Positive Youth Development at Camps for Youth with Chronic Illness: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Mya DeBoer Sendak, Clarissa Schilstra, Eitan Tye, Samuel Brotkin, Gary Maslow


This study aimed to systematically review all the literature on camps for youth with childhood onset chronic illness (COCI) utilizing the Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework to assess camp processes and psychosocial outcomes. This paper describes a unique dataset of 425 included studies published over the last 70 years and gives a broad overview of camp demographics, processes that align with PYD’s Big 3 (sustained adult-youth relationships, skill-building, and youth leadership) and measured outcomes that align with the PYD’s 5 Cs (Competence, Confidence, Character, Social Connectedness, and Compassion). Among the included studies, 36% included diabetes camps, 15% included camps accepting multiple illnesses, 12% included cancer camps, and 11% included asthma camps. The majority of participants were under the age of 16. While no study explicitly used the PYD approach, over 90% of studies described camps that deployed both active leadership and sustained positive relationships, while only 59% of studies described camps providing the opportunity to learn life skills. Although no study utilized the PYD 5 Cs framework for outcome measurement, 47% addressed outcomes related to Competence, 44% addressed Confidence, 33% addressed Connection, 4% addressed Compassion, and 2% addressed Character. This review highlights opportunities for camp leadership to align their programming with the PYD framework, to incorporate older adolescents and young adults and, ultimately, to improve positive adult outcomes for youth with COCI. It provides a starting point for future research evaluating illness-specific camps using a PYD approach. 


camp; youth with childhood onset chronic illness; positive youth development

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2018.551

Copyright (c) 2018 Mya DeBoer Sendak, Clarissa Schilstra, Eitan Tye, Samuel Brotkin, Gary Maslow

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