Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tiffany Berry

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Danhua Lin

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kendall Cotton Bronk

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jun Wang

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Yaqiong Wang


assets, Chinese youth, left-behind youth, mixed methods, positive youth development, survey development


The positive youth development (PYD) framework has shifted our attention from a deficit-based approach to a strength-based perspective to studying adolescent development (Lerner, 2005; Lerner & Steinberg, 2009). Integrating both the PYD and resilience science frameworks, this study developed and validated an instrument for assessing the individual strengths and environmental supports that enable a positive developmental trajectory for rural, left-behind youth (LBY) in China, a vulnerable group of youth who are endangered by prolonged parent-child separation. This newly developed instrument contains two scales: the Individual Strengths (IS) Scale and the Environmental Supports (ES) Scale. Utilizing an exploratory sequential design, this study was conducted in three steps: (1) conducting qualitative interviews to inform the creation of survey items, (2) developing an instrument based on qualitative findings and existing literature, and (3) conducting quantitative analyses to validate and revise the survey instrument. During the qualitative investigation, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 teachers and LBY. Thematic analysis revealed five individual strengths (i.e., achievement motivation, self-control, positive coping, academic engagement, and prosocial orientation ) and four categories of environmental support (i.e., social support, caring & belongingness, rules & high expectations, and extracurricular activity participation ) that were critical for the positive development among Chinese LBY. An original item pool was created based on qualitative findings and existing literature, and an iterative process of reviewing and revising items through expert reviews and field tests followed to refine the factor structure and individual items in both the IS and the ES scales. The finalized IS Scale contained 75 items that assessed eight individual strengths: achievement pursuit, self-control, positive coping, internal locus of control, hopeful future expectation, intention to contribute, social competencies, and obedience . The finalized ES Scale contained 91 items that assessed five categories of environmental support: social support, trust & acknowledgement, rules & role models, positive climates, and extracurricular support . Both scales were validated through quantitative analyses. During the quantitative investigation, a series of exploratory factor analysis (EFA) were conducted to reduce the number of items used to capture the constructs of individual strengths and environmental supports emerged from the qualitative study. The EFA process resulted in a 65-item scale for individual strengths with seven subscales: goals and future expectation, academic engagement, intention to contribute, prosociality, positive coping toward parental migration, positive coping, and academic motivation . Overall, the scale accounted for 74% of the total variance. The analyses resulted in a 68-item scale for environmental supports with eight subscales: school support, support of migrating parent(s), positive community and societal environment, support of caregiver(s), extracurricular support, family support, peer support, and support of peer relatives . The scale accounted for 70% of the total variance. An independent sample was recruited to validate the factor structures emerged from EFAs through confirmatory factor analysis. The 68-item measure of environmental supports was supported, while the 65-item measure of individual strengths was slightly adjusted to a 63-item scale. The Cronbach’s α of each scale and subscale ranged from 0.88 to 0.98, indicating strong internal consistency reliability. Both individual strengths and environmental supports were positively correlated with the PYD total score, PYD subscale scores, academic achievement, and subjective wellbeing, and were negatively correlated with externalizing problem behaviors. The findings were discussed and the implications of these findings for future PYD research among Chinese LBY were addressed. This research effort has the potential to expand our understanding of PYD as it applies to a new group of young people as well as to yield an important research tool for policy makers, educational practitioners, and youth workers who want to implement practices and policies that promote PYD among rural LBY in China.