African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Recreation intervention with adolescent offenders: Prospects and challenges in the South African context

Francios Steyn, Dap Louw


International research provides contradicting results about the impact of recreation programmes on adolescent criminal behaviour. In addition, there is a dearth of South African data regarding the outcomes of recreation as therapeutic intervention with children in conflict with the law. This article investigates the prospects and challenges of the approach in local contexts. Bandura’s self-efficacy theory (1977) is applied to explore the strengths of and potential hindrances to recreation intervention with adolescent offenders. Empirical data stem from in-depth interviews with a facilitator of an adventure-based programme, as well as with Criminology and Social Work lecturers who have experience with the approach. In dealing with the dysfunctional family life and depriving environments of participants, mechanisms of the strategy amount to physical and mental challenges in order to create mastery and positive self-expectations. The generality principle of effectance theory appears difficult to achieve due to the use of metaphors and the absence of appropriate post-adventure support to practice the lessons learned in the outdoors. An estimated half of participants do not access post-adventure support, which questions the sustainability of the good intentions brought about by recreation intervention. From a systems perspective, recreation programmes may fail to impact on the broader proximal dimensions in which adolescents function because meaningful others – in particular parents – are minimally involved in the intervention. Child offenders with well-established defence mechanisms and resistance to change appear less amenable to recreation intervention.

Keywords: Recreation programmes, adolescent offenders, efficacy theory

African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance (AJPHERD) Vol. 18, No. 2 (June) 2012, pp. 423-433

AJOL African Journals Online