Utilization of Positive Youth Development Framework by Youth-Facing Organizations in Baltimore City

Selvi Rajagopal, Kaitlyn Harper, Katherine Holzhauer, Tina Kumra


Positive youth development (PYD) is a strengths-based approach to youth programming which has been tested with success in largely higher income settings with mostly White youth. This study aims to identify the extent to which organizations who work in an urban context serving predominately African American youth incorporate PYD principles into their work. Organizations located in Baltimore, Maryland working with youth ages 14–24 were recruited for participation. In-depth interviews were conducted with organization leaders in this qualitative study. Thematic analysis using a deductive approach identified common themes and activities across organizations that aligned with PYD elements. All 17 youth-facing organizations interviewed described organic use of PYD principles through program activities regardless of prior knowledge of the PYD framework. Organizations prioritized activities to create an empowering environment for youth, build on youth assets and agency. The PYD principle of contribution was less explicitly incorporated into program activities, however organization leaders reported behavioral observations of youth exemplifying contribution. This real-world study demonstrates widespread utilization of PYD principles across a range of youth engagement activities in Baltimore. The results of this study provide insight on how organizations working with youth of color may naturally infuse elements of PYD into their programs. Formal training and evaluation support for these organizations may help achieve positive youth outcomes through application of PYD frameworks.


positive youth development; qualitative methods; youth programs; resilience; African Americans

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2022.1225

Copyright (c) 2022 Selvi Rajagopal, Kaitlyn Harper, Katherine Holzhauer, Tina Kumra

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