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What the research says: depression, immunizations, and activity's benefits.

Understanding depression

Depression ranges from mild to severe in adolescents and can affect adolescent development. Fichman, Koestner, and Zuroff describe two types of depression: anaclitic, which includes feelings of helplessness, fears of being abandoned, and wanting to be cared for and loved; and introjective, which includes intense feelings of inferiority, guilt, worthlessness, and a sense of not living up to abstract standards. Young people can be affected by varying degrees of both types of depression at once. Previous research correlates anaclitic depression with dependency and introjective depression with self-criticism.

The researchers' study measured levels of dependency and self-criticism in 8 to 14 year olds (average 10.5 years) at a summer day camp through self reports and counselor reports. Forty-five females and 32 males participated in this study.

Results showed that adolescents who had high scores on self-criticism scored lower in perceived competence; in addition, they had observable deficits in normal social functioning. The counselors were able to observe the poor social skills in youth who were highly self-critical. Overall, self-criticism was positively related to depression, but dependency was not. This finding led to the researchers' conclusion that dependency is a normal part of development in this age group. A decrease in self-criticism is noted as youngsters get older.

Implications for camp

Healthy lifestyles include the ability to cope with and self-manage bouts of mild depression. However, not everyone can manage depression throughout their lives. We know that depression occurs in campers and counselors of all ages, and that it occurs in all types of camps. Depending on how the camp director and staff address the situation and the camper or counselor, depression can be enhanced or mitigated.

It is important to recognize that dependency, often characterized by feelings of helplessness, fears of being abandoned, and wanting to be cared for and loved, is a normal developmental phase for 8 to 14 year olds. However, some young people are highly self-critical and experience depression as intense feelings of inferiority, guilt, worthlessness, and a sense of not living up to certain standards.

This research indicates that self-critical youth tend to exaggerate their weaknesses in social and athletic situations. At camp, social interaction and athletics are key components to programming efforts. If counselors and other staff watch for highly self-critical campers who denigrate their own competence, they may have an opportunity to intervene and help the camper before depression occurs. Furthermore, all camp staff should work to develop strategies to help adolescents be less self-critical.

Fichman, L., Koestner, R, & Zuroff, D. (1996). Dependency, self-criticism, and perceptions of inferiority at summer camp: I'm even worse than you think. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25(1), 113-126.

The importance of immunization

Immunization has become an important issue for America's young people. We often think of vaccinations in relation to toddlers and preschool children, but immunization is becoming increasingly important for adolescents (youth between 11 and 21 years old). Averhoff, Williams, and Hadler indicate that as part of routine medical care, adolescents should be vaccinated and receive boosters and other recommended services at age 11 or 12. This treatment provides an opportunity to reach youth before they engage in high-risk behaviors as adolescents.

The authors recommend a schedule for the administration of various vaccinations to adolescents:

* Physicians must screen 11 to 12 year olds for immunization deficiencies.

* All adolescents should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine and a second dose of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).

* Young people who have not received a Td booster in the past five years should receive one.

* Those who do not have a reliable history of chicken pox and who have not already been vaccinated should receive the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine.

* Those at high risk for influenza (i.e., have respiratory difficulties) or who have contact with others at high risk should receive the vaccine.

* Those who have chronic illness associated with pneumococcal disease should receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

* Those who plan to travel in countries where Hepatitis A is prevalent, live in an area where it is common, receive clotting factors, or engage in high risk behaviors should receive the Hepatitis A vaccine.

Implications for camp

Camps all over the United States work with adolescents both as campers (young adolescents) and staff (older adolescents). Because of the close personal contact with others, immunizations become an important element of preventative health care.

Requiring a current and complete vaccination record is essential for good camp health. Each camp director, along with the health staff, should decide upon the required immunizations based on the camp setting and camper and staff histories.

Averhoff, F., Williams, W. & Hadler, S. (1997). Immunization of adolescents. American Family Physician, 55(1), 159-166.

The benefits of exercise

Researchers estimate that only 9.1 percent of people in the United States exercise enough to receive benefits, and 34 percent of us are completely sedentary. Previous research shows that we are no more likely to exercise if we know its benefits.

Personal values attached to exercise are important intervening factors. People express many reasons for being physically active: fun, enhanced quality of life, increased energy, decreased stress, social interaction, and a sense of balance in life.

Mood enhancement is an important reason for and a psychological benefit of being active. Exercise helps minimize and reduce depression and has also been associated with reducing stress, anger, sadness, and fatigue. Furthermore, physical activity has been associated with an increase in mental clarity and alertness, vigor, energy, and clear thinking.

Researchers have discovered that to maximize mood benefits, the activity must be enjoyable, aerobic, without competition, predictable, of moderate intensity, at least 20 to 30 minutes in duration, and part of a regular weekly schedule.

Researchers have also related exercise to self-development and belief in self-capabilities and personal identity. Exercise helps maintain positive self-feelings; there is also a positive relationship between physical activity and self-concept.

Implications for camp

Physical activity is at the core of most camp programs. Understanding the relationships between physical activity and psychological benefits is the first step in programming for active and healthy lifestyles. It also is necessary to understand the various elements of physical activity that result in psychological benefits, especially mood enhancement.

Berger, B. (1996). Psychological benefits of an active life-style: What we know and what we need to know. Quest, 48, 330-353.

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.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Jordan, Debra J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:May 1, 1997
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