Hattie and colleagues (1997) performed a meta-analysis of the effects of adventure programs drawn from extensive database searches. These searches yielded 96 evaluations of adventure programs meeting the inclusion criteria for the review. The authors used sample size, the presence of control groups, methodological descriptions, and instrument quality to rate the evaluations as low, medium, or high in quality. Nine studies were excluded based on the four authors’ agreement on their poor quality and because their means were so different from the other studies. School-based outdoor education program evaluations were also excluded because of a typically shorter duration, nonchallenging experiences (relative to other adventure programs), and evaluation results that differed from the more challenging programs.
Although adventure education programs do not usually take place in the communities from which the youth are being recruited and the evaluations of these programs suffer from the same methodological problems encountered in the previous reviews, we include the findings from this review because effective adventure programs can suggest potential program components important for healthy development. Adventure programs also typically include features of positive developmental settings outlined in Part I. Common features of adventure programs include wilderness or backcountry settings, groups of less than 16, mentally and physically challenging experiences, intense social interactions often relating to group problem solving and decision making, trained nondirective leaders, and an average duration of two to four weeks.
Hattie et al. concluded that short-term positive effects were maintained and sometimes even increased over time. More specifically, the authors concluded that adventure programs have significant effects on the kinds of psychological, emotional, and cognitive assets discussed in Chapter 3—such as self-control, confidence in one’s abilities to be effective, good decision making, improved school achievement, leadership, independence, assertiveness, emotional stability, social comparison, time management, and flexibility.