What do we mean by good outcomes for youth? : an exploration of how young people and those who work with them in positive youth development contexts perceive outcomes : a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, School of Social Work at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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This qualitative exploratory study sought to understand how outcomes, defined as gains made by young people, were perceived by youth and staff in a range of local positive youth development (PYD) settings, and whether or not the Five Cs model aligned and could function as an outcomes framework. The Five Cs include: Confidence, Competence, Connection, Caring, and Character, and are seen to lead to a sixth C of Contribution. Exploration included understanding how outcomes were defined, understood, experienced, operationalised, and prioritised in PYD settings; the similarities and differences in outcome perception; whether or not there was enough similarity to form an outcomes framework; and, if so, whether the resulting framework could align with the Five Cs model. Interviews and focus groups with 110 youth and 17 staff participants in 14 PYD programmes across Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) informed the study aims. Data were analysed using framework analysis, and critical realism and PYD provided the theoretical frameworks. Analysis indicated nine key outcomes. These were grouped under three themes: 1) Behavioural Outcomes, which included skills, achievement, giving back and agency; 2) Internal Outcomes, which included confidence, future focus and positive affect; and 3) Relational Outcomes which included connection and positive identity. Skills, agency, confidence, connection, and positive identity were seen as key outcomes, and the value of programmes for youth identity development was highlighted. Three key programme processes which supported outcomes to occur were a Youth-Centric Space, an Accepting Atmosphere, and Leader/Adult Behaviours. All of the identified outcomes were discussed in most programme settings, indicating sufficient similarity to form a broad outcomes framework using these outcomes. Suggestions for application of the framework to programme measurement were made. Current definitions of the Five Cs did not appear to capture the nuances of local outcome perception; and local definitions offering greater alignment were proposed. Analysis through a critical realist lens identified recognition and agency as causal mechanisms, which combined to form ‘the magic of programmes’ and helped youth to meet their needs and goals. Critical realism is argued as a valuable tool for PYD research because of its ability to provide structural explanations for outcomes.
Listed in 2023 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
Youth development, New Zealand, Auckland, Evaluation, Youth, Services for, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses