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Effects of friendship on evaluations; homesickness in boys.

Friendship, group acceptance, and camp evaluations

Hanna and Berndt attempted to determine the relationship between friendship and group acceptance at summer camp. Friendship was defined as a mutually affectionate relationship with another person. Group acceptance was described as how much other members of a peer group liked an individual. In addition, the researchers examined whether attending camp with a friend enhanced adolescents' camp experiences.

The researchers studied 43 girls and 34 boys between 12 and 15 years old. Over 95 percent of the adolescents were white; the campers represented a variety of socioeconomic groups. The study was conducted at a summer camp that offered four one-week sessions. The youth completed questionnaires on the first and last days of camp.

Nineteen percent of the adolescents who participated in the study indicated that they attended camp with a best friend; 48 percent reported attending with a friend; and 33 percent attended without a friend. At the end of camp, only 7 percent of campers indicated that their best camp friend was the same person they had come to camp with.

The research found no relationship between elements of friendship and the rate of group acceptance, although adolescents who attended camp with a friend rated higher in friendliness than those who attended camp alone. The skills required for positive friendships include empathic support and perspective taking; the skills necessary for group acceptance include cooperation and compromise.

Overall, there was no correlation between attending camp with a friend and campers' evaluations of the camp experience. Those who expected to enjoy camp did, whether they attended camp with a friend or not.

Implications for camps

Adolescence can be a difficult time for young people as they search for their identities and articulate their values. Camp, with all its opportunities for physical involvement and social skill development, can be an extremely positive experience. From this research we can see that distinct skills are required to be successful as a group member and as a friend. We should work to help young people develop a breadth of skills that will serve them in all types of situations. It might also be appropriate to help young people better understand the types of skills required in certain settings.

The campers' camp evaluations did not correlate with attending camp with a friend. Those who expected to have an enjoyable camp experience did, which reinforces the belief that establishing positive expectations prior to camp attendance is important. One caveat, however: if expectations are raised and preestablished, we must come very close to meeting these expectations or campers will be dissatisfied.

Hanna, N. & Berndt, T. (1995). Relations between friendship, group acceptance, and evaluations of summer camp. Journal of Early Adolescence, 15 (4), 456-475.

The homesickness cycle for boys

Thurber examined the cycle of homesickness experienced by preadolescent and adolescent boys at camp. Homesickness' symptoms include emotions (depression, anxiety, loneliness, and fear); cognitions (thoughts about missing home, family, friends, familiar environments, and a desire to return home); and physical manifestations (headaches, dizziness, and abdominal pain).

This study examined homesickness in 329 boys, aged 8 to 16 years, who participated in a residential boys sports camp for either two or four weeks; 8 percent of the youth were minorities. Letters were the campers' only contact with home. Staff, after six hours of training in the use of testing instruments, collected self reports and observational data about homesickness each day for two weeks. Each evening in their bunks, the campers completed instruments that determined levels of depression and anxiety.

An overwhelming majority, 83 percent, of youth reported homesickness on at least one day of camp. While homesickness produced anxiety, depression was a bigger problem. Older campers were less homesick than younger, which researchers attribute to older campers' prior camp attendance. The campers who were the most homesick were usually young, with little camp experience, and had been homesick in the past.

The people who knew the boys best could recognize the outward signs of homesickness through withdrawal behaviors, depressive behaviors, and nightmares, as well as through some delinquent behaviors. Counselors tended to rate the boys as being less homesick than the boys rated themselves. In fact, staff missed recognizing homesickness 40 to 61 percent of the time.

The study found that the most homesick campers' homesickness levels gradually increased and peaked on day 12, two days before camp ended, and then decreased. Researchers attribute this trend to anticipation of going home. Youth with moderate levels of homesickness cycled up and down in feelings of homesickness during the two weeks with days 1 and 14 at about the same in level. The top 10 things that the campers missed, in order of frequency reported, are: parents, family, friends from home, pets, girls/girlfriends, home cooking, home, junk food, television, and nothing. The top 10 things missed the least are: nothing, school and homework, chores and responsibilities, sisters, television, parents, pets, brothers, friends from home, and family.

Implications for camps

Homesickness affects all youth to some extent. Young people experience it differently, but emotions, thoughts, and physical manifestations of homesickness exist. Earlier research, conducted 7 to 11 years ago, reported that homesickness is strongest in the first week and then dissipates over time at camp; this study suggests otherwise. Many of these campers experienced feelings of homesickness near the end of camp; staff should remember this and avoid dismissing expressions of homesickness simply because they occur later in the camp session.

One important finding from this research is that camp staff missed signs of homesickness 40 to 61 percent of the time. Staff need to be able to cue in on campers' behaviors and words. One reason the staff missed signs of homesickness may be that preadolescent and adolescent boys, who are often entrenched in gender roles, hide their feelings to avoid being negatively labeled. Remind staff, and have them remind campers, that homesickness is not a sign of weakness and that homesick campers should be treated with respect and understanding.

Addressing and responding to homesickness is something all camps must do; becoming familiar with its fluctuations is an important part of meeting campers' needs.

Thurber, C. (1995). The experience and expression of homesickness in preadolescent and adolescent boys. Child Development, 66, (5), 1162-1178.

Deb Jordan, Re.D., is an associate professor of leisure services at the University of Northern Iowa. Send your letters and one-page summaries of research related to camp to: Research Notes, c/o Dr. Deb Jordan, Leisure Services Division, 203 East Gym, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0161. Note: Only research completed within the past two years will be considered for review.
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Author:Jordan, Debra J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1996
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