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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Barbara J. Love

Second Advisor

Ximena Zúñiga

Third Advisor

Patrick Mensah

Subject Categories

Other Education


The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand how young people in a high school and a community-based setting experience status and power related to age. This study assumes that discourses of childhood are constructed with a socio-political purpose. Literature from Critical Youth Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Feminist Theory, and Social Justice Education provide the theoretical and conceptual foundations. This research expands social justice education literature to include adultism/youth oppression as a social justice issue, centering the voices and experiences of those targeted by youth oppression. Research questions explored 1) what information young people encounter on a daily basis that communicates age as a form of status, 2) the impacts of young people’s status related to age, and 3) ways in which young people see themselves exercising power. Through thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998) of structured group and pair interviews, this study explores the thinking and critiques of a diverse group of fourteen young people about the period of childhood Findings suggest that participants regularly navigated negative beliefs about young people that were pervasive at interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels. These beliefs often characterize young people as irresponsible, disrespectful, lazy, apathetic, and spoiled. Participants’ challenges were often trivialized or dismissed by adults on the basis of popular understandings that young people are immature, developmentally incomplete, and overly dramatic. Participants described navigating a harmful double standard of respect and a lack of supportive, equitable relationships with adults in a range of reported interactions. Some participants described “giving-up” as a strategy to maintain peace with adults, and forms of economic and political exclusion that kept them from challenging or changing their status. Other participants discussed ways they see “other” young people exercise power while acknowledging their own experience of powerlessness. Many participants described leadership opportunities as “charades of empowerment” that were limited and controlled by adults. This study concludes that young people’s status indicates oppression and that young people’s knowledge should be included in social justice praxis. The suggestions of participants and data analysis revealed nine specific strategies that adults can implement to support more equitable partnerships between young people and adults.