Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Yolanda Anyon, Ph.D.


Adolescents, Adultism, Intergroup contact, Youth participatory action research


Background: The systematic subordination of young people who have little access to goods, resources, and power to make decisions is called adultism (Dejong & Love, 2015). Adultism has three components: attitudinal, institutional, and internalized. Attitudinal adultism, which is the focus of this dissertation, relates to adult's negative attitudes and beliefs regarding young people. Adultism intersects with other forms of oppression in after-school programs and likely impacts outcomes. Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is an orientation to knowledge production in which youth are positioned as experts in their own lives and work collectively with adults to identify an issue, collect data, and produce a product intended to transform systems. While it has been argued that YPAR can contest adultism, this has not been studied.

Methods: Based upon ethnographic data collected at four after-school program sites and analyzed through critical discourse analysis, this dissertation describes the practices and interactions of adults who facilitated YPAR with middle school youth that either strengthened or constrained intergroup contact, a four-part theory associated with prejudice reduction. Using interview data, the adult facilitator of each YPAR group was rated on a continuum of attitudinal adultism, from low to high. Patterns of overlap between attitudinal adultism and intergroup contact were investigated.

Results: When adults let youth lead, engaged in dialogue, facilitated with intention, celebrated accomplishments, and engaged in work jointly with youth, they enabled power-sharing, cooperation, and communicated shared goals. When adults policed youth, lectured, did not describe things well, separated themselves from youth, and made negative comments, the conditions of intergroup contact were constrained. When organizational leadership helped youth with their project and celebrated youth's accomplishments, this led to a site culture that enabled positive intergroup contact; engaging in punitive discipline constrained contact and contributed to a negative site culture. There were patterns of overlap between attitudinal adultism and practices that facilitators engaged in with young people.

Conclusion: Adults who engage in YPAR can intentionally integrate the practices that enable power-sharing, shared goals, and cooperation. This dissertation study adds a nuanced understanding to the role of adults in enabling or constraining intergroup contact within YPAR.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Heather K Kennedy

File size

253 p.

File format





Social work

Included in

Social Work Commons