The purpose of this study was to examine whether youth perceptions of staff support predicted their behavioral and emotional engagement in a physical activity-based positive youth development (PYD) program and the degree to which these associations were moderated by staff's gender and racial/ethnic similarity to youth. A total of 229 low-income youth (aged 7-15; 59% male; 48.5% Hispanic, 22.3% White, and 16.6% Black) were surveyed at the end of a 20-day summer program with questions assessing leader support, behavioral and emotional engagement, and self-reported demographic information. Eighteen staff leaders (Mage = 20.72; 33% male; 78% White) were also surveyed at a single time-point to self-report demographic information. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Staff support positively predicted both behavioral and emotional engagement. Matches between youth and their staff leader on both gender and race/ethnicity directly predicted behavioral engagement, whereas the effect of staff support on emotional engagement was enhanced for youth dissimilar in race/ethnicity to their leader. Staff support may promote engagement in PYD programs, with the similarity of staff to youth on race and gender impacting the manner in which engagement is realized. This study demonstrates the importance of teaching staff the value of interactions with youth from different backgrounds and genders to promote engagement in the programs and support PYD outcomes for all youth.
- Out of school programs
- Social relationships