Youth Identity Formation: (Mis)Alignment Between Urban Male Youth and Sport Coaches

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Children and Youth Services Review

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd A critical process of healthy youth development is the formation of a positive sense of identity. An individual's holistic identity is comprised of a variety of differing identities related their social group membership. Due to systemic racism and false stereotypes, urban youth – specifically African American/Black youth – are socially vulnerable and at-risk for the development of negative self-identities. Furthering this disparity, the mechanisms that contribute to the formation of youth identity are not well understood. The current study explored the mechanisms, from multiple perspectives, that contribute to youth identity formation across multiple domains. The study took place at a faith-based youth sport program designed for urban male youth, which used sport activities to facilitate conversations about faith and teach principles of healthy masculinity. In total, 14 youth and 10 coaches engaged in the study through individual semi-structured interviews. The majority of youth and coaches self-identified as Black/African American. Through two separate thematic analyses, findings demonstrate mechanisms that enhance or conflict with youth identity formation related to the domains of race/culture, faith, masculinity, and athletics. Further, areas of (mis)alignment between youth and coaches were recognized. For example, regarding race/culture, youth and coaches discussed the importance of popular culture and the negative influence of stereotypes. However, related to masculinity, youth discussed the positive influence of male family members, while coaches believed that the lack of male role models inhibited healthy masculinity. Using these findings, programs can be designed and facilitated to leverage positive mechanisms while mitigating negative factors that contribute to youth identity.


Coaches; Identity; Masculinity; Positive youth development; Youth sport


Developmental Psychology | Social Work



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