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"Roses have Thorns for a Reason”: The Promises and Perils of Critical Youth Participatory Research with System-impacted Girls of Color

NCJ Number
American Journal of Community Psychology Volume: Online Dated: 2023
Date Published

This paper assesses the promises and perils of critical youth participatory action research (YPAR) with system-impacted girls of Color.


This paper presents an empirical analysis of the promises and perils that emerged as the authors conducted a year-long critical youth participatory action research (YPAR) project alongside five system-impacted girls of Color. The authors’ thematic analysis of process notes (30 meetings, 120 h) documents the stories posited by girls, in a democratized space, about the injustices of interconnected institutions, and unearths a complicated tension for both youth and adult coresearchers around the promises and perils of engaging in YPAR within the academy. These findings underscore the importance of using intersectional, collaborative research to challenge perceptions around the legitimization of knowledge. The authors describe lessons learned in conducting YPAR in academic settings and highlight recommendations to grow youth–adult partnerships within oppressive systems to share power. Scholarship on girlhood—especially for girls of Color—is often relegated to studying risk and emphasizing individual deficits over humanizing girls and centering their voices. This approach to generating scholarship renders oppressive systems and processes invisible from inquiry and unaddressed by practice, with particularly insidious consequences for youth in the legal system. Critical YPAR is acknowledged as an antidote to these conceptualizations because it resists deficit-oriented narratives circling systems-impacted youth by inviting them to the knowledge-generating table. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023