Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health and Kinesiology

First Advisor

Meghan H McDonough

Committee Member 1

James LeBreton

Committee Member 2

Bonnie Blankenship

Committee Member 3

William Harper


Positive youth development (PYD) programs offer enriching experiences that help young people discover and develop skills that will help them become productive, successful, and healthy adults (Damon, 2004; Lerner, von Eye, Lerner, & Lewin-Bizan, 2009). The social context within PYD programs serves as a mechanism in this process and program staff are often responsible for creating a social environment where youth feel safe and supported while participating in activities designed to foster growth (Benson, Scales, Hamilton, & Sesma, 2007; Larson, 2006). Basic psychological needs theory conceptualizes that staff-youth interactions will lead to well-being in youth to the degree that they provide autonomy support, involvement, and structure (Deci & Ryan, 1991). The purpose of this dissertation was to examine social relationships between staff and youth in a physical activity-based PYD program through a randomized controlled trial of a theory-based staff training, youth perceptions of staff and well-being, and staff perceptions on how they build relationships that foster well-being in youth and on the training they received.