Constructing Youth Leadership

Date of Completion

January 2010


Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This two-part study contributes to research and practice by exploring the meaning of leadership, as it pertains to young people, in the English language scholarly literature produced in the global North West and in the conversations of young people from the United States (U.S.). In Part I, I examined shared assumptions and ruptures within scholarly discourses constitutive of youth leadership, using written statements (i.e., journal articles, book chapters, and evaluation reports) grounded in the youth development literature and in the gifted and talented education literature as material for analysis. I then conducted focus group interviews with young people of various social backgrounds to discuss leadership in general and leadership among youth in particular. In line with critical intellectual traditions, my analysis of focus group data centered on received messages and "alternate knowledges" evidenced in young people's statements about leadership. The findings in Part I served as a basis for a tentative definition of youth leadership. In Part II, this definition informed a multidimensional construct of leading confidence among older youth. ^ The focus of Part II was initial development of a self-report instrument to assess leading confidence. I wrote questionnaire items representing different dimensions of leading confidence and then conducted focus groups and one-to-one interviews in order to establish content validity and choose the best-fitting items. Following the content validity study, I used exploratory factor analysis in the structural equation modeling context to evaluate construct validity of the Leading Confidence Questionnaire for Youth (LCQ-Y). The results provided support for multidimensional conceptualization of leading confidence. However, instead of six hypothesized factors, the patterns in data were best explained by five factors, four of which aligned with the corresponding theoretical dimensions, and one of which represented a combination of two theoretical dimensions. In addition to examining the underlying structure of the LCQ-Y, I conducted reliability analyses and used ESEM multiple indicators-multiple causes models to examine differential item functioning by gender and age. The document concludes with a discussion of implications for future research. ^