Recreation Programming for Adolescent Girls: Rationale and Foundations


  • Karla A. Henderson
  • Kathryn (Kat) King


Girls, adolescence, prevention, youth-at-risk, community, self-esteem


The purpose of this article is to share current literature about adolescent girls and the potential for recreation programming. Using the assumption that something happens to girls at the age of adolescence from which they spend years trying to recover, we offer some ways that recreation programmers might address these challenges. The goal of this programming is positive youth development. Almost all girls growing up in our society today have to address three critical issues: social contradictions, body changes, and sexuality. Recreation programming may have some implications for coming to grips with these issues and turning them into positive youth development. Those girls who are not able to successfully negotiate these challenges chance becoming high-risk individuals. Unfortunately, a risk behavior may compromise psychosocial issues of successful adolescent development, and the risk behaviors that disproportionately affect girls are often not taken into consideration. Some of the behaviors more salient for girls that may make them high risk include depression, eating disorders, and pre- or posttraumatic stress reactions to sexual or physical assaults. Pipher ( 1994) indicated that girls can be "saved" by a good school, a good teacher, and/ or a meaningful activity. Recreation programmers can provide that meaningful activity if the developmental needs of girls are taken into account. In general, girls need causes and interests larger than their own lives to get beyond the societal expectations that may unconsciously restrict them. Recreation can be a means for girls to resist negative societal messages, fear of body changes, and lack of perceived control in their lives. When teens attempt to move beyond their TV sets, they often have few places where they are welcome. We need places for girls to go-ball fields, gyms, community centers, halls, and places to play music and "hang out" with friends. They need no-cost, informally supervised places where they can be together to talk, dance, and play. The challenges for recreation providers include increasing visibility, providing information effectively, staffing with positive role models, adopting policies of inclusion, advocacy, and giving youth chances to exertleadership in developing a sense of control over their leisure. Growing up female in the millennium is a challenge that recreation programmers must address.





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