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Community Development and Capacity Building in Rural Ireland and Pennsylvania

Project Investigators: Ms. Kaitlyn Butterbaugh and Dr. Mark Brennan

Social support is widely seen as an integral component for coping with the stresses of everyday life.  While there are various sources and types of support potentially available to young people, it is perhaps less obvious the extent to which young people differentially experience these sources and types.  In this research and program development UNESCO Chairs at Penn State and the National University of Ireland, Galway, focus on a broad range of factors shaping rural youth social support and youth well-being.  Drawing on mixed methods research in the rural United States and Ireland we investigate the connection between social support, well-being, and the personal development of young people.  Comparing similar measures of social support across two distinct societal contexts allows us to determine similarities and differences, while also providing a basis for programs and policy.

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This research identifies factors related to civic engagement in rural youth ages 10-18 years old in both Ireland and Pennsylvania. To understand civic engagement an understanding of the factors shaping youth civic engagement is necessary. Personal characteristics, obstacles, social support, social networks, and the role of community as factors either shaping or inhibiting civic engagement were explored with an emphasis on identifying obstacles to civic engagement. Quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. Surveys were administered to 210 adolescents (ages 10-18) in several schools in rural communities both in Ireland and Pennsylvania. Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies were used to collect and to analyze the data. The qualitative data that was collected was used in support of the quantitative findings. Interviews with adults, in the local communities where testing occurred, were conducted to establish validity. Data was analyzed through frequencies, bivariate, and multivariate analysis. As a result, nine major factors to youth becoming civically engaged were defined in this research. Recommendations were made for policy and programming.