Adventure based experiential learning and adolescents' self-reported levels of resilience and positive mental health
Boyers, Megan Barbara Patricia
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The aim of this study was to determine to what extent resilience and positive mental health are promoted in adolescents within a South African context through participation in an adventure based experiential learning programme. A review of the literature revealed that adventure based experiential learning programmes bring about a number of positive outcomes in the lives of participants. However, the majority of research on the impact of these programmes has focused on youth-at-risk, and clinical and delinquent populations. Improvements were also recently reported for well-functioning and healthy adolescents, particularly with regard to mental health, resilience and well-being. However, the potential role adventure programmes have in well-functioning and healthy adolescents has not received explicit attention within a South African context. The study involved the evaluation of an existing adventure intervention presented by Outward Bound South Africa (OBSA). A pre-experimental pre-test multiple post-test design was used to determine the changes in the self-reported levels of resilience and positive mental health of two groups of adolescents during and after participation in the adventure programme. Data collection involved participants from two different schools. The participants were recruited from a private school for boys in the Gauteng Province and a semi-private school for girls in the Eastern Cape Province. A total of 104 participants participated in pre-testing, 100 in post-testing and 87 in post-post testing. Data were obtained by means of three questionnaires: The Resilience Scale (RS-25), Mental Health Continuum – Short Form (MHC-SF) and the General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28). These questionnaires were administered on three occasions, six weeks before the participants embarked on the programme, the second time immediately after they finished the programme and lastly, six weeks after they have completed the programme. Results showed no significant differences in the adolescents’ self-reported levels of resilience throughout the testing phases. Participants reported an initial increase in levels of anxiety and somatic symptoms, but thereafter results indicated decreases of varying significance in all forms of symptomatology as participants progressed through the points of measurement. These adolescents also reported increased levels of mental health, especially with regard to their social well-being. The research results also showed differences of small to medium effect to exist between the two gender groups. The female subgroup reported higher levels of resilience than the male subgroup. However, the male subgroup reported higher levels of positive mental health and lower levels of symptomatology as compared to their female counterparts. Furthermore, the results showed a positive correlation to exist between resilience and well-being, and demonstrated a negative correlation between resilience and symptomatology. In conclusion, the research study suggests that Adventure Based Experiential Learning programmes could be effective in the facilitation of the overall mental health and well-being of the adolescent population, and, therefore lays a foundation for further research on these intervention programmes.
- Health Sciences