Connecting youth to high-resource adults: Lessons from effective youth programs

Patrick J. Sullivan, Reed W. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescents benefit from contact with high-resource community adults, but intergenerational obstacles make these interactions difficult, fragile, and rare. This qualitative research investigated the success of seven, primarily urban, leadership, and arts programs that attempted to facilitate these interactions within their programming. Program advisors and 71 ethnically diverse program youth (mean age = 16.5) were interviewed biweekly over 3 to 4 months. Analyses indicated that programs were effective in facilitating these interactions through organizing activities that entailed structured, meaningful youth-adult role relationships. Substantial brokering efforts appeared to be required of advisors. Although these contacts involved one-time interactions or, at best, longer-term superficial relationships, youth described obtaining valuable information, skills, and access to adult worlds. The findings illuminate the challenges, limits, and benefits of attempts to bridge youth and adult worlds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-123
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Positive youth development
  • Social capital
  • Youth development program
  • Youth-adult partnerships
  • Youth-adult relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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