First Advisor

Stellino, Megan Babkes

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The Junior Lifeguard (JG) Program is a youth ‘serious leisure’ summer program that teaches children between the ages of 9 to 17 years ocean safety and education (United States Lifesaving Association [USLA], 2022). Though the program has been anecdotally regarded as beneficial for youth, it has never been formally evaluated for aspects of Positive Youth Development (PYD). Positive Youth Development programs are considered successful if they efficiently provide the appropriate context for youth to enhance their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills (internal assets) with supportive individuals, or significant others, (external assets) to help guide them for life skills transfer, or the ability to apply acquired abilities from one context to another (Catalano et al., 2004). Identity is also a significant component that changes and evolves as youth experience the different forms of development (Bruner et al., 2017; Smith, 2003). The purposes of this study were to assess JG Programs (N = 11) for PYD by utilizing Lerner’s Five Cs (Lerner et al., 2005) as a guiding framework for formal program evaluation; and then compare the evidence of PYD to parents’ perceptions of development derived from their children’s program participation. Using a mixed methods convergent design, two simultaneous phases were conducted to concurrently gather and analyze the JG programs. Findings through website content analyses (Rourke & Anderson, 2004) were compared to the findings thematically and abductively coded from semi-structured parent (N = 38) interviews through thematic analyses (Braun et al., 2016; Sparkes & Smith, 2014). The findings indicated although there was evidence of Lerner’s Five Cs within the program websites, what programs communicated could be further explicated with how the different forms of developmental processes take place within the JG programs. Parents’ conceptions of what is beneficial for their children’s development were further evidenced by their perceptions around the saliency of ocean safety skills acquisition and how the PYD-related processes (e.g., competence, self-confidence) affected connection with their peers. However, one aspect that was explicitly regarded as missing was identity support which is crucial for youth development (Arinze & McGarry, 2021). Findings further illuminate how imperative it is for programs to explain, define, and describe what youth are taught so that parents can make the most informed decisions for their children’s development. Implications from this study highlight the criteria parents prefer when enrolling their children in select physical activity (PA) programs, the saliency of connection amongst families in the JG community, and the potential impacts when identities are perceived to be underrepresented or unsupported relative to youth development.


271 pages

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