"When the real stuff happens": A qualitative descriptive study of the psychosocial outcomes of outdoor adventure education for adolescents


Adolescence is a pivotal time for social and emotional wellbeing development, and the literature calls for psychosocial support approaches in this population. Outdoor adventure education (OAE), programs that contain activities perceived as risky by participants but undertaken in an environment of risk management and social support, provide a holistic approach to protecting and enhancing adolescent mental health. A qualitative descriptive methodology using purposive sampling was employed to recruit adolescents and teachers from Western Australia involved in OAE. Template thematic analysis was used to analyse the semi-structured interview data of five focus groups with adolescents and four key informant interviews with OAE teachers. Our findings suggest that developing and maintaining connections with others during OAE programming are powerful protective factors for psychosocial outcomes in adolescent participants. The tangible responsibilities and inherent challenges of OAE programming created opportunities for multifaceted successes, which also featured as an important finding in our study. We conclude that deliberate, critical OAE programming decisions with opportunities for connections, tangible responsibilities and challenges, and the nurturing of individual empowerment in participants, may positively impact psychosocial outcomes. Further research is needed to understand the psychosocial impacts of OAE on adolescent participants as it relates to individual empowerment.


Psychosocial support systems, Adolescent health, Qualitative research, Health promotion

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