Adolescents’ Negative Experiences in Organized Youth Activities

Jodi Dworkin


Research indicates that organized youth activities are most often a context of positive development. However, there is a smaller body of evidence suggesting that these activities are sometimes a context of negative experiences that may impede learning or lead to dropping out. To better understand negative experiences in youth activities, we conducted ten focus groups with adolescents. Youths’ descriptions provide an overview of the range of types of negative experiences they encountered, as well as how they responded to them. The most frequent types of negative experiences involved peers and peer group dynamics and aversive behavior attributed to the adult leaders of the activities. The youth described two types of responses to their negative experiences - a passive response of feeling negative emotions, and active coping, which sometimes led to learning.


youth activities; negative experiences; peers, adult leaders

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