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Dissertation

Exploring Outcomes of a Wilderness Experience Program: A Pre-Post Assessment of Self-Concept, Life Effectiveness, Connectedness to Nature, and Environmental Identity

20 July 2012

Abstract

Research on wilderness experience programs (WEPs) for adolescents has focused on a number of constructs, including developmental factors, sense of self, sense of connection to nature, and environmental attitudes. Although much research has demonstrated that participation in a WEP can have a positive impact on these domains, some results have been mixed or inconclusive. Furthermore, few studies have examined impacts on all of these constructs together. The current study seeks to determine if adolescents experience changes in personal and social development (i.e. “life effectiveness”), self-concept, connectedness to nature, and/or environmental identity through participation in a WEP. A secondary purpose is to explore the relationships between these constructs and to see if these relationships change through participation in the WEP. Paired-samples t tests revealed that participants demonstrated significant gains in environmental identity, total life effectiveness, and three life effectiveness domains: time management, emotional control, and active initiative. Correlational analyses showed that, with the exception of the association between self-concept and life effectiveness, the relationships between the main constructs became stronger from pre- to post-test. Further analyses explored the relationships between connectedness to nature, environmental identity, and the subscales that comprise self-concept and life effectiveness. Exploratory analyses were also conducted to compare outcome differences between male and female participants. Whereas male participants demonstrated significant gains in total life effectiveness and its subscales of time management, social competence, and active initiative, female participants had significant increases in environmental identity and the self-concept subscale freedom from anxiety. Further analyses explored intercorrelations separately for the two genders.


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