Exploring Adolescent Connectedness and Character Development

Published on: Jul 27, 2022

The Aga Khan University Institute for Human Development (IHD) is conducting a study that targets adolescents in Kenya. Funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation, the project aims to evaluate the character development of adolescents as well as how connected they feel towards society.
Research shows that connectedness – which refe​rs to a feeling of belonging – among the youth, paves the way for positive character development. This eventually contributes to their overall wellbeing.
“When adolescents feel connected to their family, society, school, peers and community at large then they are likely to exhibit positive character traits such as civic engagement, empathy and positivity,” said Esther Chongwo, the project coordinator.
The study, Adapting and Validating Measures of Adolescent Connectedness and Character Development for Use in Kenya, hopes to fill research gaps suited for the local context. This includes a Swahili tool to measure connectedness, optimism, empathy, and civic engagement.
“Due to socio-cultural differences, we cannot import programmes and interventions from high income countries for use in sub-Saharan countries such as Kenya. We want to develop a set of tools that are locally relevant and culturally appropriate to be used in both research and programmatic work.” said IHD Director, Prof Amina Abubakar.
It is a five-step process to develop the tool. First, an extensive review of literature is done to identify available measures. This is followed by discussions with adolescents and key informants in the community to understand what they perceive to be key indicators of connectedness and good character.
Based on the gained insights, the research team will develop test items for inclusion in the tools and scales. These items are then shared with adolescents in the community who gauge whether they are clear and relevant.
The fourth step deals with the development of the scale, administration and scoring manuals as well as standard operating procedures. This stage also involves piloting of the tool among a small sample of adolescents. Finally, the tool is evaluated through a rigorous process to establish whether the developed measures are reliable and valid for use among adolescents in Kenya.
At the end of the project, IHD hopes to have developed high quality tools that researchers in similar contexts can use, have data that can facilitate the design of contextually relevant interventions, and to have raised awareness in the target communities on the key steps that can be taken to enhance character development among the youth.
The project kicked off in August 2020 and is expected to complete in January 2023.

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