Date of Award

8-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc, PhD

Second Advisor

Lisa Armistead, PhD

Third Advisor

Christopher Henrich, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Laura McKee, PhD

Abstract

Many youth development programs (YDPs) aim to help young people improve their social competence, defined as the ability to navigate social situations effectively. Researchers have documented that the quality of YDPs is associated with youth outcomes, including social competence. There are multiple aspects of program quality (e.g., fun, sense of belonging). Most previous research has utilized a variable-centered approach to explore how individual components of program quality are associated with young people’s social competence. However, program participants do not experience individual aspects of program quality in isolation. The current study used person-centered analyses to account for young people’s experiences of multiple components of program quality. Using national data from 166,640 participants of Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), this study identified profiles of program participants based on their perceptions of seven indicators of program quality (i.e., fun, sense of belonging, adult caring relationships, physical safety, emotional safety, staff expectations, staff recognition). Youth (9-12 years old) and teens (13-18 years old) were classified into five profiles. Four of the profiles included consistent ratings for all indicators of program quality: Above Average, Below Average, Very Below Average, and Negative. Approximately 70% of youth and teens were classified into the Above Average profile. The fifth profile was small (fewer than 2% of participants) and included above average ratings for all indicators except Belonging and Emotional Safety. Young people in the Above Average and Low Belonging and Emotional Safety profiles reported higher levels of each social competence outcome variable (i.e., Teamwork, Leadership, Conflict Resolution, Concern for Others) than young people in the three other profiles. When comparing levels of social competence in 2018 controlling for baseline levels in 2017, young people in the Above Average profile and the Low Belonging and Emotional Safety profile reported higher social competence than young people in the other profiles for 21 of the 48 comparisons after Bonferroni correction. Given that program quality is associated with social competence, it is important for YDPs to prioritize improving quality, especially for young people who have low perceptions of program quality and who experience difficulties in social interaction.

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