Investigating positive identity development in a school-based youth development project

Rachel A Ritchie, Florida International University


Adolescence is a pivotal period offering both opportunities and constraints on individual development. It is during this important time that one decides upon and commits to the values, goals, and beliefs which will form one's identity and guide one throughout the lifespan. Positive youth development programs, such as the Miami Youth Development Project's Changing Lives Program, target the formation of a positive sense of identity as a critical intervention point. Through developing a coherent and positive sense of self, adolescents take control of and responsibility for their lives and their decisions. Furthermore, a positive identity has been found to be a developmental asset and is linked to lower risk behaviors and positive outcomes including increased self-esteem, sense of purpose, and a positive view of the future. Positive youth development programs, which promote positive identity development, have been found to be more strongly tied to positive outcomes including skills, values, and competencies than have contextual opportunities. As such, it is critical to determine what leads to positive identity development. The current study used structural equation modeling to evaluate three potential mediators of identity development. Findings indicated good model fit where change in identity commitment and change in identity exploration were mediated by informational identity style, personal expressiveness, and identity distress. There were also significant differences found between the control and intervention groups indicative of intervention effects. The findings of the current study suggest potential areas of intervention as well as the need for further research including longitudinal study and the use of qualitative methodology.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Counseling Psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Ritchie, Rachel A, "Investigating positive identity development in a school-based youth development project" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3483252.