Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Brenda J. Lohman


Youth participation in meaningful and purposive civic organizations and activities not only impacts the participants’ development, but also influences their involvement in their communities both today and in the future. The combination of the two studies included in this dissertation examine just that. Both studies were conducted utilizing original research by the author utilizing the frameworks of Positive Youth Development (PYD) and experiential learning. The first study is a program evaluation of the Iowa State 4-H Council, assessing the participants’ outcomes in the common measure Life Skill constructs critical to the development of civically engaged individuals, including: citizenship, communication, leadership, and learning skills. These outcomes were identified through responses by the youth on a set of common Life Skill measures, as well as selected open-ended questions.

Study two examines the development of civic engagement or citizenship skills and contribution among youth or adolescents as part of PYD and explores the long-term civic engagement impact of those experiences for participating individuals. The members of the study are now young adults reflecting on and connecting their youth experiences to their involvement today. This was conducted through a phenomenological approach utilizing interviews of fourteen former State 4-H Council members now 25-35 years-old.

One can observe themes between the two studies in regard to the development of civic engagement and leadership within youth and the identified best practices to foster that development. The State 4-H Council is one unique experience, but can play a significant role in crystallizing and increasing the depth of skill and learning from the opportunities youth have had at a local level by expanding the scope of responsibility for participants. Empowering youth to have a voice and share in decision-making builds confidence in the youth themselves and their ability to make decisions, regardless of the PYD organization or group the youth belonged. Additionally, it gives them real and meaningful practice in doing so in ways that are significant and long-lasting. It also develops a life-long commitment and belief that not only can make a difference in their communities and beyond, but in fact, they should.


Copyright Owner

Brenda S Allen



File Format


File Size

164 pages