Recreation agencies play major roles in providing camp experiences that will benefit youth at camp and beyond (e.g., Thurber, Scanlin, Scheuler, & Henderson, 2007). However, youth arrive at camp with existing identities (e.g., gender, ethnic identities) that affect how they perceive and process the camp environment and its associated activities (Arnett, 2014). Another concept of identity, psychosocial identity, describes the adolescent identity development process as requiring the consolidation of internal preferences, skill-sets, and values with external factors of peers, family, and society (Marcia, 1980). Adolescents with consolidated identities are better able to connect experiences to their overall life story whereas those who are still exploring their identities might not have the ability to connect specific experiences to their overall life story (McLean, 2005). Thus, identity development could play a role in how camp experiences are processed and how outcomes are utilized in contexts beyond camp.
The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the connections between youth psychosocial identity development and the meanings youth campers ascribe to salient camp experiences. This research can pinpoint specific implications for recreation agencies offering camp programming, and could support the transfer of positive outcomes of camp to home, school, and community contexts.