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Youth participation in program and community decision making is framed by scholars as an issue of social justice, a platform for positive youth development and effective citizenry, and a strategy for nation building. Recent literature reviews have consistently identified youth-adult partnership (Y-AP) as an effective type of youth participation across highly diverse contexts. These same reviews, however, note that indicators of Y-AP have not been conceptualized and validated for measurement purposes. The present study addresses this limitation by developing a brief measure of Y-AP that is explicitly grounded in current theory, research, and community practice. The measure was administered to youth in the United States, Malaysia, and Portugal (N = 610). Validation was assessed through factor analysis and tests of factorial, discriminant, and concurrent validity. Results confirmed the two predicted dimensions of the Y-AP measure: youth voice in decision making and supportive adult relationships. These two dimensions were also found to be distinct from other measures of program quality: safety and engagement. As predicted, they also significantly correlated with measures of agency and empowerment. It is concluded that the measure has the potential to support community efforts to maximize the quality of youth programs.
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1 23
American Journal of Community
Psychology
ISSN 0091-0562
Volume 54
Combined 3-4
Am J Community Psychol (2014)
54:337-347
DOI 10.1007/s10464-014-9676-9
Conceptualizing and Measuring Youth–
Adult Partnership in Community
Programs: A Cross National Study
Shepherd Zeldin, Steven Eric Krauss,
Jessica Collura, Micaela Lucchesi &
Abdul Hadi Sulaiman
1 23
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Conceptualizing and Measuring Youth–Adult Partnership
in Community Programs: A Cross National Study
Shepherd Zeldin Steven Eric Krauss
Jessica Collura Micaela Lucchesi
Abdul Hadi Sulaiman
Published online: 13 September 2014
ÓSociety for Community Research and Action 2014
Abstract Youth participation in program and community
decision making is framed by scholars as an issue of social
justice, a platform for positive youth development and
effective citizenry, and a strategy for nation building.
Recent literature reviews have consistently identified
youth–adult partnership (Y–AP) as an effective type of
youth participation across highly diverse contexts. These
same reviews, however, note that indicators of Y–AP have
not been conceptualized and validated for measurement
purposes. The present study addresses this limitation by
developing a brief measure of Y–AP that is explicitly
grounded in current theory, research, and community
practice. The measure was administered to youth in the
United States, Malaysia, and Portugal (N =610). Valida-
tion was assessed through factor analysis and tests of fac-
torial, discriminant, and concurrent validity. Results
confirmed the two predicted dimensions of the Y–AP
measure: youth voice in decision making and supportive
adult relationships. These two dimensions were also found
to be distinct from other measures of program quality:
safety and engagement. As predicted, they also signifi-
cantly correlated with measures of agency and empower-
ment. It is concluded that the measure has the potential to
support community efforts to maximize the quality of
youth programs.
Keywords Youth–adult partnership Youth voice
Youth participation Measurement validation
Introduction
Youth participation in program and community decision
making is an international movement and a phenomenon of
scholarly interest (Hart and Schwab 1997; Wong et al.
2010; Zeldin et al. 2003). Its significance is threefold. First,
youth participation is viewed as a strategy for social jus-
tice. Across developing and industrialized countries, youth
are typically not granted admission into the most influential
forums of decision making (Schlegel and Barry 1991;
White and Wyn 2013). Confronting this status quo, the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
asserts that all young people have the right to express their
views freely, be heard in all matters affecting them, and
have their views taken seriously in accordance with their
age and maturity (Lansdown 2001). Second, youth partic-
ipation is seen as a strategy for youth development and
effective citizenry. Scholars assert that, across cultures,
youth voice on behalf of self and others is an important
precursor to competence, identity formation and social trust
(Arnett 2002; Flanagan et al. 2010; Peterson 2000).
Research consistently links youth participation with the
development of agency, empowerment, and community
connections (Christens and Peterson 2012; Evans 2007;
Krauss et al. 2013; Larson and Angus 2011; Mitra 2004;
Zeldin 2004; Zimmerman et al. 1999). The third purpose of
youth participation is nation building. In many countries,
especially those whose societal structures ‘‘lag’’ in terms of
S. Zeldin J. Collura
School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison,
1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA
S. E. Krauss (&)A. H. Sulaiman
Institute for Social Science Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia
(UPM), 43400 Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
e-mail: abd_lateef@hotmail.com
M. Lucchesi
Psychology and Health Research Unit R&D, ISPA-IU
University, Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisbon,
Portugal
123
Am J Community Psychol (2014) 54:337–347
DOI 10.1007/s10464-014-9676-9
Author's personal copy
adapting to changing youth demographics and develop-
mental needs, significant numbers of young people do not
receive the supports to successfully transition into the
societal roles of worker, parent, and community leader
(USAID 2012; Hamilton and Hamilton 2009). Involving
young people contributes directly to nation building by
fortifying community institutions, building instrumental
and relationship-oriented networks, and affording young
people opportunities to share their experience and insight
to collective action (Call et al. 2002; Ginwright et al. 2006;
Linds et al. 2010).
Youth participation addresses these overlapping purposes
across an array of community settings. In organizations, for
example, youth and adults collaborate on governance
boards, advisory groups, and program planning committees
(Merdock et al. 2010; O’Donoghue et al. 2002; Kim and
Sherman 2006). In schools, young people engage in partic-
ipatory action research, sit on discipline committees, and
advise teachers on student priorities and concerns (Mitra
2008; Framework for Success 2006). In community coali-
tions and other groups, youth participate in intergenerational
teams to deliver training, enact media and communication
initiatives, and evaluate policy. Other youth collaborate with
adults to organize residents and to lead community action
(Lansdown 2001; Flanagan and Christens 2011).
The quality of youth participation lies not only in the
type of participation, but more centrally, in the principles,
values, and relationships embedded in the practice (Camino
2000; O’Donoghue and Strobel 2007). From the perspec-
tive of accomplished practitioners, the most effective type
of youth participation is typically labeled as youthadult
partnership (Y–AP). Y–AP is characterized by the explicit
expectation that youth and adults will collaborate in all
aspects of group decision making from visioning, to pro-
gram planning, to evaluation and continuous improvement.
Qualitative research with practitioners further emphasizes
that a partnership value is witnessed when key decisions
are made through inclusive processes, and when there is
mutuality in teaching, learning, and reflection among youth
and adults (see Camino 2005; Kirshner 2007; Mitra 2008;
National League of Cities 2010; Yates and Youniss 1996).
Recent reviews in the American Journal of Community
Psychology lend strong support to practitioner experience:
the pluralistic context of Y–AP is consistently found to
contribute directly to youth development, empowerment,
and community building. Wong et al. (2010), for example,
identify Y–AP as the most ‘‘optimal’’ of seven types of
youth participation in terms of promoting youth empow-
erment and health. Y–AP has a powerful influence,
according to these analysts, because it emphasizes youth
voice in forums of collective decision making, thus
allowing young people to be active agents in their own
development and that of their community. Zeldin et al.
(2013) similarly conclude that Y–AP directly promotes
positive youth development, particularly in the socio-
emotional domains of confidence, mastery, and connect-
edness. These analysts also highlight the role of adult
partners. They conclude that Y–AP derives its influence
when adults have the willingness and ability to share
power, while concurrently, preparing youth through scaf-
folding, mentoring, and direct instruction. Jacquez et al.
(2013) reviewed the literature on community and school-
based youth participatory action research (see also
Langhout and Thomas 2010). They note that there are few
studies examining youth participation and youth outcomes.
Nonetheless, they suggest that Y–AP is central to high
quality youth participation because it effectively challenges
dominant societal narratives regarding the ability of youth
to participate in important decision-making. They offer
examples of Y–AP to underscore the potential of the
practice to youth participation.
Study Purpose and Approach
Given the consensus among field professionals and uni-
versity scholars across a broad array of disciplines, we are
curious as to why Y–AP has not yet become a normative
practice. Research suggests two salient reasons. The first is
that Y–AP is difficult to implement with quality. Many
adults do not have the skill or inclination to share decision
making authority with youth and rarely are societal norms
and institutions designed to support Y–AP (Camino and
Zeldin 2002; Strobel et al. 2008). The second challenge is
one of conceptualization and measurement. Only recently
have scholars begun to systematically categorize different
types of youth participation, including Y–AP (Jacquez
et al. 2013; Wong et al. 2010). These efforts have helped
the field move toward shared conceptualizations of Y–AP.
There is now a consistent call for validated measures of Y–
AP that reflect contemporary research and practice. Youth
perspectives of their roles and relationships with adults are
seen as particularly important when constructing these
measures (Ferreira et al. 2012; Kirby and Bryson 2002;
Langhout and Thomas 2010).
The present study responds to this call. Our purpose was
to create a valid measure of Y–AP to spark future research
while also being suitable for assessing practice. Our specific
aim was to create a ‘‘setting neutral’’ instrument that would
be applicable across community programs. We initiated the
inquiry by conceptualizing Y–AP for measurement pur-
poses. Expert validity and theoretical generalizability for Y–
AP was then established by synthesizing insight from
empirical, policy, and practice perspectives (Fine 2007).
From these diverse sources, we constructed a measure of Y–
AP with two dimensions: youth voice in decision making
(YVDM) and supportive adult relationships (SAR). This
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measure was then tested with a sample drawn from the
United States, Portugal and Malaysia through factor analysis
and tests of factorial, discriminant, and concurrent validity.
Methods
Sample and Selection
The present study was conducted in the context of an
investigation into the quality of community programs.
Recruitment procedures were designed to maximize the
heterogeneity of young people across cultures and age.
Specifically, three countries—the United States, Malaysia,
and Portugal—were selected given their diversity in cul-
ture, ethnicity, language, and religion. Within each coun-
try, youth participants were recruited through community
programs. This sampling strategy, with the aim of hetero-
geneity, strengthens validation studies by allowing the fit of
the predicted models to be tested across different condi-
tions (Knight et al. 2003; Richardsen and Martinussen
2004; Schaufeli et al. 2002). We approached programs that
self-identified as emphasizing positive youth development.
That is, their menu of services focused on social, recrea-
tion, health and academic support rather than activism,
community service, or participatory action research. As
Ozer and Schotland (2011) argue, the inclusion of youth
who have not self-selected into a ‘‘youth-directed’’ or
‘community change’’ oriented program offers researchers
the opportunity to demonstrate that a newly developed
measure is applicable across a broad cross-section of youth
settings. In the United States, participants were recruited
from two youth development programs operated by a
community center in a mid-sized city. Their target popu-
lation was African-American youth from across a wide
catchment area of urban neighborhoods. In Malaysia, par-
ticipants were drawn from four state registered afterschool
programs in a large city. The programs offered a compa-
rable array of youth development services, but tended to be
culturally specific. Two of the programs served primarily
Malay youth while two focused on Chinese young people.
In Portugal, participants were members of a national youth
development organization who were attending a regional
retreat outside of a large city. Participants were primarily
from small to mid-sized cities.
Table 1highlights demographic variation across and
within the three countries. Overall, 647 youth completed
the survey, with 37 excluded because of incomplete data.
The average age was 17.6 (SD =3.21). Fifty-one percent
of the sample was male. The sample was racially and
ethnically diverse: 55.2 % identified as Asian, 23.1 % as
Latino, 16.3 % as African-American, and 2.8 % as Cau-
casian. The majority of the sample identified as Christian
(36.9 %), followed by Muslim (31.4 %) and Buddhist
(15.8 %). On average, mothers of the youth participants
had completed the equivalent of a high school education or
some college.
Measures
Y–AP: Youth Voice in Decision Making and Supportive
Adult Relationships
Y–AP is the practice of youth and adults working together
for a common purpose in a collective, pluralistic fashion
(Wong et al. 2010; Zeldin et al. 2013). For measurement
purposes, we began our inquiry by conceptualizing Y–AP
as a principal-based ‘‘developmental relationship’’ that
Table 1 Demographic characteristics of the sample (%)
United
States
(n =141)
Malaysia
(n =328)
Portugal
(n =141)
Cumulative
percent
(n =610)
Age
11–18 94.3 55.5 26.2 57.7
19–24 5.7 44.5 73.8 42.3
Gender
Female 56.4 45.3 52.5 49.5
Male 43.6 54.7 47.5 50.5
Race/ethnicity
White 12.2 – – 2.8
Black/African
American
69.5 – – 16.3
Asian 8.5 – – 55.2
Malay 53.8 –
Chinese 43.5 –
Latino/
Hispanic
7.1 – – 23.1
Portuguese – 91.5
Other 2.8 2.7 8.5 3.2
Religious affiliation
None 41.6 .6 8.4 11.1
Christian 45.6 12.2 90.1 36.9
Buddhist .8 27.9 0 15.8
Muslim 4.0 54.1 .8 31.4
Other 8.0 5.2 .8 4.8
Mother’s education
Some high
school or
less
5.3 28.8 51.9 30.4
High school
graduate or
some college
73.4 57.3 30.2 53.3
College
graduate or
beyond
21.3 13.9 17.8 16.2
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holistically encompasses the attributes of role, activity, and
connection (Camino 2000; Li and Jullian 2012). As we
synthesized the scholarship on Y–AP as well as other
sources on youth-adult relationships (particularly Baumei-
ster and Leary 1995; Larson and Angus 2011; Rappaport
1981; Rogoff 2003), it became evident that two compo-
nents of Y–AP were central to its influence on positive
youth development and empowerment: YVDM and SAR.In
virtually all theoretical and empirical analyses, Y–AP is
characterized by youth believing that they have authentic
opportunities to influence decision making throughout the
life of an initiative, program, or activity. The role of adults
is also foregrounded. Y–AP is uniformly characterized by
youth believing that they are trusted as both leaders and as
learners by the adults with whom they interact.
To further conceptualize and operationalize the con-
structs of ‘‘youth voice’’ and ‘‘supportive adults’’ we
examined the principles embedded in the policies of
practice of national youth organizations. This review
revealed a consistency in emphasis with the syntheses cited
above. For illustration, USAID’s (2012, p. 12) recent youth
policy directive directs funds to be allocated toward those
programs where ‘‘youth have specific roles in assessment,
program design, implementation and evaluation.’’ While
USAID focuses on youth voice, 4-H National Headquarters
(2012, p. 4) emphasizes the importance of supportive
adults who ‘‘lead, advise and partner with youth.’’ The
Coalition of Community Foundations for Youth (2002,
p. 14) urges its adult members to provide opportunities for
youth voice by ‘‘opening doors that have been historically
closed to young people, challenging them to succeed, and
preparing them to interact as equals with adults in a variety
of public settings.’’ The National League of Cities (2010,
pp. 31–33) urges its members to ‘‘learn the dynamics of
youth-adult partnership and group work’’ to help youth
‘prepare to navigate adult settings.’’ Moreover, it chal-
lenges adults to ‘‘model the kind of youth-adult relation-
ship [you] seek for the community.’
The research team then reviewed existing Y–AP focused
program assessment instruments. These tools, because they
are designed to address the accountability demands of pro-
grams, provide insight into what practitioners believe is
most useful to measure. While these instruments have not
been validated, they assisted us in generating words and
phrases to operationalize the two dimensions of Y–AP.
Stanford’s Gardner Center (Westrich 2011), for illustration,
examines the extent to which organizations ‘‘provide youth
with opportunities to collaborate with adults from the
community,’’ ‘‘incorporate youth input into their decision
making processes,’’ and ‘‘provide training to adults on how
to partner with youth.’’ Most instruments, however, focus
more directly on the youth-adult relationship. Penn State
Extension (Scheve et al. 2005), for example, asks young
people to assess the degree to which ‘‘my opinions and ideas
are respected by adults on the team,’’ and ‘‘when I need help,
I know that adults are willing to assist me.’’ The University
of Wisconsin youth survey (Camino et al. 2006) is similar.
Examples include: ‘‘In this group, youth get to make choices
and decisions about the things they want to do,’’ ‘‘Youth
have a say in setting the agenda or goals for the work of this
team,’’ and ‘‘There is a good balance of power between
youth and adults in this group.’’ O’Donoghue and Strobel
(2007) examine youth–adult relationships by asking youth
participants to respond to items such as ‘‘adults and youth
plan things together here,’’ ‘‘youth here get to plan all kinds
of events and activities,’’ and ‘‘I can talk to the adults here
about things that are bothering me.’
Our synthesis of these sources resulted in the drafting of
a new measure of Y–AP with two dimensions, YVDM and
SAR. To ensure semantic equivalence across languages,
conceptual equivalence across cultures, and normative
equivalence across societies, we undertook several steps as
outlined by Behling and Law (2000). The initial version of
the survey was shared with the respective research team
from each country for feedback and modifications regard-
ing cultural relevancy. For example, given the influence of
religious institutions on young people’s lives in Malaysia,
questions regarding connections to religious organizations
were added to the survey. The survey was then translated
into Malay and Portuguese. Reverse translation processes
were followed by the research teams in each country to
ensure consistency and accuracy. The survey was then
piloted with young people in each country and final mod-
ifications were made. The finalized YVDM subscale con-
sisted of five statements assessed by a five point Likert-
type scale ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly
Agree (e.g., ‘‘Youth and adults learn a lot from working
together in this center;’’ ‘‘Youth and staff trust each other
in this center.’’). The SAR subscale consisted of six
statements, similarly assessed (e.g., ‘‘The staff take my
ideas seriously;’’ ‘‘In this center, I am encouraged to
express my ideas and opinions’’).
There is a lack of consensus among researchers as to
whether using a mix of negatively and positively worded
items reduces response bias. Traditionally, measurement
researchers advocated for the use of negatively worded
items to protect against bias and acquiescent behaviors of
respondents. Recent research, however, suggests that the
increased item complexity resulting from this practice can
confuse youth respondents, causing them to misunderstand
an item or answer differently than they would to positively
worded statements (Barnette 1996,2000). As a result,
researchers in youth-related fields have called for the
abandonment of the use of negatively worded items in the
design of their measures (Peterson et al. 2011). Following
this line of reasoning, we included only positively-worded
340 Am J Community Psychol (2014) 54:337–347
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items in the Y–AP measure out of concern with how youth
from highly disparate cultures would interpret negatively-
worded items.
Safe Environment and Program Engagement
Two key aspects of program quality were included in the
survey to allow tests of discriminant validity with the
newly created Y–AP measure. Safe environment (SEN)
(a=.84) was self-developed, drawn from the emotional
safety rubric from the Youth Program Quality Assessment
(Forum for Youth Investment 2012). This measure used
four items (e.g., ‘‘I feel safe when I’m in this center;’
‘Bullying and aggression are not tolerated here’’) to assess
young people’s feelings of emotional and psychological
safety during program participation. Program engagement
(PE) (a=.85) was adapted from Vandell et al.’s (2005)
study of engagement in afterschool settings. This measure
used four statements (‘‘I enjoy most everything I do in this
center;’’ ‘‘I concentrate hard when I’m involved with pro-
grams at the community center’’) to assess young people’s
level of engagement in program activities. For both mea-
sures, statements were rated using a five-point Likert-type
scale ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree.
Youth Development Outcomes
Four additional measures were administered to participants.
Y–AP, particularly youth voice, is central to the develop-
ment of youth agency and empowerment across cultures
(Arnett 2002; Peterson 2000). Therefore, measures of these
constructs were included to examine concurrent validity.
Agency (a=.76) was measured using 9-items from the
Boston University Empowerment Scale (Rogers et al.
1997). Items (e.g., ‘‘I generally accomplish what I set out to
do;’’ I have a positive attitude about myself’’) were
answered using a five-point Likert-type scale from Strongly
Disagree to Strongly Agree. Empowerment (a=.73) was
assessed using an eight-item scale adaptation of the
Sociopolitical Control Scale for Youth (Peterson et al.
2011). Respondents answered items (e.g., ‘‘I would rather
have a leadership role when I’m involved in a group pro-
ject;’’ ‘‘My opinion is important because it could someday
make a difference in my community or school’’) using a
five-point Likert-type scale ranging from Strongly Disagree
to Strong Agree. Measures of self-esteem and school grades
were included for points of comparison to agency and
empowerment for testing concurrent validity. Self-esteem
(a=.76) was measured using Rosenberg’s (1989) 10-item
self-esteem scale. Respondents answered items (e.g., ‘‘On
the whole, I am satisfied with myself;’’ ‘‘I am able to do
things as well as most other people’’) using a five-point
Likert-type scale ranging from Strongly Disagree to
Strongly Agree. Finally, school grades were assessed on a
five-point scale ranging from Mostly As to Mostly Fs.
Procedures
Each site followed the research and ethical standards
required by their respective countries when administering
surveys. In the United States and Portugal, per institutional
review boards (IRB) requirements, letters of support from
each participating program were collected. Parental con-
sent and youth assent forms were then signed and collected
prior to young people participating in the study. In
Malaysia, the lead institution did not require ethics
approval for non-sensitive social science research, but
approval to conduct the study was gained from each par-
ticipating program director. Youth participants within each
program were allowed to choose whether to participate.
Research team members, following standard protocols,
administered the questionnaires. In all settings, young
people were encouraged to answer all questions on the
survey, but were also reminded that their participation was
voluntary and they were not required to answer any ques-
tion that made them feel uncomfortable.
Results
We explore the validity of the new Y–AP measure from
multiple perspectives. We first conducted exploratory and
Table 2 Factor loadings, means and standard deviations for youth–
adult partnership scale items
Item statement Factors
SAR YVDM
Youth and staff trust each other in this center .91
There is a good balance of power between youth and
adults in this center
.79
Youth and adults learn a lot from working together
in this center
.79
In this center, it is clear that youth and staff respect
each other
.78
Staff learn a lot from youth at this center .64
I have a say in planning programs at this center .84
The staff take my ideas seriously .77
I am expected to voice my concerns when I have
them
.76
In this center, I am encouraged to express my ideas
and opinions
.71
M4.02 3.85
SD .69 .70
SAR supportive adult relationships, YVDM youth voice in decision
making
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confirmatory factor analysis with the complete sample.
Factorial validity was then examined using multi-group
analysis to explore model fit among different age groups.
Subsequent to establishing an acceptable model fit, dis-
criminant and concurrent validity were examined.
Exploratory Factor Analysis
EFA was conducted using oblique (promax) rotation
(Table 2) to explore the inter-relatedness of the factors (De
Jong et al. 1976). The rotated factor matrix resulted in two
factors, accounting for 64.83 % of the total variance. The
factors were labelled SAR (SAR: 52.85 % of total vari-
ance) and YVDM (YVDM: 11.98 % of the variance).
Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Post Hoc
Modification
Confirmatory factor analysis was performed to test the
hypothesized two-factor model. A missing data analysis
was completed to examine the relationships between
missing values on each variable. No statistically significant
relationships were observed. Therefore, a listwise deletion
procedure was used (Schreiber 2008). Factor loadings were
allowed to vary freely. Factor variances were constrained
to one (1). The data were somewhat skewed, but below an
absolute value of 2. Therefore, an ML estimation with
robust standard errors was performed. The overall model fit
for the CFA was assessed using several indices suggested
by Schreiber et al. (2009) and Jackson et al. (2009). The
Tucker–Lewis index (TLI) and the comparative fit index
(CFI) are both incremental fit indices that compare the
target model to the null model. A CFI and TLI [.90 sug-
gest an acceptable fit and above .95 a good fit (Hu and
Bentler 1999). The root mean square error of approxima-
tion (RMSEA) is an index of absolute fit that examines
how well the present model approximates the data; values
\.05 suggest a good fit and \.08 suggest an acceptable fit
(Schreiber 2008). The overall Chi square (v
2
) is also
reported although it is only used to compare the fit of
contrasting models. It is the statistical test of the lack of fit
based on over identifying restrictions on the target model.
This index should not be statistically significant, although
this is a function of sample size and will usually be rejected
with large samples (Ozer and Schotland 2011). After these
four fit indices were examined, our two-factor model
showed adequate fit, v
2
(43) =223.04, p\.001;
TLI =.934; CFI =.948; RMSEA =.083.
Further inspection of the two-factor model’s modifica-
tion indices, however, revealed high covariance on two
items; one for SAR (‘‘I learn a lot from staff at this center’’)
and one for YVDM (‘‘In this center, I get to make decisions
about the things I want to do’’). The two items were deleted
to provide a more parsimonious measure. The final two-
factor model with these modifications showed improved fit,
v
2
(26) =103.615, p\.001; TLI =.959; CFI =.970;
RMSEA =.07. The final model included the two
hypothesized scales of SAR (five items, a=.87), and
YVDM (four items, a=.82) (see Table 2for factor
loadings). To confirm the two-factor structure of the model,
a one-dimensional model gave unsatisfactory fit indexes:
v
2
(27) =331.214, p\.001; TLI =.844; CFI =.883;
RMSEA =.136. Thus, results of the CFA confirmed the
multidimensional nature of the measure.
Factorial Validity
Given the breadth of age of our sample, we explored the
extent to which the factor structure holds for youth of
different ages and cultures. The sample was broken into
two groups (11–18 and 19–24 years), and by three coun-
tries. Because AMOS only provides overall fit indices, we
first conducted multi-group analysis to compare the fit
indices for each age group and country with the overall
sample. The results for the individual age groups and
countries revealed acceptable, albeit somewhat poorer, fit
indices to the data than the total sample (Table 3).
Next, we ran the equivalence test to estimate whether
each subsample (i.e., age group and country) had equiva-
lent factor loadings, factor variances and covariances
(Byrne 2010;Jo
¨reskog and So
¨rbom 1997). Results for the
age group analysis showed that the model that allowed all
parameters to be different in the subsamples was signifi-
cantly better than the model that required equal factor
loadings, variances and covariances, Dv
2
(12,
N=610) =73.845, p\.001. However, the fit indices did
not change significantly and the RMSEA value was well
within the acceptable range in the model with equality
constraints (GFI =.926; CFI =.939; TLI =.938;
RMSEA =.061). For analysis by country, the findings
showed somewhat weaker yet similar results. The model
that allowed all parameters to be different in the subsam-
ples was again significantly better than the model that
required equal factor loadings, variances and covariances,
Dv
2
(24, N=610) =161.135, p\.001. The fit indices
Table 3 Indices of overall fit comparison across age groups and
countries
Model v
2
df RMSEA TLI CFI
Modified 103.62 26 .07 .959 .970
11–18 82.50 26 .079 .944 .960
19–24 71.57 26 .082 .950 .964
USA 50.93 26 .083 .957 .969
Portugal 52.63 26 .086 .933 .951
Malaysia 87.52 26 .085 .930 .950
342 Am J Community Psychol (2014) 54:337–347
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and RMSEA value were within acceptable ranges in the
model with equality constraints (GFI =.884; CFI =.902;
TLI =.909; RMSEA =.06). Despite the age and cultural
diversity of the sample, the results indicate that the pro-
posed two-factor structure of the Y–AP measure could be
reasonably replicated in the total sample as well as across
different groups of youth and cultures.
Discriminant Validity
We next explored whether the two dimensions of Y–AP were
sufficiently distinct from two additional components of
program quality: SEN and PE. The examination of dis-
criminant validity can be a key analytic strategy for validity
studies using CFA (Farrell 2010). This is especially true, we
believe, when constructing setting-neutral measures of pro-
gram quality. For these reasons, we ran a CFA with the two
Y–AP measures along with measures for SEN and PE. The
four-factor model showed good fit [v
2
(113) =370.564,
p\.001; TLI =.947; CFI =.956; RMSEA =.06]. We
then applied the Fornell and Larcker (1981) technique to
assess discriminant validity where for any two constructs, the
variance extracted estimates (AVE) for both need to be larger
than the shared variance (i.e., square of the correlation)
between them (Hair et al. 2006). Our results showed that all
variance extracted estimates (AVE) were greater than the
squared correlation estimates for each pair of measures, with
the exception of SEN–PE. In the latter case, the correlation
between the measures was still well below .9, ruling out the
possibility of multicollinearity (Tabachnik and Fidell 2007),
thus demonstrating strong discriminant validity.
Concurrent Validity
Pearson intercorrelations for the two Y–AP subscales and the
four external criteria measures were conducted (Table 4).
Given that Y–AP haspreviously been found to be influential in
the development of agency and empowerment, we predicted
that correlations would be higher than those between Y–AP
and self esteem and grades. As seen in Table 2, the two Y–AP
subscales positively correlated with each other (r=.64). The
two Y–AP subscales were positively correlated with agency
and empowerment (r=.37–.44), suggesting concurrent
validity. The Y–AP subscales were also associated with self-
esteem and school grades. As expected however, these cor-
relations (r=.18–.35) were of a smaller magnitude than
those detected with agency and empowerment.
Discussion
Youth have become increasingly segregated from nonfa-
milial adults in the social and civic spheres of community
life worldwide (Bronfenbrenner 1970; Call et al. 2002;
Modell and Goodman 1990; Schlegel and Barry 1991).
Community-based youth programs are perhaps the most
effective developmental context for intergenerational par-
ticipation (Strobel et al. 2008). They can provide free
spaces where young people can imagine possibilities,
debate options, take on responsible social roles, and col-
laborate with adult residents and community workers.
Consequently, young people in many countries are given
the opportunity to meet the overlapping purposes of youth
participation: ensuring youth rights while promoting posi-
tive youth development, identity, empowerment, and
nation building (Flanagan et al. 2010; Hamilton and
Hamilton 2009; Peterson 2000). In many countries across
Europe, such as Portugal and Northern Ireland, youth
organizations have sparked a renewal of citizenship edu-
cation, a heightened focus on civic-oriented projects, and
youth participation in reconciliation efforts (Magnuson and
Baizerman 2007; Ferreira et al. 2012; Schulz et al. 2010).
Across a broad range of developing countries, from Kenya
to Malaysia, youth programs are creating opportunities for
youth and adults to build social networks, strengthen
community institutions, and work together on community
projects (Call et al. 2002; Kwan Meng 2012; Nga and King
2006).
A focus on the opportunities embedded in youth pro-
grams has brought renewed attention to the assertion that
the configuration of youth and adult interactions is critical
to the quality and effectiveness of a given setting (Camino
2000; Li and Jullian 2012; Flanagan et al. 2010). And,
among these interactions, Y–AP has emerged as a key
developmental process and practice. Practitioners claim
that Y–AP directly confronts isolation among youth and
adults, and equally important, contributes to positive out-
comes among young people. Empirical research supports
these claims (Wong et al. 2010; Zeldin et al. 2013). These
scholars also emphasize, however, that there are no vali-
dated measures of Y–AP, and that this gap diminishes
knowledge generation and quality practice. It is for these
Table 4 Correlation matrix of study variables
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
1. YVDM
2. SAR .64**
3. Agency .40** .37**
4. Empowerment .44** .37** .51** –
5. Self-esteem .35** .22** .46** .29** –
6. School grades .25** .18** .25** .27** .25** –
SAR supportive adult relationships, YVDM youth voice in decision
making; Pearson two-tailed correlations
*p\.05; ** p\.01
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reasons that we sought to create and test a psychometrically
sound measure of youth-adult partnership.
Implications for Theory and Measurement
The present study serves to extend our conceptual and
measurement understanding of Y–AP. We constructed a
brief measure of Y–AP consisting of two subscales:
YVDM and SAR. The two dimensions were explored
through factor analysis and tests of factorial, discriminant,
and concurrent validity. Results indicate consistent support
for the model. Specifically, the subscales of Y–AP dem-
onstrate good internal consistency, are distinct from other
elements of program quality (e.g., safety and engagement),
and strongly correlate, as predicted, with youth develop-
ment outcomes (e.g., agency, empowerment). Results fur-
ther indicate that the predicted model held across youth
attending a broad range of community programs within
three different countries. This suggests that the measures
are applicable to a variety of settings. While the hetero-
geneity of the sample represents an important strength for
validation studies generally (Schaufeli et al. 2002), it may
be especially important in studies that examine empower-
ment and related concepts such as youth voice (Ozer and
Schotland 2011). This is the first measurement study of Y–
AP, and therefore, a spectrum of conceptual and validation
issues should be explored. Foremost, we believe, is the
applicability of the measure to different settings. This study
assessed Y–AP in the context of youth programs that meet
on a regular basis during the after school hours. Y–AP is
also implemented, however, in less ‘‘structured’’ settings
such as local governance bodies, policy-oriented commu-
nity coalitions and advocacy-oriented voluntary associa-
tions. It is unknown if the current measure would
generalize to these settings. We are particularly curious as
to the applicability of this measure to issues of school
climate and classroom instruction, given that youth par-
ticipation may be a key component of successful school
reform in the United States and internationally (Framework
for Success 2006; Fielding 2001; Levin 2000; Mitra 2008).
We also emphasize the need for future research to
examine issues of age. This is a conceptual and methodo-
logical challenge in all cross-national studies of youth,
given that in many nations ‘‘youth’’ are officially desig-
nated in national youth policies as persons up to the age of
24, 30 or even 40 years (Kassimir and Flanagan 2010). In
this study, the two factor model of Y–AP held across two
age ranges (11–18 and 19–24), thus providing preliminary
support of the measure’s applicability across age. All
participants were ‘‘youth,’’ as defined by their own country,
and the age of the sample reflects country-specific social-
ization expectations for active youth participation. In the
United States, for illustration, there are repeated calls for
middle school-age children to partner with adults in par-
ticipatory action-oriented research (Langhout and Thomas
2010). Such a call would be less likely in many other
countries, including Malaysia or Portugal, where ‘‘leader-
ship’’ programs are emphasized during the high school
years and beyond to facilitate a transition to adulthood, and
where younger youth are more likely to be protected as
‘learners’’ during the ‘‘middle school’’ years (Hamilton
et al. 2013; Innovations in Civic Participation 2008; Kwan
Meng 2012). Replication is warranted with a greater mix of
countries and regions to tease out the complex issues of age
and nationality as it relates to Y–AP. In making this rec-
ommendation, we recognize that ‘‘youth’’ and ‘‘adults’’ are
culturally constructed terms. These constructions—the
‘kaleidoscope’ of youth—influence the context of youth
development in a myriad of ways that are only partially
predictable (Brown and Larson 2002). Based on evidence
from earlier studies and the present inquiry, we believe that
there are sufficient data to call for future research on how
the two dimensions of Y–AP—voice in decision making
and SAR—have meaning for and influence on young
people. Such research could substantially contribute to
more fully understanding the experiences and relationships
that underlie the development of agency and empowerment
in community programs.
While this study focuses on measurement, we note that
the results replicate qualitative inquiries on the positive
associations among agency, empowerment and strong
youth relationships and partnerships with adults in com-
munity programs (Larson and Angus 2011; Zeldin et al.
2005), and thus contributes to the growing body of research
showing that Y–AP is strongly connected to agency and
empowerment. Y–AP was more modestly correlated with
self-esteem and grades. This pattern of results has a con-
ceptual logic to it. The practice of Y–AP, by definition, has
both relational and instrumental dimensions to it. It is
youths’ exercise of control, in the context of affirmative
adult support for critical thinking and collective action that
underlies the development of agency and empowerment
(Bandura 2006; Hamilton et al. 2013; Maton and Salem
1995). Given the importance of Y–AP, agency, and
empowerment to current theoretical conceptions of youth
development, research designed to explore causality are
especially needed.
Implications for Community Practitioners
The present study indicates that Y–AP is a salient construct
in ‘‘everyday’’ youth development programs, not only in
those programs and projects that are explicitly oriented
toward action or activism. The overall pattern of results
suggests that Y–AP can be a common, influential practice
across settings and that this measure could be productively
344 Am J Community Psychol (2014) 54:337–347
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used to help build a comparable body of transdisciplinary
knowledge across different types of programs and
initiatives.
That said, quality implementation of Y–AP challenges
even the most experienced of practitioners (Camino 2005).
Y–AP, by intent, is not a ‘‘packaged’’ intervention. Rather,
professionals must integrate the principles, values, and
strategies of Y–AP into existing programs (e.g., after-
school, extracurricular), structures (e.g., governance,
planning bodies) and functions (e.g., training, communi-
cations, participatory research). The integrative process
must also consider the organizational structures in which
the program operates (Zeldin et al. 2008). Finally, the
challenges to front line workers cannot be minimized.
Adults must understand and employ the basic processes of
‘guided participation.’’ They must guide, scaffold, and
incentivize the learning and reflection of youth, while
constantly respond to changes in group dynamics. These
processes may take different forms depending on the cul-
ture and status of the participants (Krueger 2005; Rogoff
2003).
Because Y–AP is a practice that ‘‘looks different’
across settings, organizations are often puzzled on how to
establish quality in the implementation of Y–AP (Coalition
of Community Foundations for Youth 2002; O’Donoghue
and Strobel 2007). The newly developed Y–AP measure,
we believe, will help managers and front-line workers
conceptualize and operationalize the practice to inform
policy development, program planning and staff training.
By focusing on two core elements of Y–AP—YVDM and
SAR—our hope is that the Y–AP measure can also be used
by applied researchers to help organizations evaluate their
programs and to establish continuous improvement strate-
gies. This measure, consisting of nine items, holds promise
for broad use across communities. Its brevity and adoption
of field-generated language could help researchers obtain
program ‘‘buy in’’ for utilization, thus facilitating practi-
tioner and youth-generated insight into the quality of their
own community programs.
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... To address the need for access to knowledge, educators and youth-oriented organizations are well-positioned to develop interventions that deliver both job readiness and financial literacy skills and knowledge to youth from low-income households. In addition to the curricular components, programs should consider training staff on strategies for developing meaningful relationships with youth (Zeldin et al., 2014). Developing these relationships requires intentional efforts to build mutual trust (Christens and Peterson, 2012;Henderson et al., 2020;Zeldin et al., 2014). ...
... In addition to the curricular components, programs should consider training staff on strategies for developing meaningful relationships with youth (Zeldin et al., 2014). Developing these relationships requires intentional efforts to build mutual trust (Christens and Peterson, 2012;Henderson et al., 2020;Zeldin et al., 2014). Ongoing supportive and guiding relationships have been linked to the development of key cognitive processes, such as information processing and self-regulation among youth from low-income households (Parra et al., 2002). ...
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... There is a robust literature on this (Hart, 1992; Wong et al., 2010) that provides several typologies of youth participation, particularly in relation to adults. Integral to these typologies is the power sharing relationship between young people and adults, and the degree to which youth have meaningful voice in decision making (Zeldin et al., 2014). Evident within the Parkland case are the implicit and explicit roles adults played in supporting, amplifying, and later criticizing youth. ...
... • Civic engagement programs address organizational or community change on a regular basis and may be youth-led or led by a youth-adult partnership (Zeldin et al., 2014). ...
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This article explores how Latinx youth engagement practices vary across different types of out-of-school organizations that successfully sustain Latinx youth participation. Data are drawn from a qualitative study of 13 California organizations that each emphasize one of 3 missions: social justice youth development, “one-stop” wrap-around services, or academic enrichment. While all organizations are found to adhere to a core set of Latinx youth development guiding principles, there are nuanced differences in how they are operationalized in practice across varied organization types, reflecting variation in terms of discourse, scale, and scope. These findings highlight the need for youth development practitioners and collaborating researchers to understand the context of youth-serving organizations when identifying and implementing promising practices and extension programs.
... Prior research has established that negative attitudes about youth of color, in concert with restrictive, exclusionary, or disempowering policies or practices, may constrain the impact of youth programming (Conner et al., 2016;Mitra et al., 2013;Ozer et al., 2013). Scholars have noted the need for further research in this area, suggesting that youth voice approaches have not been widely adopted because adults lack the skills and prosocial norms needed to share power with young people (Zeldin et al., 2014). Indeed, when youth-serving professionals share the dilemmas they face in practice, many revolve around issues of balancing authority while garnering ownership of program activities (Walker & Larson, 2006). ...
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... These partnerships, particularly those engaged in social action projects, have been found to facilitate adolescents' sociopolitical development (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2007;O'Donoghue & Strobel, 2007). Furthermore, a study of adolescents in the United States, Malaysia, and Portugal revealed that youthadult partnerships in after-school programs were positively related to youth empowerment, agency, self-esteem, and school grades (Zeldin et al., 2014). ...
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