Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Stacy L. Frazier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Co-Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dionne Stephens

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Co-Committee Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Joseph Raiker, Jr.

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Isaac Burt

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Afterschool programs, Culture, Context, Adolescence, Caregivers, Future Orientation

Date of Defense



Adolescents of color living in poverty are at elevated risk for mental health problems with limited access to quality care, and 21% of youth in poverty are diagnosed with mental health disorders that, left untreated, lead to significant long-term consequences. Positive future orientation – optimistic expectations for graduation, gainful employment, and healthy relationships – among vulnerable adolescents has been identified as a unique protective factor associated with positive mental health trajectories. Out-of-school-time (OST) programs in neighborhood settings can promote positive future orientation and maximize benefits for adolescents, but we know little about cultural and contextual influences on youth enrollment and engagement. The current study examined the roles of culture and context in fostering positive future orientation among vulnerable adolescents through the examination of the protective role of ethnic-racial identity; and exploration of cultural and contextual factors in family engagement and positive future orientation in an urban OST program. First, utilizing structural equation modeling, we elucidated the protective role of ethnic-racial identity, between the association of lifetime adverse childhood experiences at age 12 and future educational orientation at age 14, among Black, but not White, adolescents at-risk for child maltreatment (n = 558 adolescents; 73% Black, 27% White). Findings underscored the importance of cultivating strong ethnic-racial identity among vulnerable Black adolescents as a positive coping strategy to increase their educational and occupational expectations. Second, using a sequential mixed-methods design, we invited adolescent girls (n = 24) and caregivers (n = 24) in a partnering program to answer survey and focus group questions about program-level culture/context (e.g., cultural respect), family engagement, and family-level culture/context (e.g., ethnic identity). Mediation analyses revealed the importance of cultural content and cultural respect in adolescent engagement and caregiver satisfaction in urban OST programs, and fostering positive future orientation. Qualitative analyses further elucidated themes on culture, context, gender, and mental health/resilience promotion associated with family engagement and satisfaction. Findings provide support for tailoring OST programs to the unique needs of families in urban and high poverty communities. Implications for findings may inform program development and improve the quality and reach of programs for vulnerable adolescent girls and families of color.




Previously Published In

Moses, J. O., Villodas, M. T., & Villodas, F. (2020). Black and proud: The role of ethnic-racial identity in the development of future expectations among at-risk adolescents. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 26(1), 112–123.



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