Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Degree Program

Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Health Promotion, PhD

Committee Chair

Wendel, Monica

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Pryor, Brandy

Committee Member

Pryor, Brandy

Committee Member

Harris, Lesley

Committee Member

Nation, Maury

Author's Keywords

critical consciousness; youth violence prevention; youth development; social justice; public health youth intervention; public health theory


Even though public health purports to be rooted in social justice, it is not clear how social justice frameworks are integrated in public health research and intervention. The discipline focuses on groups/populations on the margins, without integrating the social and political factors that cause marginalization into the intervention. Seeing communities, and individuals, as assets and experts in their own experiences is key to population-level health improvement. Particularly for public health youth intervention, how youth are labeled and engaged in social change is critical to their healthy development. While public health lags in practically applying asset-based approaches to youth intervention, research shows that there are ways to improve outcomes for youth – particularly youth of color – by activating their latent capacity to change environments that increase their likelihood of being labeled “at-risk.” This dissertation investigates and documents a process by which youth develop critical consciousness in a public health intervention. Its purpose is to determine if there is benefit to practical application of social justice theories and practices within a public health intervention focused on youth. A case study approach was used to observe and engage youth matriculating through a fellowship focused on developing critical consciousness, using the Social Justice Youth Development framework. Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT) analysis techniques were used for data analysis. Findings from this case study describe how participants define and make meaning of critical consciousness development. They also reveal a psychosocial meaning-making process that describes a process for – and the personal impact of – critical consciousness development in participants.