Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Institute on Family and Community Life

Committee Member

Edmond P Bowers, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Martha Thompson

Committee Member

Bonnie Holday

Committee Member

Arelis Moore de Peralta


Spirituality and critical consciousness have been linked to positive outcomes in the lives of youth of color. Spirituality is connection to a higher power or sense of profound meaning beyond everyday life (transcendence), devotion to their morals and beliefs (fidelity), and awareness of others needs and feelings (contribution) (King et al., 2017). Spirituality can support positive outcomes in youth such as contribution to their community and increased levels of positive youth development (PYD) (Furrow, King, & White, 2004). Critical consciousness is the ability to reflect and take action on inequalities and injustices in society and can provide marginalized and/or oppressed people with the agency to overcome structural and cultural constraints that affect their lives (Freire, 1973). Critical consciousness enables youth to identify the structural and social inequalities present in their lives and in society and equips them with the ability to challenge them. Few studies, however, examine the relations among spirituality and critical consciousness, and their links to PYD and contribution in youth of color. Therefore, the purpose of this quantitative study was to explore how spirituality and critical consciousness support PYD and contribution in a sample of academically high-achieving youth of color (46.2% African-American/Black and 36.9% Latinx) who attended an afterschool college preparatory program (N = 136; 64.6 % female; Mage = 14.5) over an academic year. Results pointed to the importance of spirituality in promoting PYD and contribution in youth of color but indicated no significant relations between critical consciousness and subsequent thriving. Spirituality was found to be especially important for females, as spirituality was strongly linked to PYD in females, but not males. Males on average reported higher levels of PYD than females; however, this difference was driven by females who reported low levels of spirituality also reporting low levels of PYD. Females who reported high levels of spirituality did not differ from males on PYD. In addition, a significant negative relation was found between critical consciousness and subsequent spirituality in female youth. Implications for these findings include the development of church or spiritual community partnerships with youth programs or church-based youth programs to support spirituality and its associated positive outcomes.



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