Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Colette Daiute

Committee Members

Colette Daiute

David Rindskopf

Mary Clare Lennon

Janet Sigal

Judith Diers

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


Education; youth participation; Young Lives; positive youth development


In a global 21st century, positive social, cultural, emotional youth development is crucial. Theories of human development suggest that development is complex, contextual, and multidimensional. Thus, with changing conditions worldwide, it is important to understand the effects of young people’s activities in challenging circumstances and how different factors promote or hinder optimal development. Research shows that education provides positive benefits to child and youth development (Phillips & Lowenstein, 2011), but many individuals do not have equal access to resources and opportunities such as public or private schooling (Woodhead, Frost, & James, 2013), and thus show poorer outcomes on cognitive tests, socio-emotional development, and self-esteem measures (Adams, 2011). Because not all youth have equal access to education, the purpose of this dissertation was to explore whether participation in social programs and/or work may provide at least some of the cognitive and other benefits offered by schooling. There were three primary aims of this dissertation: (1) to review three forms of youth participation (i.e., school, work, social programs); (2) to display any similarities or differences in participation by countries sampled in the Young Lives study (i.e., Ethiopia, India, Peru, Vietnam) (Barnett et al., 2012); (3) to understand the relationship between youth participation (i.e., school, work, social programs) and cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills. Using a large, longitudinal data set from Young Lives project (Barnett et al., 2012), several research questions were addressed through secondary data analysis. Specifically, the third wave of data collected from all four countries involved (Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam) in the Young Lives (YL) was used. Hierarchical Linear Modeling was performed to examine whether participation in education, work, and/or youth programs had an impact on the development of cognitive (PPVT score, CLOZE score, Math score) and non-cognitive skills (i.e., Self-efficacy score, and Educational Aspirations, measured by asking the youth how far he/she hopes to get in educational terms). Findings from those statistical analyses indicate that there is a positive relationship between youth participation (i.e., education, social programs,) and cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Additionally, among youth in India, paid work had a positive impact on the self-efficacy score but was negatively associated with educational aspirations. Furthermore, youth in India who performed unpaid work scored lower on all cognitive measures. In Vietnam and India, there was a negative relationship found between unpaid work and self-efficacy score, such that those that performed unpaid work scored lower on the self-efficacy measure. Studying the lives of young people in settings that differ in resources and opportunities is important in gaining insight not only for specific adolescents but also for designing future interventions that promote positive youth development. Finally, how we define learning and under what conditions learning occurs needs to be reconsidered given the positive impact that participation in social programs had on cognitive and non-cognitive skills in the Young Lives sample.

Keywords: Education; youth participation; Young Lives; positive youth development