Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Fosters Self Determination


Self-determination is the ability to think for oneself, and to take action consistent with that thought. Fetterman et al. (1996) defined self-determination as the ability to chart one's own course. Much of the literature on self-determination has emerged from work with disabled youth (Brotherson et al., 1995; Field, 1996; Sands & Doll, 1996; Wehmeyer, 1996) and from cultural identity work with ethnic and minority populations (Snyder & Zoann, 1994; Swisher, 1996). While some writers expressed concern that self-determination may emphasize individual development at the expense of group-oriented values (Ewalt & Mokuau, 1995), others linked self-determination to innate psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 1994).

Operational Definition.  Programs were classified as promoting self-determination if their strategies sought to increase youths' capacity for empowerment, autonomy, independent thinking, or self-advocacy, or their ability to live and grow by self-determined internal standards and values (may or may not include group values).