Richmond, D., Hodge, C., & Sibthorp, J. (2022). Sending children to camp: An analysis of decision‐making by family income. Family Relations.

Objectives: This study sought to (a) identify the factors most salient toparents when sending their child to summer camp, (b) examine family members’roles in the camp decision‐making process, and (c) compare both by income andother family contextual factors in a sample of parents with a child whoenrolled and participated in a summer camp experience. Methods: Survey datawere collected from a total of 354 families that included families from high,middle, and lower incomes. Surveys collected data on parental developmentalgoals for their child, factors related to camp–child and camp–family fit, andthe level of involvement of family members in the camp decision‐makingprocess. Results: The study identified three core parental goals for sendingtheir child to camp: interactive learning, intrapersonal development, andfun/belonging. The analysis also identified five essential considerationsparents use to consider camp fit: logistics/cost, program quality, child fit,institutional ties, and social connections. One parent, primarily the mother,drives the decision to send a child to camp. Family income was significantpredictor of all three developmental goals with parents from higher incomefamilies reporting lower levels of developmental goals than parents fromlower income families. Income also predicted camp fit considerations relatedto logistics/cost, institutional ties, and social connections. Parents in thehigh‐income group reported lower levels of consideration for logistics/costand institutional ties than parents in the low‐income group. Parents in thehigh‐income group reported higher levels of consideration for socialconnections. Conclusion and Implications: Parents, regardless of income, wantthe best for their children when they go to summer camp. They want their kidsto have fun, build social skills, and develop independence and otherintrapersonal skills. However, parental decisions of where to send theirchild to camp and parental evaluations of camp–child and camp–family fit aremore nuanced. Unsurprisingly, logistics and cost are major considerations forfamilies with low incomes, and camps need to continue to find ways to reducebarriers for kids from low‐income homes to attend camp through outreach andscholarship programs.