Measuring Spirituality, Hope, and Thriving Among Salvadoran Youth: Initial Findings from the Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development
By Jonathan M. Tirrell, G. John Geldhof, Pamela E. King, Elizabeth M. Dowling, Alistair T.R. Sim, Kate Williams, Guillermo Iraheta, Jacqueline V. Lerner, and Richard M. Lerner
Background: The more than one billion children living in poverty worldwide are often marginalized from the resources needed for health and well-being, a situation that may create feelings of hopelessness and diminish chances for thriving. Compassion International (CI), a faith-based child-sponsorship organization committed to alleviating child poverty and promoting thriving, uses a strengths-based, positive youth development (PYD) perspective that emphasizes the importance of religious faith as an asset in the lives of youth.
Objective: In an initial assessment of CI’s approach to promoting PYD, we tested measures aimed at comparing youth enrolled in CI to youth not enrolled in CI.
Method: We collected survey data from 888 Salvadoran youth (50% female), ages 9–15 years (M = 11.60 years, SD = 1.7), half (49.9%) of whom were enrolled in CI programs. Examining the relations among spirituality, hope, and PYD, we refined the measurement model for parsimony and robustness across groups and established measurement invariance.
Results: This measure development work allowed us to make meaningful comparisons of latent means and correlation patterns. CI-supported youth were found to report higher levels of Transcendence (spirituality) and Character (one of the Five Cs of PYD) than non-CI-supported youth, and CI-supported youth demonstrated a significant relation between Character and Connection that was not present in non-CI-supported youth.
Conclusions: We discuss implications of these findings for further tests of the CI approach to PYD and, more generally, for applications aimed at enhancing the life chances of poor children around the globe.