Abstract: A Mixed Methods Examination of Sport-Based Positive Youth Development for African American Adolescent Girls (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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584P A Mixed Methods Examination of Sport-Based Positive Youth Development for African American Adolescent Girls

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Carlyn Kimiecik, MSW, Doctoral Student, Purdue University
Samantha Bates, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University, TX
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, PhD, Professor, Ohio State University, OH
Purpose/Background: Positive youth development (PYD) focuses on the inherent strengths and assets of young people (Larson, 2006). One vulnerable population in need of holistic developmental supports is underserved African American adolescent (AAA) girls, defined as those aged 13 to 15 living in low-income communities (Yancey et al., 2006). Underserved AAA girls disproportionately experience risk factors that intersect on the basis of their race, gender, and socioeconomic status. These risks influence their access and retention in sport, rates of obesity, engagement in physical activity, and psychological well-being (Barr-Anderson et al., 2013). Sport-based PYD programs have the potential to influence social change by addressing risks and build protective factors for undeserved AAA girls.

Methods: We sought to examine whether, and to what extent, sport-based PYD can be leveraged to support underserved AAA girls. We developed three aims: (1) examine undeserved AAA girls’ experiences and their perceived health and well-being outcomes (physical, social, psychological, and spiritual) using qualitative and quantitative methods;(2) explore what underserved AAA girls perceived to be the program mechanisms and design components that influence their experiences and outcomes; (3) develop a theory of change (ToC) of sport-based PYD for underserved AAA girls. A total of nine qualitative interviews were conducted with AAA girls aged 13 to 15 following their participation in the sport-based PYD summer camp. We examined these interviews using thematic content analysis and data coding methods. In addition, we used paired samples t-tests to analyze pre- and post-camp survey data from 33 underserved AAA girls on three scales: Healthy Lifestyle (LiFEsports, 2017), Social Competence (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2016), and Social Sport Experience (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2008).

Results: Participants discussed several underlying mechanisms and design components linked to participation in the sport-based PYD program. Three themes emerged: (1) mechanisms that influenced the girls’ participation and engagement in the sport-based PYD program; (2) program design components that facilitated positive outcomes; and, (3) facilitating/inhibiting factors that girls reported influenced their experiences at the sport-based PYD summer camp. Girls also reported perceptions of positive changes in their health, physical activity levels, and future participation in sports; and, improved psychological (e.g., confidence), social (i.e., social skills), and spiritual (e.g., hope) health outcomes. Results from pre- and post-camp survey data indicated significant (p <.10) improvements on measures of Healthy Lifestyle and Social Competence. Mean comparisons of scores on the Social Sport Experience Scale were non-significant. We then synthesized the results into an emergent ToC model that integrate mechanisms, design, and outcomes.

Conclusion/Implications: Sport-based PYD programs may positively influence a broad spectrum of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health and well-being for underserved AAA girls. Moreover, sport-based PYD programs also may be intentional interventions in schools and communities for adolescents in underserved schools and communities that aim to mitigate environmental risks and build protective factors. Our ToC could serve as a guide for how sport-based PYD programs can be leveraged to influence social change via improving girls’ overall health and well-being.