A Developmental Assets Approach in East Africa: Can Swahili Measures Capture Adolescent Strengths and Supports?
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Assets-based approaches are well-suited to youth living in majority world contexts, such as East Africa. However, positive psychology research with African adolescents is rare. One hindering factor is the lack of translated measures for conducting research.
This study builds capacity for positive youth development research in East Africa and beyond by examining a Swahili measure of youth development that assess both internal and external strengths.
We translated a well-researched and internationally used measure of assets, [Developmental Assets Profile (DAP), along with measures of self-efficacy, ethnic identity, sense of community, and community participation] into Swahili. Psychometric results for 1241 diverse Tanzanian young people were evaluated. Open-ended asset listing and focus groups provide complementary data and identify areas for further investigation.
Most scales displayed promising internal consistencies and were related to each other and to socio-demographics. Moreover, the DAP predicted self-efficacy and vulnerability status. Exploratory factor analysis supported a three-factor structure of the DAP. Test–retest reliability and language equivalency scores yielded less satisfactory results. Qualitative data support the assets approach and suggests areas for consideration based on culture and context.
The developmental assets framework and Swahili measure may be used to advance research in this understudied, yet important region. Adolescents in Africa should be included in international efforts to develop PYD theory and to understand the diverse contexts in which youth develop and contribute.
KeywordsPositive youth development Africa Global issues Translation Psychometrics Swahili
We thank Tory West, Sekievu Abukari and staff and volunteers from the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program in Tanzania. Special mentions go out to Japhet Jonas, Zaituni Karim, Sophia Assenga, Summaye Kleru, Deus Cosmos, Stephen Chacha, Vitalis Temu, Hereith Balgaye and all the research assistants who made this project a success. Dr. Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Justin Roskopf from Search Institute provided assistance in using the institute’s Developmental Assets Profile.
This study was funded in part by the U.S. Fulbright Foundation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The study was funded by a Fulbright Scholarship awarded to Dr. Johnson. Dr. Scales is a Senior Fellow at the Search Institute, a non-profit social science research organization that developed and distributes the DAP. None of the other authors report potential conflicts of interest.
All study procedures were approved by the second author’s U.S.-based Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the Council on Science and Technology (COSTECH) in Tanzania, and were in accordance with all ethical standards for conducting research with human participants as delineated by the American Psychological Association.
Participants were invited to participate as part of their regular school and club activities. Informed agreement was obtained. Due to the nature of the sample population and the surveys, the need for signed parental and individual consent was waived by the IRB and COSTECH.
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