Participant Perceptions of Character Concepts in a Physical Activity–Based Positive Youth Development Program

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Physical activity–based positive youth development (PYD) programs often aim to foster character development. This study examined youth perspectives of character development curricula and the impact these activities have on their lives within and beyond the program. This case study examined youth from low-income families in a physical activity–based summer PYD program that integrated one character concept (respect, caring, responsibility, trust) in each of 4 weeks. Participants (N = 24) included a cross section of age, gender, ethnicity, and past program experience. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis and constant comparative methods. Thirteen themes were grouped in four categories: building highquality reciprocal relationships; intrapersonal improvement; moral reasoning and understanding; and rejection, resistance, and compliance. The findings provide participant-centered guidance for understanding youth personal and social development through physical activity in ways that are meaningful to participants, which is particularly needed for youth in low-income communities with limited youth programming.

Shaina Riciputi is with the Department of Health & Kinesiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA. Meghan H. McDonough is with the Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Sarah Ullrich-French is with the Department of Educational Leadership, Sport Studies, and Educational/Counseling Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA.

Address author correspondence to Meghan H. McDonough at