“That’s Just a Part of Growing Up”: A Study of Non-formal Educators’ Lay Theories of Adolescence

William J. Davis, Milira Cox, Patricia Tevington, Jennifer Brown Urban, Miriam R. Linver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This instrumental case study explored non-formal educators’ lay theories of adolescence using the case of the Boy Scouts of America’s Scouts BSA program, a co-ed program serving youth between the ages of 11 and 17. We conducted an iterative analysis of 110 structured interviews with Scouts BSA adult volunteer leaders who served as scoutmasters or assistant scoutmasters. Results indicated that participants discussed adolescence in terms of youth characteristics as well as processes youth underwent during their adolescent years. These adults sometimes viewed adolescence as idiosyncratic, identifying differences in learning, behavior, and family situations among youth, particularly those whom they had identified as exhibiting specific challenges like autism. The results also illustrated relationships between the program and lay theories of adolescence. Namely, core Scouts BSA programmatic structures and expectations such as operating the patrol/troop method hierarchies, building leadership skills, camping or outdoor activities, and including all youth in activities influence participants’ own views of adolescence, including their views of adolescence as a time to cultivate maturity and independence. The study concludes with a brief discussion of results and limitations of the study, including recommendations for training and additional research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-742
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • adolescent development
  • educator preparation
  • lay theories
  • non-formal education


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