Abstract: Initial Validation of the Perceived Adultism Scale: An Instrument Designed to Measure Experiences of Age-Based Oppression Among Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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114P Initial Validation of the Perceived Adultism Scale: An Instrument Designed to Measure Experiences of Age-Based Oppression Among Youth

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Seventy Hall, PhD Candidate, PhD Candidate, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
Background and Purpose: Adultism, age-based oppression or discrimination against youth, is hypothesized to be detrimental to youths’ well-being and trust in adults, yet there are few empirical studies of adultism. Researchers may be hindered by the lack of a validated measure of adultism. The current study aims to fill this gap by evaluating the psychometric properties of a new instrument, the Perceived Adultism Scale (PAS).

Method: Participants were 210 youth ages 16 to 21 (M = 18.3) living in Toronto, NYC, or Melbourne. Eligibility criteria included identifying as women or non-binary (66.4% and 33.6%, respectively) and identifying as LGBTQ+ (84.2%) and/or a person of color (68.1%). Eligible participants, recruited online and through flyers posted in youth-oriented locations, completed a brief (≈8 minute) survey as part of a larger mixed method study. Survey measures included: the PAS, a 10-item instrument designed to measure youths’ past-year experiences of adultism on a 5-point Likert scale (0 = never to 4 = once a week or more); 10 single-item questions regarding participant demographics (e.g., age, socioeconomic status); and six items asking participants to rate their social and material resources (e.g., safety at home, stable housing) on a scale of 0 (not at all secure) to 100 (completely secure). Analyses focused on evaluating the PAS’s internal consistency and construct validity. Given that adults hold control over material resources and the spaces that youth inhabit, I hypothesized that security ratings would be inversely related to the PAS and that experiences of adultism would become less frequent with age.

Results: The PAS achieved excellent reliability (α = .91). As hypothesized, the total scale score was negatively correlated with age, r(208) = -.15, p = .022, indicating that PAS scores fell as age increased. PAS scores were also inversely associated with perceived security of finances, r(204) = -.28, p < .001; housing, r(204) = -.21, p < .001; access to services, r(204) = -.25, p < .001; home environment, r(204) = -.31, p < .001; school, r(204) = -.31, p < .001; and work, r(199) = -.25, p < .001. These findings suggest that the more frequently participants experienced adultism, the less secure they felt in these domains.

Conclusions and Implications: Study findings offer initial evidence of the PAS’s reliability and validity and serve as a starting point for ongoing efforts to refine the scale. In particular, generating a more extensive item pool based on qualitative research with youth and administering it to a larger development sample could improve the scale’s quality and enable the use of more complex statistical methods (e.g., factor analysis). While the use of a sample of minoritized youth is a strength in many regards, future studies must test the scale’s performance with other youth populations. A critical next step will explore the contextual and intersectional nuances of adultism to enhance the scale’s utility in program evaluation and applicability to diverse subgroups of youth.