Joining Hands: Constructing Childhood Agency in the Context of Ageism

Publication Year:
2017
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Downloads 31
Abstract Views 13
Repository URL:
https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/204
Author(s):
Churchill, Brittnay
Tags:
Psychology
thesis / dissertation description
Childhood scholars argue that children’s perspectives are systematically underestimated and silenced (James & James, 2004). Sociocultural constructions of children as fragile beings in need of protection cause youth to have few opportunities to exercise their own agency. In Change 4 Good, a youth Participatory Action Research (yPAR) program, dominant narratives regarding the capabilities of young people were challenged. The purpose of the program was to create an empowering setting where youth and adults partnered to make change, as opposed to hierarchical mentorships. The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze relationships between adults and young people within this program. These intergenerational relationships were assessed using observational field notes from the Change 4 Good program, as well as one-on-one semi-structured interviews with seven youth participants and eight adult facilitators. Deductive and inductive line-by-line coding were used to identify patterns of thoughts, interactions, and behaviors in participants. Emerging themes constructed from the data included adults’ views of young people, youths’ perceptions of those views, and power sharing relationships as a context for challenging traditional views of children. This study contributes to social and community psychology literature by elucidating abilities and potential for young people to act as agents of change. Findings from this project may have implications for applied child development settings, including classrooms, and youth development programs. With greater recognition of how adults’ views impact youth development, teachers and parents will ideally grow more comfortable allowing young people space to grow as change-agents.