Character Virtues Among Ugandan Youth

Evaluating Positive Youth Development Intervention Programs Promoting Character Virtues Among Ugandan Youth Living in Poverty: Innovations using Idiographic Methods and Measures
Funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation

Compassion International (CI) seeks to “reset” its approach to interventions in Africa, particularly through more intentional capacity-building for evidence-informed programming. With funding from the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) and building on the ongoing CI Study of Positive Youth Development (PYD), the current project seeks to contribute to this “reset” by capitalizing on theoretical and methodological advances in developmental science to build local expertise needed to measure character virtue development (CVD) among youth enrolled in CI’s intervention programs in Africa and to develop new person-specific tools for assessing youth CVD, using the CI programs in Uganda as a sample case. The IARYD and CI teams worked collaboratively to develop bespoke measures that are specific and sensitive to the culture and context.

The first of three waves of variable-centered data and the person-specific data collection began in April 2022, after Drs. Elizabeth Dowling and Jonathan Tirrell traveled to Uganda with members of the CI research team to train data collectors and pilot the surveys. For the first wave of variable-centered data, data collection involved 600 Ugandan youth in CI programs, ages 9 to 16 years, who were assessed on indicators of PYD and CVD. The person-specific data collection involved a subsample of 200 Ugandan youth in CI program, ages 14 to 16 years. They were assessed once weekly for 15 weeks. This design will enable us to ask whether persons-specific assessments are more useful and informative than traditional group-based assessments, which rely on the assumptions of the ergodic theorems—that everyone in a sample is the same (homogeneity) and does not change (stationarity)—to justify calculating group means and standard deviations. Instead, the person-specific assessments will provide within-person statistical power to test dynamic factor analyses such as dynamic structural equation modeling (DSEM) that provides information at two levels—within-person and at the group level—enabling us to study a sample “from the bottom up” (assessing each individual child) rather than “from the top down” (relying on group averages). Taken together, this approach combines conventional, variable-centered assessments and person-specific, or idiographic, design measurements.

Using statistical analysis tools including Dynamic Factor Analysis, Idiographic Filtering, and Integrative Data Analysis, we will assess if and how idiographic CVD pathways among adolescents compare with larger samples of adolescents studied in variable-centered assessments. These analyses have begun. Results will provide heretofore unavailable data informing CI’s mission to transform their programs in Africa with theory-predicated, evidence-based approaches to fostering positive CVD change, while also building the expertise and capacity of talented Ugandan based staff to rigorously measure CVD. Findings also have the potential to revolutionize youth-development program evaluation worldwide beyond its current variable-centered approach.

The IARYD and CI teams will return to Uganda for Wave 2 of variable-centered data collection in the summer/early fall of 2023.