Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Mark D. Weist

Abstract

Youth empowerment is widely defined as youth being actively involved in and influencing their environment in such a way as to foster positive developmental trajectories. Youth empowerment is fostered by such external aspects as positive relationships with adults, having a safe and supportive environment, and being included as meaningful contributors to teams. Given these aspects that enhance empowerment, schools are poised to provide a natural context for fostering youth empowerment. Relatedly, there is a national movement toward more comprehensive school mental health (SMH) programs and services, and building youth empowerment within this field is a logical and needed step, but very few efforts in this vein have occurred. This is likely related to the fact that there are few validated measures of youth empowerment, and none that specifically assess youth empowerment within the school context. The current study aimed to construct a measure of youth empowerment in schools, using a mixed methods approach to survey development. Youth perspectives and existing surveys were used to aid in the development of a universal set of items to measure youth empowerment in schools. A scale of 33 items assessing youth empowerment was administered to a sample of 257 youth. Results indicated that youth empowerment is best captured by four factors – opportunities that use student voice, representation of all student perspectives, opportunities for student-led activities, and teacher support. The scale yielded high internal consistency and demonstrated correlations with an existing measure of school climate, supporting its concurrent validity. Directions for using the newly developed scale to build practice and research avenues are discussed.

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