An ethnographic case study of children's decision-making processes in a resident summer camp

Maxine Bader Weiss, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze children's decision-making processes as evident in their linguistic and nonverbal behaviors in a resident summer camp. Educators have designated the development of decision-making strategies as an important goal. Theorists and researchers have recommended naturalistic studies of children's decision-making processes to complement laboratory studies. The main subjects were 28 children, including a subset of sixteen 10- and 11-year-old girls and an additional 12 children, boys and girls, ranging from 9- to 14-year-olds from a camp population of 134 children. Data collection was accomplished through observation, audio and video tapes, and informal interviews during the summers of 1986 and 1987. The process was studied as decision-making strategies were operationalized through two main settings, the Optional Program and the Three-Day Trip Program. The process was additionally studied through a profile of the decision-making process of one camper. The study focused on decisions which children considered important to decide at camp, the decision-making strategies which children used, and the potential intervening influences which affected their decision-making processes. The major hypotheses generated from the study focus on the importance of autonomy and responsibility for making decisions in this setting. Autonomy includes decisions concerning their health, comfort, and time (how and with whom to spend their time). Potential intervening influences modify children's autonomy, specifically social and individual considerations. The process of decision-making has multiple dimensions which are complex, recursive, and ongoing.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Weiss, Maxine Bader, "An ethnographic case study of children's decision-making processes in a resident summer camp" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918463.