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01-11-2014 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2014

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2014

Involving Youth in Program Decision-Making: How Common and What Might it Do for Youth?

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2014
Thomas Akiva, Kai S. Cortina, Charles Smith


The strategy of sharing program decision-making with youth in youth programs, a specific form of youth-adult partnership, is widely recommended in practitioner literature; however, empirical study is relatively limited. We investigated the prevalence and correlates of youth program decision-making practices (e.g., asking youth to help decide what activities are offered), using single-level and multilevel methods with a cross-sectional dataset of 979 youth attending 63 multipurpose after-school programs (average age of youth = 11.4, 53 % female). The prevalence of such practices was relatively high, particularly for forms that involved low power sharing such as involving youth in selecting the activities a program offers. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed positive associations between youth program decision-making practices and youth motivation to attend programs. We also found positive correlations between decision-making practices and youth problem-solving efficacy, expression efficacy, and empathy. Significant interactions with age suggest that correlations with problem solving and empathy are more pronounced for older youth. Overall, the findings suggest that involving youth in program decision-making is a promising strategy for promoting youth motivation and skill building, and in some cases this is particularly the case for older (high school-age) youth.

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