Understanding and Assessing Construct Validity of the Social Provisions Scale: Implications for Youth Development


  • Sarah Osmane Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education; The Pennsylvania State University
  • Mark Brennan Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education; The Pennsylvania State University
  • Patrick Dolan Department of Political Science and Sociology; National University of Ireland, Galway




social support, youth, confirmatory factor analysis, youth development


Confirmatory factor analysis using structural equation modeling was used to measure the construct validity of the increasingly utilized social provisions scale. This scale was used to measure social support sources and types among a sample of 421 youth from 4 Pennsylvania schools. The youth were surveyed to determine their levels of social support and the relationship of social support to community and youth development capacities. Research findings indicated an acceptable model fit indices for the sources of the social support model. A lower fit for the types of social support was found. Overall, the analysis further verified the reliability and validity of the social provisions scale. With this information, youth practitioners can better measure and assess social support and use the social provisions scale to tailor youth development programs to individual and group needs.

Author Biographies

Sarah Osmane, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education; The Pennsylvania State University

Sarah Osmane is a recent PhD graduate from the Pennsylvania state University in Agricultural and Extension Education and International Agriculture and Development (Dual Title). Dr. Sarah was a UNESCO Chair research fellow and a graduate assistant at the Pennsylvania State University. Her research focus was on youth leadership and community development. Her dissertation study is entitled “Community Leadership Development: Youth Leadership Development in High Schools with Agriculture Programs in Pennsylvania”.

 Dr. Sarah also holds a Bachelors and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Sciences from the Lebanese University. She was involved in teaching, research and writing related to consumer sciences, youth leadership and community development. Additionally, Dr Sarah was involved in several research projects in the United States, Lebanon, and Italy. Currently Dr. Sarah works in the humanitarian sector in the monitoring and evaluation department at the Norwegian Refugee Council in Lebanon and is a Part-Time lecturer at the American University of Beirut.

Mark Brennan, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education; The Pennsylvania State University

Mark Brennan, Ph.D. is the UNESCO Chair for Community, Leadership, and Youth Development and Professor of Leadership and Community Development at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Brennan’s teaching, research, writing, and program development concentrate on the role of civic engagement, natural resource management, community, and leadership development in the youth, community, and rural development process. His work has also increasingly focused on the role of youth as active contributors to peace building, social justice, and functioning societies.

Dr. Brennan has over 25 years of experience in designing, conducting, and analysing social science research related to community and youth development. This work has involved extensive comparative research throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America. He is co-founder of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Children, Youth, and Community.

Dr. Brennan’s research and program development has been funded by a variety of governments, foundations, and private sources and resulting in over 150 publications in leading peer-reviewed journals, books, and outreach publications, and nearly 200 invitations to presentations at professional meetings, government agencies, and international organizations. All research outputs have been translated into teaching and outreach curriculum to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to a wider international audience.  Included are over twenty outreach curriculum designed for communities and youth to use in fostering community capacity building, local collective capacity enhancement, and peaceful social settings throughout the UN system.  His recent books include Theory, Practice, and Community Development (2013) and Community Leadership Development:  A Compendium of Theory, Research, and Application (2013).

Patrick Dolan, Department of Political Science and Sociology; National University of Ireland, Galway

Prof. Dolan is joint founder and Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre and an Academic Director of the M.A. in Family Support Studies. He also contributes to the wider undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes of the School of Political Science and Sociology as well as supervising Ph.D. candidates and Masters Dissertations in Family Support, Social Work and Community Development.

Professor Pat Dolan holds the prestigious UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, the first to be awarded in the Republic of Ireland. The UNESCO Chair delivers a comprehensive programme of work towards the objective of promoting civic engagement and leadership skills among children and youth. The programme is built around core strands of research, teaching, policy and good practice and is underpinned by a range of national and international collaborations.

Prof. Dolan has worked with and for families as a practitioner, service manager, and academic for over 20 years. He has completed an extensive body of research on family issues including longitudinal research on adolescents, their perceived mental health, resilience and social support networks and has published in a wide range of academic publications. His major research interests are Civic Engagement in Children and Youth, Family Support, Reflective Practice and Service Development, Youth Mentoring Models, Adolescents Resilience and Social Networks. Prof. Dolan has also an extensive policy experience and was recently a member of a Government Task Force advising on the necessary transition programme for the new Child and Family Support Agency.


Awang, Z. (2012). A handbook on structural equation modeling using AMOS. Universiti Technologi MARA Press.

Barrera, M. (1986). Distinctions between social support concepts, measures, and models. American journal of community psychology, 14(4), 413-445.

Brennan, M. (2008). Conceptualizing resiliency: An interactional perspective for community and youth development. Child Care in Practice, 14(1), 55-64. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575270701733732

Brennan, M., Barnett, R., & Baugh, E. (2007, August). Youth involvement in community development: Implications and possibilities for extension. Journal of Extension, 45(4). https://archives.joe.org/joe/2007august/a3.php

Brennan, M., Barnett, R., & McGrath, B. (2009). The intersection of youth and community development in Ireland and Florida: Building stronger communities through youth civic engagement. Community Development, 10, 331–345.

Brown, T. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. Guilford.

Brown, T. A. (2015). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. Guilford publications.

Butterbaugh, K. (2014). Factors shaping youth civic engagement of rural Ireland and Pennsylvania [Master’s thesis, The Pennsylvania State University]. https://agsci.psu.edu/unesco/initiatives/community-development-and-capacity-building-in-rural-ireland/final-report-factors-shaping-youth-civic-engagement-of-rural-ireland-and-pennsylvania

Cappelli, P. (2012). A cautionary view of construct validity. Human Resource Management Review, 22(2), 149-151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2011.11.009

Cassel, J. (1976). The contribution of the social environment to host resistance. American journal of epidemiology, 104(2), 107-123.

Cobb, S. (1976). Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic medicine, 38(5), 300-314.

Cohen, S., & McKay, G. (1984). Social support, stress and the buffering hypothesis: A theoretical analysis. Handbook of psychology and health, 4, 253-267.

Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological bulletin, 98(2), 310.

Cutrona, C. E. (1989). Ratings of social support by adolescents and adult informants: Degree of correspondence and prediction of depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 723–730.

Cutrona, C. E., & Russell, D. (1987). The provisions of social relationships and adaptation to stress. In W. H. Jones & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships, (Vol. 1, pp. 37–67). JAI Press.

Dolan, P. (2006). Assessment, intervention and self-appraisal tools for family support. In P. Dolan, J. Canavan & J. Pinkerton (Eds.), Family support as reflective practice, (pp. 196–213). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dolan, P. (2008) Social Support, Social Justice, and Social Capital: A Tentative Theoretical Triad for Community Development, Community Development, 39:1, 112-119. https://doi.org/10.1080/15575330809489745

Dolan, P., & McGrath, B. (2006). Enhancing support for young people in need: Reflections on informal and formal sources of help. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Fernandez, A., Loukas, A., Golaszewski, N. M., Batanova, M., & Pasch, K. E. (2017). Relational victimization and maladjustment among Hispanic early adolescents: Moderating effects of social support. Youth & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X17737796

Field, A. (2005). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS (2nd ed.). Sage.

Foróige. (2013). Leadership: Foróige’s Leadership for Life programme evaluation report. UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre; National University of Ireland, Galway. https://www.foroige.ie/sites/default/files/leadership_evaluation_report_0.pdf

Gardner, A. A., & Webb, H. J. (2017). A contextual examination of the associations between social support, self-esteem, and psychological well-being among Jamaican adolescents. Youth & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X17707450

Garson, G. D. (2012). Testing statistical assumptions. Statistical Associates Publishing. http://www.statisticalassociates.com/assumptions.pdf

Garver, M. S., & Mentzer, J. T. (1999). Logistics research methods: Employing structural equation modeling to test for construct validity. Journal of Business Logistics, 20(1), 33.

Gottlieb, B. H. (1985). Social support and the study of personal relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2(3), 351-375.

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360-1380.

Groves, R., Fowler, H., Floyd, J., Couper, M., Lepkowski, J., Singer, E., Tourangeau, R. (2009). Survey Methodology (Second Edition). Wiley.

Hoe, S. L. (2008). Issues and Procedures in Adopting Structural Equation Modeling Technique. Journal of Applied Quantitative Methods, 3, 76-83

House, J. S., Umberson, D., & Landis, K. R. (1988). Structures and processes of social support. Annual Review of Sociology,14(1), 293-318.

Hu, L.-T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1-55.

Jackson, D. L., Gillaspy, J. A., Jr., & Purc-Stephenson, R. (2009). Reporting practices in confirmatory factor analysis: An overview and some recommendations. Psychological Methods, 14(1), 6-23. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014694

Jain, S., Cohen, A. K., Kawashima-Ginsberg, K., Duarte, C. D. P., & Pope, A. (2019). Civic engagement among youth exposed to community violence: Directions for research and practice. Journal of Youth Development, 14(1), 24-4.‏ https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2019.596

Kahn, L., Hewes, S., & Ali, R. (2009). Taking the lead: Youth leadership in theory and practice. The Young Foundation. http://www.youngfoundation.org/files/images/takingthelead.pdf

Kernan, J., & Morilus-Black, M. (2010). Social supports for youth and families. Community Mental Health Journal, 46, 258-264. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-009-9266-8

Lakey, B., & Cohen, S. (2000). Social support theory and measurement. In S. Cohen, L. Underwood, & B. Gottlieb (Eds.), Measuring and intervening in social support. Oxford University Press.

Langley, C. A., Powell, G. M., Liechty, T., Haller, W., & Anderson, D. (2019). Leisure experiences and social support systems of Latino students with DACA status. Journal of Youth Development, 14(2), 79-98. ‏https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2019.704

Leme, V. B. R., Del Prette, Z. A. P., & Coimbra, S. (2015). Social skills, social support and well-being in adolescents of different family configurations. Paidéia (Ribeirão Preto), 25(60), 9-17. https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-43272560201503

Lopez, M. L., & Cooper, L. (2011). Social support measures review. National Center for Latino Child & Family Research. https://www.first5la.org/files/SSMS_LopezCooper_LiteratureReviewandTable_02212011.pdf

MacCallum, R. C., Browne, M. W., & Sugawara, H. M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological Methods, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.1.2.130

McGrath, B., Brennan, M. A., Dolan, P., & Barnett, R. (2009). Adolescent wellbeing and supporting contexts: A comparison of adolescents in Ireland and Florida. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(4). https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.998

McGrath, B., Brennan, M. A., Dolan, P., & Barnett, R. (2014). Adolescents and their networks of social support: Real connections in real lives? Child & Family Social Work, 19(2), 237-248. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2206.2012.00899.x

Monte Verde, P., Watkins, M., Enriquez, D., Nater, S., & Harris, J. C. (2019). Community youth development service-learning: trauma-informed and culturally responsive. Journal of Youth Development, 14(2). ‏ https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2019.714

Oluwatomiwo, O. E. (2015). Development and Validation of Social Provision Scale on First Year Undergraduate Psychological Adjustment. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(28), 78-90. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1081217.pdf

Osmane, S., & Brennan, M. (2018). Predictors of leadership skills of Pennsylvanian youth. Community Development, 49(3), 341-357. https://doi.org/10.1080/15575330.2018.1462219

Pinkerton, J., & Dolan, P. (2007). Family support, social capital, resilience and adolescent coping. Child & Family Social Work, 12(3), 219-228. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2206.2007.00497.x

Redmond, S. (2012, December). An explorative study on the connection between leadership skills, resilience, and social support among youth [Doctoral dissertation, National University of Ireland, Galway]. https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/3552

Redmond, S., & Dolan, P. (2014). Towards a conceptual model of youth leadership development: Youth leadership development conceptual model. Child & Family Social Work. 21(3): 261–271. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12146

Rodriguez L., Dolan, P., & Brady, B. (2018). Exploring the impact of mentoring relationships in adolescent empathy: A mixed methods approach. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway.

Russell, D. W. (2002). In search of underlying dimensions: The use (and abuse) of factor analysis in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1629-1646. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F014616702237645

Russell, D., & Cutrona, C. E. (1991). Social support, stress, and depressive symptoms among the elderly: A test of a process model. Psychology and Aging, 6, 190–201.

Schwarzer, R., Knoll, N., & Rieckmann, N. (2004). Social support. In A. Kaptein & J. Weinman (Eds.), Health psychology (pp. 158–182). Blackwell.

Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Müller, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research, 8(2), 23–74.

Simoni, Z. R., & Bauldry, S. (2018). Moving during adolescence and depressive symptoms: The role of social support. Youth & Society (52)4, 639-660. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0044118X18757149

Smyth, B., Shannon, M., & Dolan, P. (2015). Transcending borders: Social support and resilience, the case of separated children. Transnational Social Review, 5(3), 274-295. https://doi.org/10.1080/21931674.2015.1074430

Spector, P. A. (1992). Summated rating scale construction: An introduction. Sage.

Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2014). Using multivariate statistics New international edition (6th ed.). Pearson Education.

Tavakol, M., & Dennick, R. (2011). Making sense of Cronbach's alpha. International journal of medical education, 2, 53.

Uchino, B. N. (2006). Social support and health: a review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of behavioral medicine, 29(4), 377-387.

Ursachi, G., Horodnic, I. A., & Zait, A. (2015). How reliable are measurement scales? External factors with indirect influence on reliability estimators. Procedia Economics and Finance, 20, 679-686.

Wang, J. L., Hsieh, H. F., Assari, S., Gaskin, J., & Rost, D. H. (2018). The protective effects of social support and engagement coping strategy on the relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological distress among Chinese migrant children. Youth & Society, 50(5), 593-614. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0044118X15619804

Zimet, G., Dahlem, N., Zimet, S., & Farley, G. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52 (1), 30-41.






Research & Evaluation Studies