Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


It is important to look at strengths in populations, especially those termed "at-risk" or "disadvantaged." Hope and compassion are positive qualities inner-city African American youth can possess, and further research on these constructs with this population is needed. This exploratory, mixed methods study included both quantitative measures of hope and compassion and qualitative interviews with inner-city African American youth who are participating in an after school program. The following research questions were addressed: (1) How do the youth describe hope?, (2) How do the youth's relationships develop and maintain hope?, (3) How do the youth describe goal definition and pursuit as related to hope?, (4) How do the youth say the After School Matters program helps them develop hope and compassion?, and (5) What do the youth say is the relationship between experiences of compassion and the development of hope? Qualitative analysis yielded six overall themes: (1) Relationships with others, specifically caring, encouragement, and compassion from others, as these relate to developing and sustaining hope, (2) Religion and faith as these relate to hope, (3) Staying on track, staying focused, and perseverance as these relate to hope and goal achievement, (4) Hope as it relates to wanting something to happen or something that can happen, (5) Thinking positively (motivated, believing in yourself) as it related to sustaining hope, and (6) Hope as it relates to goals. Analysis of the quantitative scales found the youth to have above average levels of hope, average levels of compassion, and below average levels of empathy. A significant positive correlation was found between the Children's Hope Scale and the Compassionate Love Scale Stranger-Humanity Version. Key findings were that disadvantaged youth do have hope and their hope comes from relationships. The strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative and quantitative methodology are discussed. Implications for social work practice (specifically after school programming and individual interventions), policy, and research are also addressed.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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