Afterschool dynamics: The role of peers and the recreational environment in adolescent emotional safety
AdvisorMcDonough, Meghan H.
AuthorWong, Janet Bao-Guang
Committee MemberBridel, William
Culos-Reed, Susan Nicole
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractAfterschool recreational environments are valued for their contributions to adolescent development, and can be especially beneficial in low-income communities. However, attending a program is not necessarily sufficient for effective development. Afterschool programs can be enhanced by ensuring the spaces are emotionally safe, an attribute valued by adolescents. Social relationships and aspects of the physical environment have the potential to influence feelings of emotional safety; however, most of the existing literature on emotional safety focuses on young children and early adolescents. The purpose of this study was to explore adolescents’ perspectives of their interactions with their peers and the recreational environment, and how these interactions may contribute to their feelings of emotional safety. A qualitative case study was conducted with afterschool programs in low-income neighbourhoods in Calgary, Alberta. Adolescent experiences of emotional safety were explored through interviews with ten 11-15-year-old adolescents, and ten program staff. Adolescents expressed feeling emotionally safe when they and their problems were understood, not attacked, and did not need to be hidden. Youth expressed that the size of, familiarity with, and materials in a space affected their feelings of freedom and their interactions with peers and staff, which had implications for emotional safety. Youth noted that when messages supporting emotional safety were communicated verbally by staff, or displayed throughout the spaces, they supported their emotional safety. Findings suggest the need for youth to have acceptance from their peers, environments that are home-like, and relationships that provide youth an outlet to share. Recommendations are for staff to communicate with youth using language that facilitates trust, having sports and non-sport activities in programming to prevent division and exclusion, and having private areas that allow for youth to separate themselves if needed. These recommendations may also have application in informing development of emotionally safe recreational contexts in communities.
CitationWong, J. B.-G. (2019). Afterschool dynamics: The role of peers and the recreational environment in adolescent emotional safety (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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