Challenging Youth: Establishing Supportive Relationships with Youth in South Los Angeles

  • Vera Schiepers

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


Working with youth is a particular discipline, especially considering humanist ethical or life counseling. In order to support and empower marginalized youth one might ask which factors are important to establish a supportive relationship. How do professionals connect to the lived experiences and world of disadvantaged youth in order to reach, help, and support them? This is the central research question focused on practitioners working with disenfranchised youth in South Los Angeles. The study folds into two parts: 1) a theoretical account of published studies regarding adolescent development, the complex reality youth grow up in and factors that appear to be essential in establishing a relationship with teenagers; and 2) a report of empirical data from interviews with professionals who work with youth in a low-income community in Los Angeles and through experiences from volunteer work at the after-school program where these practitioners work. Both theoretical and practical perspectives illustrate that an integrated viewpoint is crucial to understand the complex reality in which teens construct and negotiate their identities. It is important to take all factors into consideration: from individual psychological aspects of a youth’s character, behavior, drives, etc. to the situational or contextual influences on various levels, including race, ethnicity, culture, gender, social class, the family and situation at home, etc. Thus, psychological theories need to be supplemented with socio-cultural perspectives. Together with pedagogical aspects of professional (inter) actions this forms an integrated paradigm. The integrated perspective provides a framework through which one can understand the developmental challenges youth encounter and connect to their lived experiences.
Date of Award1 Jan 2012
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorW. M. M. H. Veugelers (Supervisor) & C. W. Anbeek (Supervisor)

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