Wehlage et al., 1996; Wiggins and McTighe, 1998). A poignant example is the finding that low teacher expectations for academic performance of ethnic minority children conveyed in teacher-student interactions in elementary schools lead to alienation from learning experiences and underachievement (Jackson and Davis, 2000; Fisher et al., 1998; Romo and Falbo, 1996). In the workplace, adolescents in jobs that use their skills show more positive outcomes than those in unchallenging jobs (Mortimer et al., 1999).
Although less likely to involve longitudinal designs, research with community programs suggests similar relations. Participation in decision making is correlated with positive developmental outcomes, such as a sense of sharing and respect for others (Dryfoos, 1990; Gambone and Arbreton, 1997; Lipsitz, 1980; Merry, 2000; McLaughlin, 2000). In school settings, the opportunity to participate in making and enforcing school rules leads to an increase in students’ willingness to follow the rules and in their attachment to the school (Darling-Hammond, 1997). Adolescents in youth-centered activities develop new cognitive skills that increase their confidence and ability to make positive decisions (Heath, 1999; McLaughlin et al., 1994). For example, a group of adolescents who planned alcohol-free activities showed less subsequent alcohol use (Scales and Leffert, 1999). Similarly, the experience of challenging activities predicts greater likelihood of participating in a community program for youth and less high-risk behavior (Dryfoos, 1991; Gambone and Arbreton, 1997; Merry, 2000). A description of what it means for a community program to be youth centered is provided in Chapter 5 (see also McLaughlin, 2000). Finally, both longitudinal survey-type studies and experimentally evaluated small-scale intervention studies have shown the positive consequences of participating in a wide variety of well-designed community service activities (Dryfoos, 1991; Merry, 2000; Lipsitz, 1980; Scales, 1999; Youniss, 1997; Yates and Youniss, 1999).
The notion that this feature must fit with the adolescents being served is particularly important here. For a setting to support efficacy and the sense that one is making a useful contribution, it must be developmentally and culturally appropriate. Most young adolescents are not cognitively or emotionally ready to take full responsibility for a community program. Empowerment involves gradually increasing freedoms and responsibilities as young people mature (McLaughlin, 2000; Scales and Leffert, 1999). Culturally, a setting must be attuned to the level and modes of efficacy and mattering that are normative in the adolescents’ larger cultural system. As we noted earlier, people differ in the amount of value