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Relationships among children.

The camp experience consists of human relationships in an outdoor environment that are enhanced by shared goals, healthy living, and personal development. Oftentimes the activities and programs provided at camp seem to become the center of the camp experience, yet it is the human dynamics that are the core of organized camping and other group-oriented programs. This month's research column summarizes two investigations of relationship issues among children; both have direct implications for camp settings.

Popularity Among School-aged Girls and Boys

Adler, Kless & Adler (1992) found fascinating results in a study of how peer popularity is determined in elementary school-aged children. Theorizing that within a peer culture, girls and boys would construct idealized images of femininity and masculinity and then model their behaviors after these ideals, Adler et al. used observation and interview techniques to determine how popularity was attributed among and between peers. It was found that young people create their own social norms, values and styles based on a peer culture. By elementary school, those distinctions are evident as children develop a stratified social order through verbal posturing ("my parents have more money than yours") and physical posturing (shoving, hitting). In weighted order, it was found that boys' popularity and status were based on athletic ability, "coolness," toughness, social skills, and success with girls. For girls, status and popularity were based on parents' socioeconomic status, personal appearance, social skills, and academic success. For boys, toughness and defiance toward adults increased their status among male peers; for girls, having their own phone, computer, nice cloths, and permissive parents increased their status among other girls. Belonging to cliques increased peer status for both girls and boys. The authors summarized their findings, indicating that girls seem to create a culture of compliance and conformity while boys create a culture of physicality and masculinity.

Implications: No matter our thoughts or feelings concerning popularity among children, as managers of camps and children we need to understand that being popular is an important concern for all young people. Through studies like this one, we can better understand how status attributions are made. Depending upon our philosophical orientation, this understanding may result in one particular course of action over another. Certainly, this information helps us to understand why, perhaps, some children are left out while others are highly sought after as friends. These data can help staff members understand motivations for certain behaviors among young people (e.g. pushing, shoving, and defiance toward adults from boys) and decide an appropriate course of action for managing behaviors. Another alternative or response might be to minimize status attributions by requiring camp uniforms, and by equalizing as much as possible athletic prowess through game modifications. Adler, P., Kless, S. & Adler, P. (1992). Socialization

to gender roles: Popularity among elementary

school boys and girls, Sociology of Education,

65, (July) 169-187.

Friendship Expectations

In a related study, Clark and Bittle (1992) examined the expectations that friends had for one another. Through a series of questions asked of mid-aged and adolescent children, the investigators learned that in general, girls expect more of their best friends than do boys. Girls, more than boys, expected their best friends to be empathetic, loyal, and committed to them. As children got older, the importance of sharing activities with friends decreased. All children, regardless of ages or sex, expected their friends to be moral, "good," open, straightforward, and genuine. These expectations were stronger as children moved into adolescence. Adolescents described best friends as those to whom they could tell problems, those who understood them best, and indicated they gained intimacy through those same-sex "best" friends.

Implications: Strong, long lasting friendships are critical components of all camp dynamics. For years after a camp experience, people continue to speak of the friendships made and the importance of those friendships throughout childhood years. As most can attest, friendships are integral to strong and deep emotions -- both exhilarating and disappointing. By better understanding the expectations children hold for friends, staff and counselors can be more effective in dealing with the joys and disappointments associated with those friendships. Knowing that as children move into adolescence they look for friends with whom they can share their problems, we can help young people develop reflective listening skills and practice them ourselves. Clark, M. & Brittle, M. (1992). Friendship expectations

and the evaluation of present friendship in middle

childhood and early adolescence, Child Study

Journal, 22(2), 115-135.

Deb Jordan, Re.D., is an assistant professor of leisure services at the University of Northern Iowa. Send your letters and one-page summaries of research related to camping 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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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:child research
Author:Jordan, Debra J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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