The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: bridging generations for youth development and community change

Am J Community Psychol. 2013 Jun;51(3-4):385-97. doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9558-y.


Youth-adult partnership (Y-AP) has become a phenomenon of interest to scholars and practitioners. Despite the potential of Y-AP to promote positive youth development, increase civic engagement, and support community change, the practice remains unfamiliar to many. Although research has increased over the past decade, the construct remains vague with an insufficient grounding in developmental theory and community practice. This article seeks to address these gaps by synthesizing data and insights from the historical foundations of Y-AP, community based research, and case study. We propose Y-AP as a unifying concept, distinct from other forms of youth-adult relationships, with four core elements: authentic decision making, natural mentors, reciprocity, and community connectedness. We conclude that Y-AP functions as an active ingredient and fundamental practice for positive youth development and civic engagement. Directions for future research are offered.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Community Networks*
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Mentors*
  • Social Justice*
  • United States