Method: Youth ages 11-25 (mean=16) from 32 programs responded to a survey administered by the program (N=319). Racial backgrounds of the youth include 32% Black or African American, 16% Latinx, 12% Asian, 12% Multiracial, 11% White, 2% Pacific Islander, 2% AIAN. Youth were 52% female, 30% male, and 3% trans, genderfluid or another non-binary gender; All scales and outcomes were youth self report measures. A series of regressions corresponding to the research questions were run in Mplus v8 using type=complex to account for clustering of youth in programs. All analyses account for clustering within programs and control for race, gender, and age.
Results: For RQ1, enabling environment factors of opportunities to explore racial, ethnic and gender identity was significantly associated with racial identity development, ethnic identity exploration, gender identity development, personal goals and responsibility, and interpersonal skills and values (β=.17-.28, p>.005)). Adult support and expectations was significantly linked to all ERGID and SED factors (β=.20-.32, p>.005) and all ERGID and SED constructs were significantly associated with Adult and Peer Relationships (β=.16-.24, p>.001) except for gender identity development. For RQ2, we found that ERGID and SED were not protective against mental health problems, but SED was significantly associated with lower odds of skipping school (OR-.53-.55, p>.001), and higher self-reported grades (β=.27, p>.001).
Conclusions: Program social environments serve an important protective and promotive role for minoritized youth. Measuring program level protective factors is critical to move away from a deficit orientation that contributes to further marginalizing youth.