An exploratory study of parental and program volunteer perspectives on Hispanic youth participation in Indiana 4-H Youth Development programs

Sara E Haines, Purdue University


The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. The rapid growth of this demographic segment across the United States is a major reason for increased efforts on the part of many youth organizations to engage more Hispanics in youth programming. Research has shown that youth programs impart many benefits to Hispanic youth involved in positive youth development programs, including increased self-confidence and higher graduation rates from high school. Research also shows that youth involved in these programs are less likely to engage in destructive or risky behaviors, such alcohol and drug use. Because minority youth are less likely than other youth to participate in youth programs, a need exists to understand factors that influence Hispanic involvement in youth programs. The current study employed qualitative methods to identify and explore some of the major issues facing Hispanic families in Indiana, particularly as they relate to participation in 4-H Youth Development programs. In-depth interviews were conducted with Hispanic family parents in four Indiana counties to identify factors that encourage as well as potentially discourage Hispanic participation in 4-H Youth Development programs. Also interviewed as a part of this research were 4-H volunteers to learn more about their perspectives and actual experiences in involving Hispanic youth in their programs. A major objective of this study was to investigate ways to establish and strengthen engagement efforts with Hispanic youth and families and to encourage their increased involvement in youth development programming. Results indicated that the Hispanic family parents whose children are currently involved in 4-H are comfortable with 4-H programming and describe it as a benefit to their children's lives. Hispanic family parents whose children are not currently involved in 4-H tended to express limited or no knowledge of 4-H programming. A majority of all parents interviewed believed that stronger and more culturally relevant connections could be established with the Hispanic community. Key recommendations in this regard included building personal relationships, customizing advertising and marketing, addressing language barriers, and making a more focused effort to appeal to Hispanic families. Indepth interview results from 4-H volunteers indicated that volunteers use different methods for recruiting new youth, with some specifically targeting Hispanic youth and others using more general recruitment approaches. Measurement of acculturation levels of Hispanic family parents revealed a possible connection between acculturation levels and levels of participation in 4-H. Parents with lower levels of acculturation were less likely to be aware of 4-H programming than parents with higher levels of acculturation. Parents with lower levels of acculturation whose children were involved in 4-H participated through programs specifically designed for them. Implications for future research include continued use of acculturation variables in the exploration of Hispanic family perceptions and behavior, as well as experimentation with different measures of acculturation with the goal of providing a more complete picture of this concept.




McKee, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Hispanic American studies

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