CAREER: Developing and Testing the Integrated Youth Development Model Framework for the Future of Juvenile Justice Scholarship, Education, and Practice

Project: Research project

Project Details


CAREER: Developing and Testing the Integrated Youth Development Model Framework for the Future of Juvenile Justice Scholarship, Education, and Practice CAREER: Developing and Testing the Integrated Youth Development Model Framework for the Future of Juvenile Justice Scholarship, Education, and Practice Project Overview Within society, we create institutions to address peoples needs and use science to improve impact. We created a separate juvenile justice system (JJS) because children are vulnerable yet remarkably malleable. Their needs are clear: over 9-in-10 JJS-involved youth have Adverse Childhood Experiences and 7-in-10 have experienced significant trauma (Baglivio et al., 2021; Zettler, 2021). However, the harsh reality is that being involved in the JJS often makes things worse; it typically reduces high school graduation rates, creates barriers to gainful employment, and harms mental health (Cauffman et al., 2021; Goldstein et al., 2019). Many JJS generate and exacerbate rampant racial inequality (Abram, 2017), with clear, society-marring impacts on our must vulnerable group: our children. The core issue is that in too many places, the JJS continues to focus simply on punishment, control, and compliance rather than promoting childrens learning and positive growth because it lacks the guiding frameworks, technical systems, and empirical evidence to do otherwise. To address this failure, policymakers and JJS practitioners are calling for scientists to lead the way in developing this much-needed knowledgebase. Achieving the goal of transitioning youth into healthy and productive adults requires a fundamental shift in how the JJS looks at and addresses the needs of vulnerable youth (AECF, 2022; Price & Turner, 2022). While JJS officers are open to implementing developmentally grounded approaches (Dempsety et al., 2021; Walker et al., 2019), a coherent, easy-to-implement, and scalable framework to lead the future of scholarship and practice does not exist (Case & Hampson, 2019; Smithson & Jones, 2021). The multitude of interdisciplinary perspectives on promoting youth growth, development, and learning must be integrated and reduced to a workable model with core elements that are empirically testable. Moreover, this model must be thoroughly tested within the JJS. I propose an integrated research, education, and implementation plan devoted to developing the Integrated Youth Development Model (IYDM), a novel theoretical framework that illuminates how interdisciplinary approaches can be integrated to promote thriving among justice-involved youth. Moreover, I will systematically test its components within the nations 4th largest JJS, making substantial contributions to scientific knowledge, education, policy, and practice. Altogether, my project provides a new, empirically supported, sustainable, and replicable path forward for JJS scholarship, education, and practice focused on promoting learning and growth. I will leverage, an electronic education and growth platform (Barab, 2019; Barab et al., 2019), to test core hypotheses from my IYDM framework. Briefly, using mobile devices, enables youth to connect with other youths growth stories, learn core content, apply what theyve learned from peers and from the content to their own lives, and then receive feedback and social support. I chose this platform because it aligns with some elements in my framework, yet Journeys elements can be modified fluidly, therefore enabling me to iteratively test core hypotheses from the IYDM, modify components and dosages, and make substantial scientific advances. We are already piloting Journey with all youth in detention in the nations 4th largest JJS and it is going remarkably well. Five years of support from a CAREER grant allows me to develop a more refined research identity. With this support, I will build a comprehensive and longitudinal empirical account of the educational, empirical, and social value of the Integrated Youth Development Model (IYDM). Moreover, I will rigorously test each of the models assumptions using Design-based implementation research (DBIR) approaches, coupled with clustered randomized-controlled trials (CRT), making substantial contributions to the empirical literature and creating a strong foundation for new research. This project and my model could have lasting impacts not just in criminology, but also across interdisciplinary fields and could establish me as a preeminent expert on youth development. Additionally, this funding will allow me to develop a research space in which my students, JJS-involved youth, and youths parents engage in community-based participatory action research to better support youths learning and growth. My CAREER project has four objectives that have significant intellectual merit and will make broader impacts: (1) Develop the IYDM that integrates social ecology, positive youth development, youth empowerment, and learning science to promote positive outcomes among JJS-involved youth, as well as a corresponding undergraduate course; (2) Construct and test a Positive Change Center Tool for jurisdictions to assess current practices and perspectives on IYDM-informed principles; (3) Iteratively alter the experience to test elements of the IYDM and positively impact youth in detention and on probation; and (4) Engage students, JJS-involved youth, and their parents in learning and participatory action research.
Effective start/end date2/15/231/31/28


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $669,617.00


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