Promoting Resiliency in Adolescent Girls through Adventure Education


  • Anja Whittington Radford University
  • Madine Budbill Girls Move Mountains
  • Jeff Aspelmeier Radford University


Each discipline such as nursing, developmental psychology, social work, medicine, education and youth development have sought to define resiliency and develop ways to promote resiliency factors in individuals. The adventure recreation, adventure education, outdoor adventure education, and recreation fields as a whole have also sought to define and develop ways to promote resiliency in youth through intentionally designed programming (Cooper & Allen, 2004; Garst, Schneider, & Baker, 2001; Haras, Bunting, & Witt, 2006; Stiehl & Parker, 2007). These terms have been used interchangeably throughout the literature and, despite the program design, all have been found to promote resiliency in youth in various ways. Resiliency can be described as the interaction between risk and protective processes that support an individual to overcome obstacles, risks, and/or a negative or stressful event in their life (Olsson, Bond, Burns, Vella- Brodrick, Sawyer, 2002). Resiliency is the ability to respond or perform positively in the face of adversity, and to achieve despite disadvantages (Bottrell, 2009; Brennan, 2008; Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005; Olsson et al., 2002; Short & Russell-Mayhew, 2009). By creating youth intervention programs that promote and develop protective factors for resiliency (Cooper & Allen, 2004), recreation can serve as an external factor that supports resiliency. Research has documented a variety of benefits to participating in adventure education programs. This includes, but is not limited to, personal growth, educational and physical outcomes and group development skills (Garst, Schneider, Baker, 2001; Stiehl & Parker, 2007). Because adventure and experiential education programs mimic the internal and external factors necessary for resiliency they have the potential to increase resiliency factors in youth (Bieghtol, Jevertson, Gray, Carter & Gass, 2009; Benard & Marshall, 2001). Adventure education programs focused on girls have shown a variety of outcomes. This includes: increased self-esteem and confidence, resistance to gender role stereotypes, increased courage, improved body image and opportunities for positive risk-taking and self-expression (Culp, 1998; Mitten, 1992; Whittington, 2006; Whittington & Mack 2010). Lacking in the research is an examination of the impacts of an adventure education program on promoting resiliency on adolescent girls.