be socially involved with others. However, a

number of teens did not seem to make substantial changes in the social realm.

Both Corcho and Taffy, for example, described how their sons had made friends

with others during the trip, but had not been in contact with them. Similarly, Laughter

Lady suggested that her son had not brought home any phone numbers or contact

information from the friends he had made. My conversation with John indicated that

most of his post-trip activities had been spent either on vacation with family or

entertaining himself around the home. Bruce's social interactions were limited to phone

conversations, which he said he had to limit as he would get in trouble for "running up

the phone bill." And when asked what her daughter had been doing with her free time

post-trip, Summer replied, "She's by herself. She entertains herself by watching TV,

playing games on the computer, and those little hand held video games. She really

doesn't have any friends."

While social growth as facilitated by everyday post-trip activities varied from

absent to prevalent among individual teens, the major post-trip social influence was the

follow-up group. Staff members described the follow-up group as being a central factor









to extending the outcomes of the program. This topic will be discussed later in this

chapter as the follow-up group relates more strongly to the concept of community.

Sub-theme 1C: Helping

As a sub-theme of challenge, helping overlapped with the sub-themes of social

growth and personal growth among the wilderness trip data. Teens, parents, and staff

indicated substantive adolescent interests in helping or being of service to others.

However, compared to acts of helping in the wilderness, post-trip helping was

substantially less challenging, less social, and generally characterized by teens helping

with chores around the home.

There were strong indications of adolescent interest in helping. Bruce, for

example, told about a recent conversation he had with a friend from the trip. Over the

phone, the two discussed how they could help group members if they were to return the

following year.

We talked about canoeing. How we could actually help people gain the arm
strength to keep going and not give up if they get tired and how on the portages we
can actually help by doing what the other person can't really necessarily do.

Bruce's description of his phone conversation illustrated an enthusiasm for assisting or

leading others in a supportive way. While this kind of dialogue was uniquely

self-reflective among the helping sub-theme, more frequent descriptions of post-trip

helping related to teens' acceptance of household chores.

Nearly all the teens were more cooperative and willing to help around the house, as

suggested by both adolescents and parents. Frank, for example showed an interest in

helping around the home, and he connected helping in the home to anger control

strategies he had learned during the trip. When asked how he was able to apply what he

learned in the wilderness, Frank reflected:









Well it's like keeping my anger down and um, being helpful. We have a
trampoline in my back yard. And like if my mom wants to mow the lawn, or my
little brother, or if I want to, I have to pick up the trampoline and totally move it out
of their way. I have to bring it on the driveway .... And I do it by myself. No one
really helps me because I can do it.

A number of parents suggested greater willingness on the part of their teens to

provide assistance with household tasks. For some, this willingness was associated with

an overall improved sense of calmness. Safe One, for example, observed, "She responds

to asking to do some chores a little bit quicker. And she's not as short-tempered as she

used to be." Taffy similarly remarked that prior to the trip, "If, if I, ask him to take out

garbage, (mimicking her son) 'Later!' But [now] he'll up and just take it out. Little

things like that."

Dark Eyes shared that her grandson had been eager to help her around the house

after the trip. "'I'll do that, Grandma.' Or 'Let me have that, I'll put it up.' Or 'I'll walk

the dog now.' You know, he didn't do this before." In a similar sentiment, Marge

communicated her welcome amazement with the helpfulness demonstrated by her son.

It's like, "Who is this child in my house now?" [He is] more helpful around the
house. .... "If there's anything I can do to help." Ya know that kind of stuff. He
may forget it, but at least the spirit's willing.

She further described a story in which they both had worked together to fix a mechanical

problem in their garage.

He and I had to replace one of the rotors in the pulley of the garage door opener.
And, it was hot, it was dirty and it took us a couple of hours to get it done. But, he
didn't give up. He was a great helper. And I mean, the both of us, we both had a
great sense of accomplishment when we got it finished. But he's really a good
helper when it comes to things like that.

Parents who talked about their teens becoming more helpful were appreciative of

the positive change in behavior. Post-trip helping was discussed by both parents and

teens in relation to reduced parent-child conflict.









However, while parents valued adolescent help, talk about adolescents acting in

helpful roles was largely limited to tasks and projects around the household. The kind of

post-trip helping that occurred was weak in peer interaction and broadness of social

impact compared with how teens necessarily acted as helpers to their peer groups during

the wilderness trip. Whereas wilderness-based challenges facilitated a helping role in

which teens were instrumental in reaching fundamental group goals, post-trip helping

was described by parents as a welcome resource and relief from prior conflicts.

Willingness and eagerness of teens to act as helpers was, however, clearly depicted.

Theme 2: Community

As discussed earlier, helping developed as a normative behavior among the

community of members of the wilderness group. The sub-theme of helping further

overlapped and linked personal and social growth during the trip. As an element of the

challenge theme, the group norm of helping became a unifying force that facilitated the

solidification of group bonds and strength of community. These characteristics and

properties were, however, lacking among post-trip accounts described as a mixture of

attachment to, and detachment from, community.

For some of the youth, the community that had been clearly present during the

wilderness trip was lacking from their post-trip lives. What certain teens wanted most

and had the least was community.

Chip, for example, set a goal for himself to "Get more friends and a girlfriend"

upon returning home. However, friendship was an area in which he seemed to be most

lacking since returning from the trip. In addition, his mother indicated the family had not

had time for him to attend the follow-up group, nor did she suggest parental









encouragement to help Chip stay connected with the friends he had made during the trip.

Corcho seemed to acknowledge that making a friend was important for her son, and she

suggested that a friendship established during the trip had been meaningful to him.

He made a friend at the camp, but he gave him his number. But we don't know if
he wrote down the wrong number or what happened. But he's tried calling him and
it's not a working number. But he did tell us that he had a good time with this one
friend at the camp.

However, Corcho failed to indicate an effort to help her son acquire the correct

phone number for contacting his new friend. Laughter Lady mentioned a similar

problem. "He didn't give anybody his number, which I was hoping he would so we

could have some camaraderie. ... He does not have any really good friends." As

suggested by the language of Corcho, Laughter Lady, and others, parents of children who

lacked friends seemed resigned to their children being socially isolated. Furthermore,

there was little parental encouragement or support for their children to maintain social

connections with others met on the trip.

Whereas trust, group support, and friendship were predominant characteristics of

community as observed among the wilderness trip data, post-trip data were largely

devoid of these properties. One major link to community, however, stood out among the

post-trip data.

The follow-up group implemented by the ACE program and CFS was described as

supporting and extending adolescents' attachment to the established peer community

through a year-round program. As suggested by Brett, the follow-up group was

instrumental to reducing the adolescents' risk of social isolation.

I think they just, as a group of kids, they just love to be together. If we could be
doing any activity, they just love it, because they're together, they trust each other.
Um, a lot of these kids don't have a lot of friends. So the group that we're doing









now is essentially their peer contact outside of school. So, they have a sense of
belonging and identity.

According to both Karlita and Brett, the follow-up program had been well attended

in the months following the trip, and social interaction among the teens had continued to

expand. However, while this program appeared to have a major influence on

continuation and extension of bonds established during the wilderness trip, the program

also had its limitations. Strengths and shortfalls of the follow-up program will be

detailed in the following section.

Theme 3: Key Player Relationships

The working relationships between key players in this study were examined earlier

in the context of pre-trip and wilderness trip relationships. During the trip, relationships

between the teens and the program staff were deep and meaningful to both parties.

Parents, however, were not participants of the trip. In practice, parents were

disconnected from the wilderness experiences of their children.

Post-trip data was therefore analyzed to discover the nature of key player post-trip

relationships. Talk representing connections between teens, staff, and parents was

examined in terms of how their interactions supported or failed to support program

outcomes, including personal growth, social growth, and community attachment.

Program (staff)-teen relationships

Post-trip connections between staff members and teens were most strongly

suggested by teen and staff participation in the ACE follow-up group, a bi-weekly

post-trip social gathering to which all ACE participants were invited. As indicated by

staff interviews, the bi-weekly meetings were a key factor in encouraging attachment to

and further development of the previously established community. Doc, for example,









pointed out that both teens and parents had named the follow-up group as a major factor

in keeping the kids attached to peers socially.

The community there is really important. ... I think the kids have told you
(addressing Brett, the follow-up group leader) about if it weren't for this group
they'd have nothing else going. It gives them the sense of community. And we
know for a lot of these kids, they've not encountered that yet in their life. The
parents are telling us ... before this program, they weren't seeing too many other
people."

As told by Karlita, the follow-up group was a central force in the strengthening of

community among peers, and was instrumental in the extension of personal and social

outcomes. When asked to describe how she felt the staff had best facilitated the transfer

of learning from the trip, she stated:

The best thing that brought the transfer is definitely the [follow-up] group that we
do. ... It's just so instrumental in their lives .... Every two weeks they're
guaranteed an hour and a half of being with one another. These are the people
that they learned to trust [and] worked on their goals with-these are people that
they know they can be themselves with. And this is the safe place they can talk.

While social bonds had been initiated through shared experiences in the wilderness,

they had been extended and solidified through the follow-up group-a reliable social

support mechanism for the adolescent participants.

In terms of outcomes related to the personal and social growth domains, Karlita

further suggested the follow-up group as playing a role in facilitating both. Specifically,

she was asked to describe how participants transferred what they learned about personal

control. Her response illustrated an overlap between feeling personally in-control and

socially connected. Karlita reflected, "I think that's the reason that so many of them

come." She pointed out how, in her view, the follow-up group facilitated an opportunity

for the teens to feel normal among their peers and thereby feel a greater sense of control

in their typically out-of-control lives.