Promoting Personal Growth in Young People Experiencing Homelessness Through an Outdoors-Based Program
Keywords:outdoor adventure education, positive youth development, personal growth, mental health, young people experiencing homelessness
Outdoors-based youth development programs demonstrate the efficacy to improve indicators of personal growth and mental health in a range of disadvantaged young people. However, the most marginalized young people in society, who stand to benefit the most from such initiatives, remain underrepresented in the research. My Strengths Training for Life (MST4Life) is a positive youth development (PYD) intervention for young people experiencing homelessness that incorporates a life skills program and an outdoor adventure education (OAE) course. The current study presents a qualitative investigation of the OAE course to understand its role in promoting positive changes for participants. Reflexive thematic analysis led to the development of inductively driven themes which were conceptualized based on relevant theories (e.g., relational developmental systems) and models (e.g., 5 Cs of PYD). Findings highlight the benefits of a preceding life skills program to psychologically prepare participants to thrive in the unfamiliar setting of the outdoors and related challenges. During the course, adaptive developmental regulations supported participants’ basic psychological needs and fostered personal growth. Improvements in social competence was a common theme across participants and played a pivotal role in facilitating balanced development across the 5 Cs. In addition, experiences during the course promoted indicators of mental health and intentions to make positive lifestyle changes. Implications of these findings are discussed in relation to making outdoors-based youth development courses more accessible for marginalized young people, as well as how OAE and PYD programs can add value to the youth homeless sector.
Barbour, R. S. (2001, May 5). Checklists for improving rigour in qualitative research: A case of the tail wagging the dog? British Medical Journal. BMJ Publishing Group. (https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7294.1115)
Benoit, C., Jansson, M., Millar, A., & Phillips, R. (2005). Community-academic research on hard-to-reach populations: Benefits and challenges. Qualitative Health Research, 15, 263-282.
Bergen, N., & Labonté, R. (2020). “Everything is perfect, and we have no problems”: Detecting and limiting social desirability bias in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 30(5), 783-792. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732319889354)
Berry, T., Brown, K. M., Carr, W., Kemmis, S., Elliott, R., Fischer, C., Rennie, D., Frieden, S., Guba, E. G., Lincoln, Y. S., Haraway, D., Heron, J., hooks, b., Lather, P., LeCompte, M. D., McLaughlin, D., Merchant, C., Palmer, P. J., Reason, P. . . . Zeller, N. (2002). Emerging criteria for quality in qualitative and interpretive research. In In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The qualitative inquiry reader (pp. 326-345). Sage Publications. (https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412986267)
Bowen, D. J., & Neill, J. T. (2016). Effects of the PCYC Catalyst outdoor adventure intervention program on youths’ life skills, mental health, and delinquent behaviour. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 21(1), 34-55. (https://doi.org/10.1080/02673843.2015.1027716)
Bowers, E. P., Larson, L. R., & Sandoval, A. M. (2019). Urban youth perspectives on the benefits and challenges of outdoor adventure camp. Journal of Youth Development, 14(4), 122-143. (https://doi.org/10.5195/JYD.2019.809)
Bowers, E. P., Larson, L. R., & Parry, B. J. (2021). Nature as an ecological asset for positive youth development: Empirical evidence from rural communities [manuscript under review].
Brandtstädter, J. (2006). Action perspectives on human development. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 516-568). John Wiley & Sons. (https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470147658.chpsy0110)
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4), 589-597. (https://doi.org/10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806)
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. (https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa)
Brink, A. J. W., & Wissing, M. P. (2012, July 1). A model for a positive youth development intervention. Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health. (https://doi.org/10.2989/17280583.2012.673491)
Browne, L. P., Gillard, A., & Garst, B. A. (2019). Camp as an institution of socialization: past, present, and future. Journal of Experiential Education, 42(1), 51-64. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825918820369)
Coates, J., & McKenzie-Mohr, S. (2010). Out of the frying pan, into the fire: Trauma in the lives of homeless youth prior to and during homelessness. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 37(4), 65-96.
Conolly, A. (2008). Challenges of generating qualitative data with socially excluded young people. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11(3), 201-214. (https://doi.org/10.1080/13645570701401446
Cooley, S. J., Holland, M. J. G., Cumming, J., Novakovic, E. G., & Burns, V. E. (2014). Introducing the use of a semi-structured video diary room to investigate students’ learning experiences during an outdoor adventure education groupwork skills course. Higher Education, 67(1), 105-121. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-013-9645-5)
Cooley, S. J., Quinton, M. L., Holland, M. J. G., Parry B. J., Cumming J. (2019). The experiences of homeless youth when using strengths profiling to identify their character strengths. Frontiers in Psychology, 10 (September), 1-26. (https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02036)
Cumming, J., Holland, M. J. G., Clarke, F., Parry, B. J., Quinton, M. L., & Cooley, S. J., (2021). Improving outcomes in homeless young people: A feasibility study of the My Strengths Training for Life™ (MST4Life™) Programme [manuscript in preparation]. School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham
Cumming, J., Skeate, A., Giles, A. (2017). Case Study 130: St Basils psychologically informed environments – Meeting the emotional and psychological needs of young homeless people. Housing Learning and Improvement.
Damon, W. (2004). What is positive youth development? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(January), 13-24. (https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716203260092)
Eccles, J., & Gootman, J. A., (Eds.). (2002). Community programs to promote youth development. National Academies Press. (https://doi.org/10.17226/10022)
Edidin, J. P., Ganim, Z., Hunter, S. J., & Karnik, N. S. (2012). The mental and physical health of homeless youth: A literature review. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 43(3), 354-375. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-011-0270-1)
Elliott, E. S., & Dweck, C. S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 5-12. (https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124)
Falci, C. D., Whitbeck, L. B., Hoyt, D. R., & Rose, T. (2011). Predictors of change in self-reported social networks among homeless young people. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(4), 827-841. (https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00741.x)
Farrugia, D. (2011). The symbolic burden of homelessness: Towards a theory of youth homelessness as embodied subjectivity. Journal of Sociology, 47(1), 71-87. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783310380989)
Feilzer, M. Y. (2010). Doing mixed methods research pragmatically: Implications for the rediscovery of pragmatism as a research paradigmv. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 4(1), 6-16. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1558689809349691)
Forrest-Bank, S. S., Nicotera, N., Anthony, E. K., & Jenson, J. M. (2015). Finding their way: Perceptions of risk, resilience, and positive youth development among adolescents and young adults from public housing neighborhoods. Children and Youth Services Review, 55, 147-158. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.05.015)
Harper, N. J., Mott, A. J., & Obee, P. (2019). Client perspectives on wilderness therapy as a component of adolescent residential treatment for problematic substance use and mental health issues. Children and Youth Services Review, 105(May), 104450. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104450)
Hattie, J., Marsh, H. W., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1997). Adventure education and Outward Bound: Out-of-class experiences that make a lasting difference. Review of Educational Research, 67(1), 43-87. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543067001043
Holsen, I., Geldhof, J., Larsen, T., & Aardal, E. (2017). The five Cs of positive youth development in Norway: Assessment and associations with positive and negative outcomes. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(5), 559-569. (https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025416645668)
Homeless Link Research Team. (2018). Young & homeless 2018. (https://doi.org/10.3171/2016.4.JNS152896)
Jabbour, L., Siu, J., (2019). Economic evaluation of the psychologically informed environments: Cost-benefit analysis of Boost and MST4Life™ programmes at St Basils. (https://8fe30357-2dc5-4c2c-b70d-5b8e78fc2795.filesusr.com/ugd/f51c2c_0b5ec76cd5ac4de58ae4c5d66da9f401.pdf)
Kidd, S. A. (2007). Youth homelessness and social stigma. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(3), 291-299. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9100-3)
Kirkpatrick, D. (1994). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. Berrett-Koehler.
Krabbenborg, M. A. M., Boersma, S. N., van der Veld, W. M., Vollebergh, W. A. M., & Wolf, J. R. L. M. (2017). Self-determination in relation to quality of life in homeless young adults: Direct and indirect effects through psychological distress and social support. Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(2), 130-140. (https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1163404)
Latkin, C. A., Mai, N. V., Ha, T. V., Sripaipan, T., Zelaya, C., Le Minh, N., Morales, G., & Go, V. F. (2016). Social desirability response bias and other factors that may influence self-reports of substance use and hiv risk behaviors: A qualitative study of drug users in vietnam. AIDS education and prevention: official publication of the International Society for AIDS Education, 28(5), 417–425. (https://doi.org/10.1521/aeap.2016.28.5.417)
Lerner, R. M., Dowling, E. M., & Anderson, P. M. (2003). Positive youth development: Thriving as the basis of personhood and civil society. Applied Developmental Science, 7(3), 172-180. (https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532480XADS0703_8)
Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Almerigi, J. B., Theokas, C., Phelps, E., Gestsdottir, S., Naudeau, S., Jelicic, H., Alberts, A., Ma, L., Smith, L. M., Boek, D. L., Richman-Raphael, D., Simpson, I., DiDenti Christiansen, E., & von Eye, A. (2005). Positive youth development, participation in community youth development programs, and community contributions of fifth-grade adolescents: Findings from the first wave of the 4-H study of positive youth development. Journal of Early Adolescence, 25(1), 17-71. (https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431604272461 )
Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Lewin-Bizan, S., Bowers, E. P., Boyd, M. J., Mueller, M. K., Schmid, C., & Napolitano, C. M. (2011). Positive youth development: Processes, programs, and problematics. Journal of Youth Development, 6(3), 38-62. (https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2011.174)
Lerner, R. M., & Overton, W. F. (2008). Exemplifying the integrations of the relational developmental system: Synthesizing theory, research, and application to promote positive development and social justice. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23(3), 245-255. (https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558408314385)
Levitt, H. M., Motulsky, S. L., Wertz, F. J., Morrow, S. L., & Ponterotto, J. G. (2017). Recommendations for designing and reviewing qualitative research in psychology: Promoting methodological integrity. Qualitative Psychology, 4(1), 2-22. (https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000082)
Lincoln, Y. S., & Denzin, N. K. (2011). Emerging criteria for quality in qualitative and interpretive research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The qualitative inquiry reader (pp. 326–345). Sage Publications.
Lorenc, T., Lester, S., Sutcliffe, K., Stansfield, C., & Thomas, J. (2020). Interventions to support people exposed to adverse childhood experiences: Systematic review of systematic reviews. BMC Public Health, 20(1). (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08789-0)
Mackenzie, S., Son, J. S., & Hollenhorst, S. (2014). Unifying psychology and experiential education: toward an integrated understanding of why it works. Journal of Experiential Education, 37(1), 75-88. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825913518894)
Mercier, J., Powell, C., Langdon-Pole, G., Finau, D., Hicks, K., Bourchier, L., & Hampton, J. (2019). The five Cs of positive youth development in an Aotearoa/New Zealand program context. Journal of Youth Development, 14(4), 36-58. (https://doi.org/10.5195/JYD.2019.774)
Mertens, D. M. (2007). Transformative Paradigm: Mixed Methods and Social Justice. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(3), 212-225. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1558689807302811)
Morgan, D. L. (2014). Pragmatism as a paradigm for social research. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(8), 1045-1053. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800413513733)
Morton, M. H., Dworsky, A., Matjasko, J. L., Curry, S. R., Schlueter, D., Chávez, R., & Farrell, A. F. (2018). Prevalence and correlates of youth homelessness in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(1), 14–21. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.10.006)
Morton, M. H., Kugley, S., Epstein, R., & Farrell, A. (2020). Interventions for youth homelessness: A systematic review of effectiveness studies. Children and Youth Services Review, 116(May). (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105096)
Mygind, L., Kjeldsted, E., Hartmeyer, R., Mygind, E., Bølling, M., & Bentsen, P. (2019). Mental, physical and social health benefits of immersive nature-experience for children and adolescents: A systematic review and quality assessment of the evidence. Health and Place, 58(October 2018), 102136. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.05.014)
Norton, C. L., & Watt, T. T. (2014). Exploring the impact of a wilderness-based positive youth development program for urban youth. Journal of Experiential Education, 37(4), 335-350. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825913503113)
Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1). (https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406917733847)
O’Brien, K., & Lomas, T. (2017). Developing a growth mindset through outdoor personal development: Can an intervention underpinned by psychology increase the impact of an outdoor learning course for young people? Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 17(2), 133-147. (https://doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2016.1232199)
Parry, B. J., Thompson. J. L., Holland, M. J. G., Cooley, S. J., Quinton, M. L., & Cumming, J. (2021a). Health outcomes of physical activity-based positive youth development for disadvantaged young people: A systematic review [manuscript in preparation]. School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.
Parry, B. J., Thompson. J. L., Holland, M. J. G., Quinton, M. L., & Cumming, J. (2021b). Improving outcomes in young people experiencing homelessness with My Strengths Training for Life™ (MST4Life™): A qualitative realist evaluation. Children and Youth Services Review. 121, 105793 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105793)
Quinton, M. L., Clarke, F. J., Parry, B. J., & Cumming, J. (2021). An evaluation of My Strengths Training for Life™ for improving resilience and well‐being of young people experiencing homelessness. Journal of Community Psychology, 1-19. (https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22517)
Rew, L., Slesnick, N., Johnson, K., Aguilar, R., & Cengiz, A. (2019). Positive attributes and life satisfaction in homeless youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 100(February), 1-8. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.02.021)
Rice, E., Kurzban, S., & Ray, D. (2012). Homeless but connected: the role of heterogeneous social network ties and social networking technology in the mental health outcomes of street-living adolescents. Community Mental Health Journal, 48(6), 692-698. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-011-9462-1)
Rokach, A. (2005). The causes of loneliness in homeless youth. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 139(5), 469-480. (https://doi.org/10.3200/JRLP.139.5.469-480)
Romm, N. (2014). Exploration of transformative paradigm with pragmatic twist to contribute to educational change. International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications, 5(2), 12.
Roth, J. L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). What is a youth development program? Identifying defining principles. In R. M. Lerner, F. Jacobs, & D. Wertlieb (Eds.), Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs. Enhancing the life chances of youth and families (Vol. 2, pp. 197-224). SAGE.
Russell, C. V., & Bisson, C. (2003). Teaching group formation activities, group formation tools and group process tools. In S. Wurdinger and J. Steffen (Eds.), Developing challenge course programs for schools (pp. 103-138). Kendall Hunt.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and wellbeing. The American Psychologist, 55, 68-78. (https://doi.org/doi:10.1037//0003-066x.55.1.68)
Sibthorp, J., & Morgan, C. (2011). Adventure-based programming: exemplary youth development practice. New Directions for Youth Development, 2011(130), 105-119. (https://doi.org/10.1002/yd.400)
Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., & Gookin, J. (2007). Exploring participant development through adventure-based programming: a model from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Leisure Sciences, 29(1), 1-18. (https://doi.org/doi:10.1080/01490400600851346)
Smith, B., & McGannon, K. R. (2018). Developing rigor in qualitative research: problems and opportunities within sport and exercise psychology. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11(1), 101-121. (https://doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2017.1317357)
Sproule, J., Martindale, R., Wang, J., Allison, P., Nash, C., & Gray, S. (2013). Investigating the experience of outdoor and adventurous project work in an educational setting using a self-determination framework. European Physical Education Review, 19(3), 315-328. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1356336X13495629)
Stepp, S. D., Pardini, D. A., Loeber, R., & Morris, N. A. (2011). The relation between adolescent social competence and young adult delinquency and educational attainment among at-risk youth: The mediating role of peer delinquency. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie), 56(8), 457-465. (https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371105600803)
Tidmarsh, G., Whiting, R. J., Thompson, J. L., & Cumming, J. (2021). Assessing the fidelity of delivery style of a mental skills training programme for young people experiencing homelessness [manuscript submitted for publication]. School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.
Tillmann, S., Tobin, D., Avison, W., & Gilliland, J. (2018, June 27). Mental health benefits of interactions with nature in children and teenagers: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. BMJ Publishing Group. (https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2018-210436)
Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight a"big-tent" criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837–851. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410383121
Warren, K., Roberts, N. S., Breunig, M., & Alvarez, M. A. G. (2014). Social justice in outdoor experiential education: A state of knowledge review. Journal of Experiential Education, 37, 1-15. (https://doi.org/doi:10.1177/1053825913518898)
Watson, J., & Cuervo, H. (2017). Youth homelessness: A social justice approach. Journal of Sociology, 53(2), 461-475. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783317705204)
Young Minds. (2021). Coronavirus: Impact on young people with mental health needs Survey 4: February 2021. (https://youngminds.org.uk/media/4350/coronavirus-report-winter.pdf)
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.