Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 644–655 | Cite as

Engagement and Mentor Support as Drivers of Social Development in the Project K Youth Development Program

  • Cassandra M. Chapman
  • Kelsey L. Deane
  • Niki Harré
  • Matthew G. R. Courtney
  • Julie Moore
Empirical Research


Youth development programs can achieve positive social outcomes, however studies comparing the influence of different program components are rare. Structural equation modeling of longitudinal, multilevel data (N = 327) from Project K, a multi-component youth development program, assessed how experiences of engagement or support in each component affected social outcomes. Participants reported significant gains in social self-efficacy and sense of community after the program. Engagement in the outdoor adventure and support during the mentoring partnership components significantly contributed to observed social gains, while engagement in the community service component did not. Results confirm youth development programs can positively influence adolescent social development, while highlighting the importance of moving beyond “black box” investigations in order to maximize program impact and efficiency.


Youth development Social development Self-efficacy Program evaluation Adventure programs Mentoring 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Graeme Dingle Foundation and their Community Partners for their part in implementing the evaluation and supporting the research. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Authors’ Contributions

K. D. designed the original study with support from J. M. and under the supervision of N. H., and all authors contributed to aspects of the research design for this article. J. M. coordinated and managed the data collection. M. C. led the statistical analyses and drafted the methods and results with K. D., while C. C., K. D. and N. H. all contributed to the interpretation of results. C. C. took primary responsibility for writing the full article with support from K. D. and N. H. All authors reviewed and approved the final version.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

J. M. is the Research and Evaluation Manager for the Graeme Dingle Foundation, the organization that owns the Project K program. She was involved in the study design and data collection; however, she had no involvement in the data analysis or reporting of the findings. C. C., K. D., N. H. and M. C. declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10964_2017_640_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (518 kb)
Supplementary material


  1. Ahrens, K. R., DuBois, D. L., Garrison, M., Spencer, R., Richardson, L. P., & Lozano, P. (2011). Qualitative exploration of relationships with important non-parental adults in the lives of youth in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 1012–1023. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.01.006.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold, M. E., & Cater, M. (2011). From then to now: Emerging directions for youth program evaluation. Journal of Youth Development, 6, 82–94.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnette, J. (2000). Effects of stem and likert response option reversals on survey internal consistency: If you feel the need, there is a better alternative to using those negatively worded stems. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 60, 361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundmental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 9, 233–255. doi: 10.1207/S15328007SEM0902_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chiessi, M., Cicognani, E., & Sonn, C. (2010). Assessing sense of community on adolescents: Validating the brief scale of sense of community in adolescents (SOC-A). Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 276–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chipuer, H. M., Pretty, G. H., Delorey, E., Miller, M., Powers, T., & Rumstein, O., et al. (1999). The neighbourhood youth inventory: Development and validation. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 9, 355–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cicognani, E., Mazzoni, D., Albanesi, C., & Zani, B. (2015). Sense of community and empowerment among young people: Understanding pathways from civic participation to social well-being. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26, 24–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.155.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Conner, J., & Pope, D. (2013). Not just robo-students: Why full engagement matters and how schools can promote it. A Multidisciplinary Research Publication, 42, 1426–1442. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-9948-y.Google Scholar
  12. Corrigan, A. (2002). Social Competence Scale – Parent Version [Fast Track Project Technical Report]. Retrieved from
  13. Deane, K. L., & Harré, N. (2014a). Program theory-driven evaluation science in a youth development context. Evaluation and Program Planning, 45, 61–70. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2014.03.009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Deane, K. L., & Harré, N. (2014b). The youth adventure programming model. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24, 293–308. doi: 10.1111/jora.12069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deane, K.L., Harré, N., Moore, J., & Courtney, M.G.R. (2016). The impact of the project K youth development program on self-efficacy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1-22.  10.1007/s10964-016-0463-9
  16. DuBois, D. L., Portillo, N., Rhodes, J. E., Silverthorn, N., & Valentine, J. C. (2011). How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12, 57–91. doi: 10.1177/1529100611414806.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Durlak, J., Weissberg, R., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294–309. doi: 10.1007/s10464-010-9300-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Evans, S. D. (2007). Youth sense of community: Voice and power in community contexts. Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 693–709. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fan, X., & Sivo, S. (2007). Sensitivity of fit indices to model misspecification and model types. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 509–529. doi: 10.1080/00273170701382864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Hattie, J., Marsh, H. W., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1997). Adventure education and outward bound: Out-of-class experiences that make a lasting difference. Review of Educational Research, 67, 43–87. doi: 10.3102/00346543067001043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heinze, H. J., Jozefowicz, D. M. H., & Toro, P. A. (2010). Taking the youth perspective: Assessment of program characteristics that promote positive development in homeless and at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1365–1372. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.06.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hollis, H., Deane, K. L., Moore, J., & Harré, N. (2011). Young maori perceptions of a youth development programme. Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 6, 50–61.Google Scholar
  24. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55. doi: 10.1080/10705519909540118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krauss, S., Collura, J., Zeldin, S., Ortega, A., Abdullah, H., & Sulaiman, A. (2014). Youth–adult partnership: Exploring contributions to empowerment, agency and community connections in Malaysian youth programs. A Multidisciplinary Research Publication, 43, 1550–1562. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-0027-1.Google Scholar
  26. Lakey, B., & Sheldon, C. (2000). Social support theory and measurement. In S. Cohen, B. H. Gottlieb, & L. G. Underwood (Eds.), Social support measurement and intervention: A guide for health and social scientists (pp. 29–52). Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lekes, N., Gingras, I., Philippe, F. L., Koestner, R., & Fang, J. (2010). Parental autonomy-support, intrinsic life goals, and well-being among adolescents in China and North America. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 858–869.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Li, Y., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Trajectories of school engagement during adolescence: Implications for grades, depression, delinquency, and substance use. Developmental Psychology, 47, 233–247. doi: 10.1037/a0021307.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Low, S., Ryzin, M., Brown, E., Smith, B., & Haggerty, K. (2014). Engagement matters: Lessons from assessing classroom implementation of steps to respect: A bullying prevention program over a one-year period. Prevention Science, 15, 165–176. doi: 10.1007/s11121-012-0359-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Mahoney, J. L., Parente, M. E., & Lord, H. (2007). After-school program engagement: Links to child competence and program quality and content. Elementary School Journal, 107, 385–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mayberry, M., Espelage, D., & Koenig, B. (2009). Multilevel modeling of direct effects and interactions of peers, parents, school, and community influences on adolescent substance use. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1038–1049. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9425-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Maydeu-Olivares, A., & DiStefano, C. (2016). Maximum likelihood estimation of structural equation models for continuous data: Standard errors and goodness of fit. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  33. McArdle, J. J. (2007). Factor analysis of longitudinal data. In R. Cudeck, & R. MacCallum (Eds.), Factor analysis at 100: Historical developments and future directions (pp. 99–130). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. McKenzie, M. (2000). How are adventure education program outcomes achieved?: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 5, 19–27.Google Scholar
  35. McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 6–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore, J. (2005). Self-efficacy and health behaviours: A test of measures to assess the effectiveness of a positive youth development program. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis), University of Auckland, Auckland.Google Scholar
  37. Muthén, B. O. (2014). Means for latent variables [Online forum comment, September 4]. Retrieved from
  38. Muthén, B. O., & Muthén, L. K. (2016). Mplus 7 Base Program. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  39. Nilsen, W., Karevold, E., Roysamb, E., Gustavson, K., & Mathiesen, K. S. (2013). Social skills and depressive symptoms across adolescence: Social support as a mediator in girls versus boys. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 11–20. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.08.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Peterson, N. A., Speer, P. W., & McMillan, D. W. (2008). Validation of a brief sense of community scale: Confirmation of the principal theory of sense of community. Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 61–73. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pressman, S. D., Cohen, S., Miller, G. E., Barkin, A., Rabin, B. S., & Treanor, J. J. (2005). Loneliness, social network size, and immune response to influenza vaccination in college freshmen. Health Psychology, 24, 297–306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Ramey, H. L., Busseri, M. A., Khanna, N., & Rose-Krasnor, L. (2010). Youth engagement and suicide risk: Testing a mediated model in a Canadian community sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 243–258. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9476-y.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rhodes, J. E., & Lowe, S. R. (2009). Mentoring in adolesence. In R. M. Lerner, & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Vol. 2.Google Scholar
  44. Roth, J. L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). What exactly is a youth development program? Answers from research and practice. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 94–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roth, J. L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2016). Evaluating youth development programs: Progress and promise. Applied Developmental Science, 20, 188–202. doi: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1113879.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Ruzek, E. A., Hafen, C. A., Allen, J. P., Gregory, A., Mikami, A. Y., & Pianta, R. C. (2016). How teacher emotional support motivates students: The mediating roles of perceived peer relatedness, autonomy support, and competence. Learning and Instruction, 42, 95–103. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.01.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Schwartz, S., Rhodes, J. E., Spencer, R., & Grossman, J. (2013). Youth initiated mentoring: Investigating a new approach to working with vulnerable adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52, 155–169. doi: 10.1007/s10464-013-9585-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. SDT. (2016). Intrinsic motivation inventory (IMI). Retrieved from
  50. Shernoff, D. J. (2010). Engagement in after-school programs as a predictor of social competence and academic performance. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 325–337. doi: 10.1007/s10464-010-9314-0.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Thompson, M. S., & Green, S. B. (2006). Evaluating between-group differences in latent variable means. In G. R. Hancock, & R. O. Mueller (Eds.), A second course in structural equation modeling (pp. 119–169). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  52. Thurber, C. A., Scanlin, M. M., Scheuler, L., & Henderson, K. A. (2007). Youth development outcomes of the camp experience: Evidence for multidimensional growth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 241–254. doi: 10.1007/s10964-006-9142-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Urban, J. B. (2008). Components and characteristics of youth development programs: The voices of youth-serving policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 12, 128–139. doi: 10.1080/10888690802199400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Voorhees, C. M., Brady, M. K., Calantone, R., & Ramirez, E. (2016). Discriminant validity testing in marketing: An analysis, causes for concern, and proposed remedies. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44, 119–134. doi: 10.1007/s11747-015-0455-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang, M.-T., & Eccles, J. S. (2012). Social support matters: Longitudinal effects of social support on three dimensions of school engagement from middle to high school. Child Development, 83, 877–895. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01745.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang, C. K. J., Liu, W.-C., & Kahlid, A. (2006). Effects of a five-day outward bound course on female students in Singapore. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 10, 20–28.Google Scholar
  57. Warren, J.K. (2005). Adolescent well-being: Effects of time and intervention. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), University of Auckland, Auckland.Google Scholar
  58. Weiss, C. H. (2000). Which links in which theories shall we evaluate?. New Directions for Evaluation, 87, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whittington, A., & Mack, E. (2010). Inspiring courage in girls: An evaluation of practices and outcomes. The Journal of Experiential Education, 33, 166–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wills, T. A., & Shinar, O. (2000). Measuring perceived and received social support. In S. Cohen, B. H. Gottlieb, & L. G. Underwood (Eds.). Social support measurement and intervention : A guide for health and social scientists (pp. 86–135). Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wills, T. A., Vaccaro, D., & McNamara, G. (1992). The role of life events, family support, and competence in adolescent substance use: A test of vulnerability and protective factors. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20, 349–374. doi: 10.1007/BF00937914.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Zeldin, S., Krauss, S., Collura, J., Lucchesi, M., & Sulaiman, A. (2014). Conceptualizing and measuring youth–adult partnership in community programs: A cross national study. American Journal of Community Psychology, 54, 337–347. doi: 10.1007/s10464-014-9676-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Education and Social WorkThe University of AucklandAuckland 1150New Zealand
  3. 3.School of PsychologyThe University of AucklandAuckland 1142New Zealand
  4. 4.Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Graeme Dingle FoundationNorth Shore 0757New Zealand

Personalised recommendations