Striking A Balance: An Exploration of Staff-Camper Relationship Formation

Rachel O. Rubin, Matthew Hagler, Samantha A. Burton, Jean E. Rhodes

Abstract


Previous research highlights a range of positive developmental outcomes associated with attending summer camp. Close staff-camper relationships likely contribute to positive development, but little is known about how these bonds are formed. The current study utilized constructivist thematic analysis of interviews with campers (n = 8) and staff members (n = 7) at an overnight summer camp to examine the factors and processes that promote or inhibit close staff-camper relationship formation. The main themes identified were striking a balance, level of experience, and relationship-promoting behaviors. Staff members experience apparent paradoxes in their roles (e.g., relating to campers while also exerting authority), but navigate these tensions by using relationship-promoting behaviors and through increased experience. These findings suggest that staff training and supervision should emphasize relationship-promoting behaviors, continue throughout the summer, and be informed by campers’ perspectives. Additionally, camp administrators should capitalize on accrued experience by prioritizing staff retention.


Keywords


summer camp; youth-adult relationships; mentoring; qualitative

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2018.537

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