Youth in communities with high rates of crime and low rates of collective efficacy are at risk of depression, substance abuse, and other types of delinquency.
This article presents a formative evaluation of an empowerment-oriented program intended to reduce depression and risky behaviors by improving social support, providing adult mentors, and facilitating prosocial action.
Qualitative interviews and observations are used to describe program delivery and a quantitative survey is used to identify correlates of program participation.
Qualitative data describe a systematic process of program engagement that supported individual and group empowerment. The analysis of quantitative survey results identifies an association of program participation with less depression and more self-esteem—with reduced feelings of loneliness as the mechanism of these effects—although without comparable patterns for substance abuse and other risky behaviors.
Empowerment-oriented programs that involve young people in supportive peer teams should be developed to help foster constructive social change.