Psychological empowerment as a route for positive adjustment during adolescence

E Messman, B Scott, J Smith-Darden, K Cortina, E Thulin, M Zimmerman. Psychological empowerment as a route for positive adjustment during adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 83, 101458.


Empowerment theory (Zimmerman, 2000) provides a framework for understanding and promoting positive youth development during adolescence. The current study considers reciprocal associations between psychological empowerment and adolescents’ prosocial behavior, responsible decision making, social support giving, and delinquent behavior across the school year (n = 837 8th grade youth; 50.5% female). Results from cross-lagged analyses support Zimmerman’s (2000) model of empowerment. Psychological empowerment was related to increases in prosocial behavior, responsible decision making and social support giving, and decreases in delinquent behavior over time, controlling for prior levels. Also in support of empowerment theory, we found less evidence for behavior predicting changes in empowerment. Results suggest that supporting adolescents’ empowerment provides a route for positive youth development above and beyond prior behavioral tendencies.