Scouting and Girl Scout Curriculum as Interventions: Effects on Adolescents' Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

No single explanation can account for why some children and adolescents develop healthy self-esteem and others seem compelled to view themselves as inferior and inadequate as compared with others. Both biologic-temperamental influences and environmental factors interact in a dynamic way to affect the way youths come to view themselves (Brooks, 1992).

As one of many possible environmental influences, the Girl Scouts have a rich tradition of being concerned with the healthy character development of young women. Like many organizations, the Girl Scouts of America have continued to change to meet the needs of contemporary youth. Along with revamped uniforms and career-oriented merit badges has come greater social awareness and a focus on such contemporary issues as teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and self-esteem.

Studies have shown that females emerge from adolescence with poorer self-image than do males (Simmons & Blyth, 1987; American Association of University Women, 1991), information that has not been lost on the leadership of the Girl Scouts of America (Main, 1991). Each Girl Scout Council is free to develop new programs and supporting materials, such as coordinator's guides, activity packets or booklets, and other curriculum, to help improve self-esteem. Across the country, staff, such as school day specialists, draw upon local resources to supplement information and materials available from the national office.

Even though a great deal has been written on the topic of self-esteem, a review of the literature did not reveal any studies demonstrating the benefit of Girl Scouts on self-esteem. However, studies have shown that a therapeutic camping experience can significantly increase self-esteem in children between the ages of 6 and 12 (Rawson & McIntosh, 1991a, 1991b).

The Wilderness Road Council, based in Lexington, Kentucky, has creatively modified the time-tested troop concept by sponsoring in-school and after-school clubs in rural areas where students might otherwise be prevented from joining troops because of distance. In keeping with statewide educational reform in Kentucky, the Council has also contributed self-esteem curriculum materials to interested schools and the staff of theft family resource centers.

Interested in evaluating their efforts, the Wilderness Road Girl Scout Council initiated a study to explore whether participation in Girl Scouts and materials produced by the Council for use in schools were effective in raising self-esteem. Staff contacted troop leaders, high school principals, teachers, and other resource personnel in central and eastern Kentucky who were using Girl Scout materials in their classrooms. They were asked to administer a 25-item instrument, the Index of Self-Esteem (ISE), to scouts and students. The present study reports the results of that evaluation and contributes additional information about the validity of the ISE with young respondents.

METHOD

The first administration of the ISE was planned for early in the school year and the second in the final six weeks of school. Unfortunately, the logistics involved in contacting troop leaders, principals, teachers, and, in some cases, superintendents, took longer than expected and pretests were not administered until the end of November. Subjects were asked by their teachers or troop leaders to complete the ISE and provide information on age, grade level, and prior participation :in the Girl Scouts.

Instruments

The Index of Self-Esteem has been available in The Clinical Measurement Package (Hudson, 1982) for 15 years, but has been used for approximately 20 years (Hudson & Proctor, 1976). Scores below 30 indicate the absence of clinically significant problems with self-esteem. This brief instrument can be completed in about ten minutes, is not overly intrusive, can be easily scored by computer, and can be purchased for a nominal fee.

The ISE has demonstrated good-to-excellent internal consistency, and content, concurrent, construct, and factorial validity (Abell, Jones, & Hudson, 1984). …