It's old news that youth workers have trouble finding accessible, relevant journal articles that speak to their practice issues. It's no surprise that youth workers pursuing scholarship on youth development practice have trouble identifying outlets for their publications. Now, somebody has quantified the dearth.
A new integrative review of literature on youth development research in the Journal of Youth Development (see page 20) found that between 2001 and 2010, only 13% of the articles in five top-tier journals on youth and adolescence could be categorized as positive youth development research. If we include the online Journal of Youth Development itself, which focuses on bridging research and practice, the figure jumps (not too high) to 19%.
The analysis included these six journals:
- Journal of Research on Adolescence
- Journal of Adolescence
- Journal of Adolescent Research
- Youth & Society
- Journal of Youth and Adolescence
- Journal of Youth Development
Robert Barcelona and William Quinn from Clemson University's Youth Development Leadership Program learned a lot from their analysis of the 285 relevant articles (out of a possible 2236). Consider these findings:
- The vast majority of research published in the major, top-tier journals did not utilize a strengths-based approach or provide an examination of the processes that foster positive youth well-being.
- Less than 10% of manuscripts included the perspectives of parents and the key adults who have an influence on youth.
- A majority of the studies used a quantitative approach in answering the research questions posed.
In addition to the Journal of Youth Development, Afterschool Matters and New Directions in Youth Development incorporate an applied practice focus. All three include qualitative and mixed-method studies based on approaches like interviews, observations, focus groups and case studies.
Of course, there are other professional journals that speak to defined constituencies such as the Journal of School Health and the Journal of Adolescent Health, as well as journals aimed at youth workers specifically interested in recreation, camping, sports, experiential education and such. But these more focused journals are less apt to address an aggregated body of knowledge that speaks consistently to the research and practice needs of youth workers in out-of-school time, community-based programs.
So, now you know that you're not alone in wondering what to read and where to publish. Can you share a story here about challenges, frustrations and occasional rewards you have found when seeking an article that speaks to your interests and issues? Where do you go to find the good stuff about youth work? Do you think we need more new and varied avenues to share studies of youth development practice?