Just in time for summer: A new camper-counselor relationship questionnaire

Rubin, R. O., Johnson, S. K., Christensen, K. M., & Rhodes, J. (2022). Development and initial validation of a camper-counselor relationship scale. Applied Developmental Science. 


Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Research on summer camps has consistently found evidence that campers develop skills that positively contribute to their development (such as self-esteem, independence, teamwork, and communication skills).
  • Despite this, there’s a lack of studies that assess which components of summer camps contribute to these outcomes.
  • This new piece of research established and evaluated a scale that measures camper-reported camper-counselor relationship quality.
  • Results provide initial evidence of the validity of the camper-counselor relationship quality scale (CCRS).
  • These findings provided preliminary evidence of concurrent validity:
    • The CCRS factor of intentionality had somewhat significant correlations with campers’ self-rated increased friendship skills.
    • The CCRS factor of closeness didn’t significantly correlate with friendship skills.
  • The CCRS can be used to evaluate a) the overall relationship quality in summer camps, b) specific counselor-camper relationships, c) the nature of counselor-camper relationships, d) and the relationships between camper-counselor relationship quality with a variety of factors (demographics, outcomes, camp retention, etc.).
  • Despite the promising findings, CCRS needs further validation. Future studies also need to assess counselor-reported CCRS.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Residential summer camps, one of the most popular organized programs for children in the United States, may promote several aspects of positive youth development. These positive outcomes may stem in part from camp counselors, who often forge close relationships with youth, but few studies have examined these relationships. To facilitate this research, we developed a camper-reported camper-counselor relationship quality scale. In Study 1, scale items were created and/or adapted and evaluated through expert ratings and cognitive interviews. Exploratory factor analyses using data from 318 campers (ages 7–15) from Jewish overnight camps supported the hypothesized three-factor structure. In Study 2, confirmatory factory analyses of data from a second group of 324 campers from similar camps confirmed the three-factor structure and showed preliminary evidence of concurrent validity; camper Jewish identity scores and age were positively associated with camper-counselor relationship quality. Implications for practice and continued research and validation are discussed.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The associations between CCRS responses and camper perceptions of camp connectedness are noteworthy. Connectedness, most studied in the school context, has been found both to be associated with reduced likelihood of poor adjustment (e.g., reduced behavior problems, emotional distress; McNeely & Falci, 2004; Pate et al., 2017) and promote positive developmental outcomes (Lerner et al., 2005; Oldfield et al., 2016). In addition, connectedness is prominent in many models of positive youth development; forging strong youth-adult relationships is posited as one key way to develop connectedness within youth programs (e.g., Lerner et al., 2005). Thus, the association between CCRS scores and camp connectedness shows promise for the CCRS’s construct validity.

In addition, the CCRS factor of intentionality showed marginally significant positive associations with campers’ self-rated increased friendship skills, a common positive developmental outcome for youth attending summer camp (e.g., ACA, 2005). Contrary to expectations, the CCRS factor of closeness was not significantly associated with friendship skills. Although closeness is important, intentionality might be a more direct way to model the necessary skills to increase relationship quality with peers. These findings provide preliminary evidence of concurrent validity of the CCRS.

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