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Applying a Positive Youth Development Perspective to Observation of Bereavement Camps for Children and Adolescents

Journal title
Journal of social work in end-of-life & palliative care
Publication year
Richardson, R. A.; Ferguson, P. A.; Maxymiv, S.

A positive youth development perspective focuses on recognizing psychosocial strengths and providing social environments that contribute to the development of these in children and adolescents. Bereavement camps can provide such an environment as they help children cope with the death of someone close. The purpose of this study was to observe bereavement camps through the lens of positive youth development to determine the applicability of the eight features of positive developmental settings for describing bereavement camps (safety, appropriate structure, supportive relationships, opportunities to belong, positive norms, support for efficacy, skill building opportunities, integration of family and community). Observational notes were recorded by researchers during on-site visits to three different weekend bereavement camps. Results identified how each element of positive developmental settings was exemplified in either typical camp activities or bereavement-focused activities. For example, assigning campers to cabin groups based on age and gender provided opportunities to belong, and giving campers a comfort object and a big buddy provided supportive relationships. Findings were used to create a positive developmental settings observation checklist for use by bereavement camp practitioners to assess the extent to which each camp provides the requisite elements for promoting positive youth development.

Research abstracts