The Promise of Autonomy Supportive Contexts to Promote Youth Participatory Competence


  • Margaret Cargo Douglas Hospital Research Centre-McGill University
  • Tatiana Nedecheva Douglas Hospital Research Centre-McGill University
  • Nguyet Nguyen Health and Social Services Agency
  • Michel De La Durantaye University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres



A municipal youth citizenship initiative was implemented with the aim of providing adolescents with autonomy supportive contexts to plan and implement activities that were meaningful to youth and contributed to the collective good. The study purpose was to assess whether autonomy support, operationalized as instrumental practitioner support, influenced youth perceptions of participatory group competence beyond individual level factors. Youth participated in groups of 8 to 20 peers with practitioners facilitating youth participation in collective decision-making, planning and activity implementation. Cross-sectional surveys were completed by 79 of 113 eligible youth participants actively involved in the citizenship initiative implemented during the 2003-04 school year. Practitioner support was significantly related to participatory group competence, beyond perceived self-efficacy and age. Study findings suggest that there may be some merit to the implementation of youth citizenship initiatives that create autonomy supportive contexts and allow youth the opportunity to develop their participatory competence. Experiences such as this may allow young people to flourish as individuals and citizens and thus realize their full potential.






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