Courts providing post-incarceration resources and services for youth have increasingly incorporated elements of positive psychology to build off of youths’ strengths. The present study sought to illuminate court-involved youths’ voices through qualitative methods to understand their self-efficacy, perceived control over their past and future, and their perceptions of their risk and protective factors. The incorporation of youths’ subjective experience on such topics is crucial as relatively little research on services for youth include youth in the process. Ten court-involved youth completed a semi-structured interview exploring their views of hardships and resources, how they define their values and goals, and their perception of the future. Youth were asked to identify unmet needs and potential barriers to success in remaining crime-free and in the process of developing resilience. The most prominent findings emerged within the themes of peers, control and self-efficacy, and plans for the future. While youth expressed commitment to general prosocial goals, their plans for attaining these goals tended to be vague or unrealistic. Implications for improving services for court-involved youth that reflect their lived experiences and self-reported needs are discussed.
Keywords: delinquency; resiliency; adolescents; goals; qualitative