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01-01-2007 | Original Paper | Uitgave 1/2007

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1/2007

Participation in Youth Programs as a Catalyst for Negotiation of Family Autonomy with Connection

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 1/2007
Reed W. Larson, Nickki Pearce, Patrick J. Sullivan, Robin L. Jarrett
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Reed W. Larson is the Pampered Chef Endowed Chair in Family Resiliency and is a professor in the Departments of Human and Community Development, Psychology, and Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and spent five years working under Daniel Offer, as Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Adolescence at Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center. His research focuses on the daily developmental experience of adolescents, particularly in the context of youth development programs and families.
Nickki Pearce is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include understanding the factors that influence youth engagement in school- and community-based after-school programs.
Patrick J. Sullivan is a graduate student at the University of Illinois. His major research interests include the study of positive adolescent development focusing on how youth become autonomous people while maintaining or building connections to family and community members.
Robin L. Jarrett is a professor in the Department of Human and Community Development and the African American Studies Research Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Jarrett received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Her major research interests include African American family life, child and youth development within inner-city neighborhoods, and extracurricular youth programs.


Current research and theory suggest that the healthy path of autonomy development involves gradual negotiation of adolescents’ independence within a context of continued family connection. This theory-generating study examined the role that adolescents’ participation in youth programs plays in these adolescent-parent negotiations. Qualitative data from high-school-aged youth in 12 programs and from a sub-sample of parents were analyzed employing methods of grounded theory. These analyses suggest that program participation provides a pathway of opportunities for youth to exercise individual choice and develop qualities of self-reliance with parental approval. In turn, parents’ observation of self-reliance in the program and youth's demonstration of these qualities in family interactions can lead to changes in adolescent-parent relationships that provide youth greater family autonomy with connection.

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