Critical Hopefulness Among Urban High School Students

Brian D. Christens, Kymberly Byrd, N. Andrew Peterson, David T. Lardier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Psychological empowerment encompasses several key aspects of youth civic and sociopolitical development. Most research has focused on psychological empowerment’s emotional component, which entails learned hopefulness about one’s own ability to participate in and lead community change efforts. Fewer studies have assessed critical awareness of how social power operates—psychological empowerment’s cognitive component. The confluence of these two components has been termed critical hopefulness. A complex relationship exists between these two components, and previous research has found relatively small proportions of participants reporting both high levels of critical awareness and simultaneously high levels of hopefulness about their ability to exert influence in the sociopolitical domain. The current study of urban high school students in the Northeastern U.S. (n = 389; 53.5% female) investigates heterogeneity according to these two components of psychological empowerment. Latent class cluster analyses were conducted and seven distinct groups of participants emerged. Students identifying as Hispanic/Latinx were more likely to be classified into a profile group exhibiting critical hopefulness. Differences were observed between psychological empowerment profile groups on self-reported levels of psychological sense of community, civic engagement, and social justice orientation. Furthermore, a larger proportion of this overall sample was classified into groups that exhibited critical hopefulness than in a previous study of adults. These findings provide useful insights for efforts to engage young people in civic life and to promote sociopolitical development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1649-1662
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Civic engagement
  • Empowerment
  • Sense of community
  • Social justice
  • Sociopolitical development


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