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Abstract

Health researchers and practitioners increasingly recognise the important role communities play in shaping individual health. Health researchers recognise the role of community factors as causes or determinants of health problems; use community-based methods for understanding complex health issues; and design community-level health solutions. In this commentary, we propose a fourth way to think about the role of communities in individual health by arguing that the community engagement process itself has implications for individual health and strong communities. This topic is especially important during adolescence, a developmental window of opportunity during which individuals need meaningful opportunities to contribute to the world around them.
Engaging youth in communities: a framework for
promoting adolescent and community health
Parissa J Ballard,
1
S Leonard Syme
2
1
University of California,
Berkeley and University of
California, San Francisco,
California, USA
2
University of California,
Berkeley, California, USA
Correspondence to
Dr Parissa J Ballard, University
of California, Berkeley and
University of California, >#50
University Hall, MC #7360,
San Francisco, CA 94720-
7360, USA; ballardpj@
berkeley.edu
Received 28 May 2015
Revised 17 September 2015
Accepted 20 September 2015
To cite: Ballard PJ,
Syme SL. J Epidemiol
Community Health Published
Online First: [please include
Day Month Year]
doi:10.1136/jech-2015-
206110
ABSTRACT
Health researchers and practitioners increasingly
recognise the important role communities play in
shaping individual health. Health researchers recognise
the role of community factors as causes or determinants
of health problems; use community-based methods for
understanding complex health issues; and design
community-level health solutions. In this commentary,
we propose a fourth way to think about the role of
communities in individual health by arguing that the
community engagement process itself has implications
for individual health and strong communities. This topic
is especially important during adolescence, a
developmental window of opportunity during which
individuals need meaningful opportunities to contribute
to the world around them.
The idea that communities play an important role
in individual health is now well accepted in the
elds of public health and social epidemiology.
Health researchers focus on three roles of commu-
nity for health: they recognise the role of commu-
nity factors as causes or determinants of health
problems; use community-based methods for
understanding complex health issues; and design
community-level health solutions. At the same
time, it should be noted that individuals and
groups contribute to building and maintaining
strong communities. Indeed, current thinking on
the topic extends beyond a unidimensional context
matters for healthconceptualisation in favour of a
more dynamic and bidirectional understanding of
links between people and communities.
1
In this
commentary, we propose a fourth way to think
about the role of communities for health: By exam-
ining implications of the community engagement
process itself for individual and community health.
From the perspective of developmental psychology,
we argue that understanding the bidirectional links
between adolescents and communities (which we
consider to be groups dened by geographical and
social boundaries) holds special promise for pro-
moting individual health and strong communities.
COMMUNITIES IN HEALTH RESEARCH
The rst area where health research is affording a
prominent role to communities is in understanding
the social causes or determinants of good and poor
health. A relatively recent movement in health
elds advocates for emphasising the multiple social
causes of health and health disparities rather
framing health exclusively in individual terms. In
social epidemiology, this can be seen through
increasing attention to the social determinants of
health. In this framework, there is specic interest
in the role of place in health
1
based on the under-
standing that communities possess both physical
and social attributes which could plausibly affect
physical health.
2
Accordingly, evidence is mount-
ing that features of the built environment (eg, walk-
ability, community greenspace, and access to
healthy food options)
3
and the social environment
(eg, social networks, trust, cohesion, bonds
4
) each
contribute to individual health trajectories.
Community-level factors might be especially
important to health and well-being during adoles-
cence; communities become increasingly salient
developmental settings as youth spend more time
outside their homes. Neighbourhood structural
factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, are
linked with a variety of adolescent academic and
behavioural outcomes
5
and recent prospective
research points to neighbourhood factors, such as
physical disorder, as a risk factor for physical
health (obesity) among early adolescent girls.
6
Importantly research shows that social environmen-
tal factors such as collective efcacy may play a
protective role for youth development
7
pointing to
community level social conditions as modiable
social causes in adolescent health.
Second, there has been a simultaneous movement
in health research towards community-based
methods for understanding health.
Community-based methods are common in public
health
8
and are present, although less common, in
social epidemiology (referred to as popular or par-
ticipatory epidemiology).
9
Most frequently, propo-
nents suggest that health interventions will be most
effective and sustainable when local communities
are treated as partners, stakeholders and infor-
mants, as well as recipients, of health interven-
tions.
10
Community-based methods range from
working with community partners to locate rele-
vant health problems, to engaging communities in
the research process as an empowering health inter-
vention.
8
One subset of community-based methods
used with youth is especially relevant for the
present article. Youth participatory action research
is a community-based approach specically
designed to empower youth in their developmental
settings, such as school and after-school pro-
grammes, to combat the developmental mismatch
between their increasing capacity and desire for
agency and their often constrained opportunities
for meaningful community contribution.
11 12
A third example of communities being afforded
prominence in health research is seen through
community-based solutions to health problems. If
health researchers are increasingly recognising the
role of community as causes of health problems
and are employing methods for understanding
Ballard PJ, Syme SL. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015;0:15. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206110 1
Theory and methods
JECH Online First, published on October 6, 2015 as 10.1136/jech-2015-206110
Copyright Article author (or their employer) 2015. Produced by BMJ Publishing Group Ltd under licence.
complex health issues, it follows that health solutions should be
community-based. A community solution focus is seen in
funding initiatives, for example, focused on promoting a
Culture of Health,
13
in academic programmes with a specic
Community Healthfocus, and in more specic initiatives for
multilevel and community-based interventions.
14
These pro-
grammes share the common goal of improving the health of
groups by recognising that health happens in communities
rather than in isolation. Multilevel health interventions may be
especially effective for youth as they capitalise on individual and
group processes, which are developmentally salient for adoles-
cents. In sum, then, many researchers and practitioners in the
health elds are shifting towards supporting health and decreas-
ing health disparities by understanding community causes of
health, using methods that partner with communities, and craft-
ing solutions that work for communities.
A FOURTH ROLE OF COMMUNITIES IN HEALTH
Attention to the benets that individuals receive from being
embedded in cohesive and resourced communities is well docu-
mented in scholarly research. However, a long tradition of
research from psychology and public health reveals that there
may be something special about the ip side of being embedded
in communities: contributing. What people contribute to their
communities, through collaborating with others to address
social issues, may be just asor even morebenecial to health
than receiving support.
1517
Community psychologists have
long argued that there are benets of community participation
for individual and communities;
18 19
we add a developmental
argument for focusing on adolescents and suggest psychological
mechanisms that might link civic engagement with health. We
propose an initiative in health research to focus on youth civic
engagement (YCE) as a promising approach to synergise efforts
to promote adolescent and community health (gure 1).
Youth civic engagement
Adolescence
i
is a critical window of development characterised
by changes at multiple levels, from biology to social role transi-
tions,
20
during which opportunities for participation in mean-
ingful activities, feeling that one matters, and forming warm and
supportive relationships with adults are crucial to positive youth
development.
11 12 21 22
Furthermore, adolescence is a formative
window for life-long health
23
and civic trajectories.
24
Although
civic development and adolescent health are traditionally exam-
ined as separate processes, we believe that there is a compelling
reason for considering them together. A large body of work
documents health effects of certain forms of civic engagement,
such as volunteerism, among older adults.
25
However, adoles-
cents have a different set of developmental goals and needs that
make it a relevant stage to understand how community partici-
pation affects healthy development. For example, a major devel-
opmental task of adolescence is identity formation, which
includes dening ones role in relation to society
26
and multiple
developmental frameworks, such as positive youth development
and sociopolitical development, suggest that youth engagement
within their communities is an important part of
development.
27 28
Civic engagement can be dened as individual and collective
actions designed to identify and address issues of public
concern.
29
Diverse youth have access to different types of civic
opportunities and may participate in a variety of such collective
actions aimed at community contribution: formal volunteerism,
political activities such as campaigning and voting ( for older
adolescents), and activism such as protesting.
30
We believe that
high-quality civic engagement, by offering youth meaningful
and empowering opportunities to engage with their communi-
ties, can provide positive experiences for adolescents at a crucial
developmental period while at the same time channelling the
considerable skills and energy of youth to improve
communities.
31 32
YCE can promote adolescent health
We propose that high quality YCE can promote adolescent health
by providing adolescents opportunities for care-giving and change-
making. YCE could affect three aspects of adolescent health:
health and risk behaviours, mental health, and indicators of
disease vulnerability or physiological stress markers (eg, inamma-
tion). The most direct evidence that YCE can promote adolescent
health comes from research on care-giving through formal volun-
teering programmes. In a randomised control trial study, Schreier
et al
33
assigned high school students to volunteer weekly for
2 months in the Fall (intervention group) or Spring (control
group) in after-school programmes with elementary school chil-
dren. The authors found that intervention group participants had
lowered cardiovascular risk as measured through inammatory
markers, cholesterol and body mass index
33
compared to the
control group, suggesting that volunteering can improve adoles-
cent health. Extensive research with adults points to a link
between volunteerism and better health
34
and one suggested
mechanism explaining the link between volunteerism and health is
the promotive function of caring for others and giving support.
Although caregiving for close others can increase health risk it
might be protective or promotive for health when not overly bur-
densome and when appraised as meaningful and fullling.
17 35
Indeed, psychological evidence suggests that providing care and
support to close others (family, friends, neighbours) can predict
positive affect,
15
reduce mortality and morbidity
15 36
and activate
neural reward systems.
37
While care-taking may provide health
benets across ages, adolescents might specically benet from the
opportunity to contribute to their communities in meaningful
ways.
Volunteerism is one care-based category of civic activities;
YCE can also take explicitly political forms. Political forms of
civic engagement might affect health though a similar pathway
giving adolescents a chance to contribute, provide care, and nd
meaning; or, it might operate through altogether different path-
ways, such as through psychological empowerment. Community
and developmental psychologists give special attention to the
positive role of empowerment in adolescent development, espe-
cially among marginalised young people.
38
High quality civic
programmes can help adolescents come to see themselves as
civic actors with real opportunities to engage with communities.
Such opportunities for civic empowerment among marginalised
youth are positively associated with academic success, political
engagement and general well-being.
39
Further, civic empower-
ment mediates the links between supportive family and school
contexts on well-being
40
and political participation.
41
Taken
together, correlational and experimental evidence suggest that
high quality YCE might have a positive developmental function
for many domains of youth development, though more direct
evidence is needed linking YCE and adolescent health. Given
that adolescents self-select into civic activities based on internal
motivations and structural opportunities and constraints
21 42
it
will be important to understand the interplay of selection effects
i
We consider adolescence to be roughly from age 12 to 21 and refer to
interchangeably with youthin this paper.
2 Ballard PJ, Syme SL. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015;0:15. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206110
Theory and methods
and the civic experiences themselves on health outcomes.
34 43
Other critical questions to address are about mechanisms linking
various forms of YCE and health and understanding which
youth may especially benet from such experiences (see box 1
for a suggested research questions and hypotheses). Importantly,
high quality YCE should operate at multiple levels to empower
individuals and communities.
19 39
YCE can improve structural aspects of communities
Ideally, high quality civic programmes offer youth a chance to
collectively engage with their communities to solve what they
see as pressing social problems. Although such change will be
slow and setbacks inevitable, from the perspective of positive
youth development, youth should be considered assets to com-
munities
31
with developing skills and ideas that can contribute
to community life with appropriate mentorship from adults.
22
As an example, youth from the San Francisco Youth
Commission engaged in a multiphase process to identify teen
transportation needs and to lobby for policy changes. After
3 years, the youth commission succeeded in convincing the
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MUNI) board
to approve a Free MUNI for Youthprogramme with an expan-
sion to include 18-year-olds from low to moderate income fam-
ilies in those eligible for free MUNI passes (SF Youth
Commission). In this example, engaged youth formed horizon-
tal partnerships with other youth across districts as well as verti-
cal partnerships with local political leaders. Together, they
successfully changed policy that directly improved the well-
being of San Francisco teen residents and families by providing
transportation access to some of the citys most vulnerable
young people. Ultimately, incremental improvements in commu-
nities and policies affecting youth should feedback to support
adolescent health and the broader health of communities.
YCE can improve the social aspects of communities
YCE can help build community social capital, increase social trust
between community members, contribute to a sense of commu-
nity social cohesion, and promote collective empowerment.
19 39
From the perspective of social capital theory, individual civic
engagement is indeed part of what denes communities high in
social capital. A critical social aspect of communities is a sense of
collective efcacy, or the perceived ability that communities can
band together to solve social problems that arise. According to
extensive work of Sampson et al,
44
collective efcacy is a charac-
teristic that varies dramatically by neighbourhood and predicts
Figure 1 Schematic representation of
the role of communities in research on
adolescent health.
Box 1 Specic Proposals for a Research Agenda Linking
Youth Civic Engagement, Adolescent, and Community
Health
1. Community-engaged health intervention projects present an
opportunity for understanding whether the engagement
process has implications for health. Researchers engaging
community members in projects to improve the health of
their communities can add a dimension to studies by
measuring the civic experience of community members and
individual health during community engagement to gain
insight about how community-engagement processes covary
with individual health trajectories.
2. Large national studies of adolescent development can add
measures of civic experiences (eg, participation in different
types of civic activities, feelings of empowerment, and
feelings of contribution and meaning) to see how naturally
occurring civic development affects, and is affected by, other
domains of youth development.
3. To overcome methodological challenges in civic development
research, innovations in study methods for understanding
civic development are needed. For example, randomised
control trial studies will best enable researchers to establish
causal links between civic engagement and health. There are
challenges in designing random assignment studies in the
context of activities that are typically voluntary, but these
challenges can be overcome with creative methods such as
simulation studies. Qualitative studies will be needed to
contextualise particular civic experiences especially as they
vary for adolescents from demographic groups.
4. Researchers should examine complex links between civic
engagement and health, informed by theory. For example, it
is likely that links between civic engagement and health will:
A. Be non-linear over time ( perhaps with negative initial
health effects if civic engagement is stressful and positive
effects over the longer-term if it is empowering)
B. Be moderated by things like social status and quality of
civic experience
C. Be developmentally differentiated (with links stronger
during developmental transitions)
D. Vary by type of civic engagement (volunteerism vs
activism)
E. Vary by type of health outcome (health behaviours, mental
health, physical health
Ballard PJ, Syme SL. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015;0:15. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206110 3
Theory and methods
neighbourhood safety and the health and development of resi-
dents. High quality YCE, should directly increase participants
sense of collective efcacy, and, especially when visible to other
community members, could lead to broader a sense of commu-
nity collective efcacy.
45
Although this is a complex process with
nuance regarding the conditions under which civic engagement
indeed increases community capacity and health, ideally, engage-
ment should affect the perceived and actual capacity of communi-
ties to meet their needs.
19
CONCLUSION
Elaborating on Cummins et als
1
argument for a broader recogni-
tion of the mutually reinforcing and reciprocal relationship
between people and place,we argue that the process by which
people and place are reciprocally related also has implications for
individual and community health, especially during the develop-
mental window of opportunity known as adolescence. Ideally,
YCE operates at the individual level by offering youth a meaning-
ful chance to care for others and to become empowered to create
change, while also operating at the community level to increase
local capacity through social action processes. It is very important
to note that YCE also has the potential to undermine adolescent
health and well-being; for example, if such engagement is stress-
ful, burdensome or futile. The focus of the present paper is on
the positive potentials of YCE; the negative possibilities are
explored in depth elsewhere (eg, P J Ballard and E J Ozer. The
implications of youth activism for health and well-Being. In:
Conner J, Rosen S. Contemporary Youth Activism: advancing
Social Justice in the United States (under review)). The promise
of the approach outlined here is twofold: it offers a dual focus on
promoting adolescent and community health and it relies on a
transdisciplinary approach to health. Psychologists, epidemiolo-
gists and population health scientists each understand pieces of
the conceptual puzzle about how people become engaged with
places, how places support this process, and how this process can
promote individual and community health. By offering a frame-
work linking civic engagement, adolescent health, and healthy
communities, we challenge psychologists to focus on promoting
adolescent development in a way that also builds communities
and we challenge population health scientists to consider how
community engagement processes can affect adolescent health
and well-being. YCE can be a lens for simultaneously considering
individual and community health and the processes by which
community participation might improve the health and well-
being of our youth and our communities.
What is already known on this subject
Adolescent health is affected by the communities adolescents
live in. At the same time, adolescents affect their own
communities through civic engagement (ie, taking collective
action to address issues of public concern).
What this study adds
We believe that the community engagement process has
implications for adolescent health and strong communities. We
propose an initiative in health research to focus on youth civic
engagement as a promising approach to synergise efforts for
promoting adolescent and community health.
Acknowledgements The authors thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Health and Society Scholars program for its nancial support. The authors thank
Keely Muscatell and Lindsay Till Hoyt for comments on an early draft and our many
colleagues at UCSF and UC Berkeley for ongoing discussion of these ideas. We also
thank Allen Lu from the San Francisco Youth Commission for feedback about the
youth MUNI program.
Contributors PJB conceptualised and wrote this article. SLS discussed
conceptualisation and helped with framing the idea and editing the article.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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Theory and methods
... The way adolescents make their food choices are expected to differ from those of adults, as they are more influenced by reward, excitement and social pressure (6,19) . Therefore, an in-depth understanding of the views of adolescents can provide new insights on the barriers and enablers to healthy eating and contribute to the development of more effective policies (20,21) . The active engagement of adolescents in the development of collaborative prevention programmes can lead to positive development benefits, increased critical awareness and self-efficacy (21) . ...
... Therefore, an in-depth understanding of the views of adolescents can provide new insights on the barriers and enablers to healthy eating and contribute to the development of more effective policies (20,21) . The active engagement of adolescents in the development of collaborative prevention programmes can lead to positive development benefits, increased critical awareness and self-efficacy (21) . In this sense, behavioural interventions are likely to fail if they are not aligned with adolescents' needs (22) . ...
... They proposed messages stressing the short-term consequences of healthy eating, which may also contribute to behaviour change by increasing perceived benefits (44) . In addition, empowerment was identified as a relevant characteristic of communication campaigns, which has been recognised as a relevant characteristic of successful approaches to encourage behaviour change and adolescents' involvement (20,21) . Interestingly, the messages proposed by adolescents for behaviour change communication were focused on health and nutrition. ...
Article
Objective To explore adolescents' views about the foods they consume and to identify their ideas about strategies to encourage healthier eating habits. Design Individual questionnaires based on open-ended questions and group discussions (6-8 participants) were used to address the objectives. Data were analyzed using content analysis based on deductive-inductive coding. Setting Montevideo and its metropolitan area (Uruguay, Latin America). Participants 102 adolescents (aged between 11 and 15 years old, 52% female) recruited at two educational institutions. Results Adolescents reported frequently consuming ultra-processed products and fast food although they were perceived as bad for their health, whereas they reported an infrequent consumption of fruits and vegetables. Multifaceted strategies to promote healthy eating habits emerged from adolescents' accounts, including public awareness campaigns, nutrition education programs, nutrition label standards and regulations, and changes in food availability and affordability. Conclusions Results from the present work suggest that co-creation with adolescents may be an effective way to inform the development of strategies to promote healthier eating habits. The strategies suggested by adolescents were mainly focused on behaviour change communication, who emphasized the importance of social media and the involvement of celebrities and influencers. The need for educational and communication strategies to raise awareness of the social and environmental drivers of eating patterns among adolescents was identified.
... According to positive psychology, engaging in prosocial behavior and community engagement can accelerate happiness, life satisfaction, and hope by enhancing pathway and agentic thinking [32]. Finally, the sociopolitical and anti-oppressed development frame posits that civic engagement can enable young people to fight for the structural changes that can improve and empower individuals and communities [39]. ...
... Studies have indicated that engaging in significant, intentional, and beneficial behaviors allows people to feel good about themselves, feel they matter, and feel satisfaction in having made a contribution [39,41]. Findings based on self-report questionnaires examining a social protest movement in Israel 2011 found that adolescents with stronger feelings of meaning and coherence, whose value systems supported enhancing civic engagement and efficacy, were more hopeful and healthier [42]. ...
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Civic engagement is thought to contribute to well-being among young adults. However, less is known about the ways in which civic engagement promotes well-being in general and in particular in socially excluded populations. This study investigated whether civic engagement contributes to life satisfaction and hope in a sample of 127 socially excluded young Israeli women who participated in social activism programs for a period of eight months. A mediation model incorporating self-efficacy, meaning in life, and identity exploration was used to examine the contribution of positive attitudes toward civic engagement, civic engagement skills, and political awareness to the participants’ life satisfaction and hope. Indirect effects were found between positive attitudes toward civic engagement, civic engagement skills, and political awareness and the participants’ life satisfaction and hope via self-efficacy. Positive attitudes toward civic engagement and political awareness also predicted the participants’ life satisfaction via meaning in life. A positive direct effect was found between political awareness and hope. However, contrary to the hypothesis, a negative direct effect was found between positive attitudes toward civic engagement and life satisfaction. Civic engagement skills and political awareness also predicted identity exploration. These findings underscore the need for clinicians to be aware of the potential benefits of civic engagement for the well-being of socially excluded populations.
... On the other hand, it may have a positive relationship with health through political participation. This is because negative sentiment toward the opposing party can be a powerful motivator of engagement (Groenendyk and Banks 2014;Iyengar and Krupenkin 2018), which itself may have health-protective effects, possibly by facilitating social ties and a sense of self-efficacy (Ballard and Syme 2016). ...
... As a subtype of civic engagement, political participation could benefit health for the same reasons, drawing individuals deeper into associational life or facilitating a more optimistic view of one's capacity to shape their environment. Indeed, some contributors to the existing body of literature about civic engagement and health acknowledge that the proposed mechanisms linking civic engagement more broadly to well-being could apply to political participation even if political behaviors differ from other civic actions, like volunteering (e.g., Ballard et al. 2019;Ballard and Syme 2016;Wray-Lake et al. 2019). ...
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Affective polarization—the tendency for individuals to exhibit animosity toward those on the opposite side of the partisan divide—has increased in the United States in recent years. This article presents evidence that this trend may have consequences for Americans’ health. Structural equation model analyses of nationally representative survey data from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (n = 4,685) showed heterogeneous relationships between affectively polarized attitudes and self-rated health. On one hand, such attitudes were directly negatively associated with health such that the polarized political environment was proposed to operate as a sociopolitical stressor. Simultaneously, affective polarization was positively associated with political participation, which in turn was positively associated with health, although the direct negative effect was substantially larger than the indirect positive one. These results suggest that today’s increasingly hostile and pervasive form of partisanship may undermine Americans’ health even as it induces greater political engagement.
... Encouraging youth civic engagement could improve overall adolescent health by building individual-level assets (i.e., self-efficacy, sense of belonging) and improving community-level determinants of health (Ballard & Syme, 2015). We define civic engagement broadly, to include "participating in activities that advance the public good" (Nelson et al., 2019, p.iii). ...
Article
Although research suggests neighborhood‐level factors influence youth well‐being, few studies include youth when creating interventions to address these factors. We describe our three‐step process of collaborating with youth in low‐income communities to develop an intervention focused on civic engagement as a means to address neighborhood‐level problems impacting their well‐being. In the first step, we analyzed qualitative interviews from a project in which youth shared perceptions about their neighborhoods (e.g., interpersonal relations with neighbors and institutions). Three major themes were identified: pride in youth’s communities, desire for change, and perceptions of power and responsibility. Based on these themes, we completed the second step: developing a civic engagement and leadership program, called LEAP, aimed at helping youth take an active role in addressing neighborhood problems. In the third step, we collaborated with youth who completed a pilot version of the civic program and provided feedback to finalize it for large‐scale testing. While discussing our process, we highlight the importance of including youth voices when developing programs that affect them. Furthermore, we note the need for more research exploring whether civic engagement serves as a mechanism for encouraging youth involvement in addressing neighborhood‐level health disparities and identifying potential psychological costs of such involvement. Youth should have a voice in the creation and implementation of programs intended for them. Neighborhoods may impact youth wellbeing through resource availability and a negative social mirror. Developing programs through academic‐youth partnerships can facilitate aligning with youth’s goals. Youth can identify and problem‐solve their neighborhood challenges as civic leaders.
... Thus, societal mattering may affect adolescents' engagement in risk behavior by influencing the extent to which they participate in civic engagement activities. Despite a lack of studies testing this relationship between societal mattering and civic engagement, researchers have found that giving young people an opportunity to participate in decision-making promotes civic involvement (Ballard & Syme, 2016). Additionally, more opportunities for involvement in decision-making is associated with greater perceptions of societal mattering for adolescents (see Chapter 3). ...
Thesis
The Theory of Marginality and Mattering (TMM; Schlossberg, 1989) posits that when individuals feel as though they matter to others and to society, it enables them to engage in prosocial behavior that provides a personally and socially rewarding path through life. It is also expected to help them avoid engaging in risk behaviors (e.g., substance use, non-violent delinquency, aggression) that would threaten a rewarding life. Mattering provides individuals with motivation to behave in certain ways (Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981). In fact, researchers show that youth with higher perceptions of mattering are less likely to engage in risky behavior (Elliot, Cunningham, Colangelor, & Gelles, 2011), however, important gaps in the literature remain. For instance, few researchers have studied mattering among rural youth. Additionally, researchers studying mattering have focused exclusively on interpersonal mattering and have not studied societal mattering. In fact, no well-validated scale for measuring societal mattering among youth currently exists. Also, most researchers have examined mattering as a predictor, but few researchers have studied interpersonal and societal mattering as outcomes. Finally, few researchers have examined the process through which interpersonal and societal mattering influence youth risk behavior. This proposed dissertation seeks to fill these gaps in the literature. The aims of this dissertation are to: 1) develop and test the psychometric properties of a societal mattering scale for rural youth, 2) explore how perceptions of factors at the community, school, peer, and family levels affect rural youths' feelings of interpersonal and societal mattering, and 3) test a mediation model that links interpersonal mattering to youth risk behaviors through self-regulation and societal mattering through civic engagement.
Article
This cross-sectional study aimed to explore the prevalence of personal strengths and their correlates among a sample of Black girls residing in urban settings. Specifically, the study assesses the levels of personal strengths (aspirations) and identifies other personal attributes (social responsibility, self-efficacy, emotional restraint, expectations of goals, and mother’s influence) that would predict the levels of aspirations. The results revealed high levels of aspirations and statically significant correlations between aspirations, expectations, self-efficacy, and mother’s influence. Results also revealed that after controlling for mother’s influence, expectation of goal was the strongest significant predictor of aspirations of Black females.
Article
This study examines whether the longitudinal association between cumulative exposure to lower community attachment and adolescent health differs by gender. Using seven waves of the Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey spanning 2010–2016, this study examines the association between cumulative exposure to lower community attachment and self‐rated health among Korean adolescents. This study estimated fixed‐effects models to account for unobserved confounders at the individual level. Fixed‐effects estimates revealed that cumulative exposure to lower community attachment is associated with a decreased likelihood of reporting excellent health. Starting from the initial exposure, girls’ self‐rated health continued to deteriorate over time. In contrast, boys’ self‐rated health decreased for up to 3 years of persistent exposure, but has since returned to pre‐exposure levels. The association between cumulative exposure to lower levels of community attachment and a decline in self‐rated health is more pronounced among girls than boys. Gender‐specific community‐based interventions during adolescence may be required to promote adolescent health and well‐being. Community attachment (CA) is an important predictor of adolescent self‐rated health (SRH). SRH declines for up to five consecutive years in girls persistently exposed to lower CA. Boys’ SRH begins to return to pre‐exposure levels following three years of decline. To promote the health of adolescents, gender‐specific community‐based interventions are necessary. Community attachment (CA) is an important predictor of adolescent self‐rated health (SRH). SRH declines for up to five consecutive years in girls persistently exposed to lower CA. Boys’ SRH begins to return to pre‐exposure levels following three years of decline. To promote the health of adolescents, gender‐specific community‐based interventions are necessary.
Article
Context: Authentic youth engagement is widely recognized as an efficacious strategy to promote adolescent health. Program: The Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH) Youth Advocacy Fellowship was created to support Wisconsin's Adolescent Health Program. It strives to bring youth voice to the forefront of adolescent health conversations while also providing young people the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to thrive into adulthood. Implementation: The Fellowship hires and trains Wisconsin youth, aged 12 to 21 years, to be a part of community- and state-based adolescent health conversations. Youth meet regularly as a team for ongoing enrichment and are provided opportunities to consult on adolescent-focused projects and initiatives. They are also responsible for independently completing an advocacy learning series, which culminates in an advocacy plan on a topic of personal interest. The Fellowship has been implemented as an extended 9-month program, as well as an expedited 8-week pilot. Evaluation: An evaluation was conducted to compare the 8-week pilot (summer 2018) with 51 youth and the sequential 9-month Fellowship (2018-2019) with 12 youth. Based on the quantitative analysis of 2 programmatic evaluations (posttraining and postprogram), both program models showed success. Yet, there were distinct differences among self-reported youth outcomes as well as depth and extent of engagement. Across all 14 domains, the 9-month cohort demonstrated consistently higher mean scores. Half of the domains (7) showed statistically significant differences. Discussion: When considering youth engagement, it is important for practitioners to determine the goals, needs, capacity, and resources of both youth and the organization. Engaging youth for shorter-term commitments may serve as an important health education strategy, providing youth important knowledge and skills. Yet, engaging youth for extended periods of time may result in more meaningful engagement, fruitful projects, and substantial changes in positive youth development.
Chapter
The attention to recent elections has brought many new voters to the polls, including those from traditionally low-turnout groups. Inequities remain, however. For many Americans, voting continues to be more difficult than it should be. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the influence of big political donors continue to privilege some voices over others. There are many ways that social workers can play a role in creating a fairer and more inclusive system. We can begin by dispelling the myths around what is legally permissible. This chapter summarizes the Hatch Act, which regulates political activity for government employees, as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules that apply to not-for-profit agencies. It also discusses the ethical concerns that keep some social workers from engaging clients in elections. The chapter offers action strategies for social workers as they engage with individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and the policy process, and offers suggestions on how to create a culture of voting.
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Although most individuals pass through adolescence without excessively high levels of "storm and stress," many do experience difficulty. Why? Is there something unique about this developmental period that puts adolescents at risk for difficulty? This article focuses on this question and advances the hypothesis that some of the negative psychological changes associated with adolescent development result from a mismatch between the needs of developing adolescents and the opportunities afforded them by their social environments. It provides examples of how this mismatch develops in the school and in the home and how it is linked to negative age-related changes in early adolescents' motivation and self-perceptions. Ways in which more developmentally appropriate social environments can be created are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This article proposes psychological empowerment as an orientation and targeted outcome for community development efforts. Psychological empowerment has been the focus of many studies in community psychology, where it has been defined as the psychological aspects of processes through which people, organizations, and communities take greater control over their affairs. Psychological empowerment has been found to increase with greater levels of community participation, and to have protective mental health effects. Community and organizational processes that are psychologically empowering are promising as approaches to sustainably promote both subjective well-being and objective changes in local systems. The case is made in this article for more widespread use of empowerment theory, at multiple levels of analysis, in community development processes. Participatory development is viewed as a particularly promising approach for the promotion of psychological empowerment, yet more thorough consideration and assessment of psychological empowerment holds promise for achieving the full potential of participatory approaches.
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The topic of youth civic engagement is increasingly popular in social science research; however, the question of why some youth are civically involved while others are not is not well understood. This article addresses the following questions: What motivations and barriers do youth report for civic involvement? How do motivations and barriers differ across school contexts? A qualitative study using in-depth semi-structured interviews with youth (N = 22) was used to identify four categories of motivations and two categories of barriers for civic involvement. Variation emerged in the motivations and barriers for civic involvement both within and across school contexts. Understanding civic motivations in context uncovers new insights about how to structure opportunities to better facilitate youth civic involvement.
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Participating in civic life is an important developmental task of adolescence and a central tenet of democracy. What motivates diverse youth in the United States to become involved in civic life? Using a mixed-method and person-centered approach, the authors (1) identified subgroups of participants based on their motivations for political and nonpolitical volunteering and (2) explored differences in civic motivations by ethnic and immigration backgrounds among Asian and Latino adolescents. Using latent class analysis, the authors identified four classes of motivation for political (n = 414) and nonpolitical volunteer (n = 1,066) activities: helping identity, instrumental, personal issue, and weak motivation. Overall, first- and second-generation Latino and Asian youth and nonimmigrants showed more similarities than differences in civic motivations. Survey and interview data revealed that youth from immigrant backgrounds were more motivated to volunteer by instrumental reasons compared to nonimmigrants. Qualitative analyses also revealed that immigrant youth from Mexican backgrounds were mobilized around issues of immigration reform whereas youth from Asian backgrounds were concerned with issues in their local communities.
Article
Empowerment research has generally been limited to the individual level of analysis. Efforts to study empowerment beyond the individual require conceptual frameworks suggesting attributes that define the construct and guide its measurement. This paper presents an initial attempt to describe the nomological network of empowerment at the organizational level of analysis—organizational empowerment (OE). Intraorganizational, interorganizational, and extraorganizational components of OE are described. Implications for empowerment theory and practice are discussed.
Article
Social capital is defined as the resources accessed by individuals as a result of their membership of a network or a group. It has been linked to population health outcomes among individuals as well as collective entities (such as neighborhoods, workplaces). Indicators of social capital include the exchange of social support and information within a social network as well as the levels of trust that lubricate such exchanges. At the collective level, social capital is postulated to influence health outcomes through regulation of social behavior (informal social control), and the ability of groups to undertake collective action (collective efficacy). Social capital has the dual potential to promote health as well as to threaten health, for example, via the exclusion of outsiders. The chapter summarizes the theoretical debates over social capital as well as the state of empirical evidence. Particular attention is paid to the role of social capital in disaster resilience and recovery.
Chapter
Contribution to civil society is a key outcome of positive youth development (PYD), as evidenced by findings from the 4-H Study of PYD. In this chapter, we focus on conceptualizations and measurement of contribution within PYD research. We first discuss conceptualizations of contribution as Active and Engaged Citizenship (AEC) and the relations among AEC and other constructs, such as school engagement and risk behaviors, within the 4-H Study sample. We then describe research on contribution among youth of color, including recent research on social justice youth development and critical consciousness. Throughout the chapter, we review strategies that practitioners can use to develop and promote meaningful contributions among diverse young people. Given associations between contribution and positive outcomes among America’s diverse youth, we emphasize that policies and programs should provide more opportunities for youth contributions to society, including community service, social activism, and/or participation in local polities.
Article
Within contemporary developmental science, models derived from relational developmental systems metatheory emphasize that the basic process involved in the ontogeny of civic engagement involves mutually-influential and beneficial relations between the developing individual and his or her complex and changing social, cultural, and physical contexts (represented as individual ← → context relations). The authors suggest that research on the development of civic engagement should be theoretically predicated, use change-sensitive, longitudinal methods, and be comparative across time and place. Using these facets of scholarship as a lens, we discuss the contributions to this special issue. We conclude that the present set of studies provides a useful basis for future research and applications aimed at understanding and promoting individuals’ civic contributions, and their support of social organizations promoting individual thriving and freedom, liberty, and social justice.