Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College in the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Child, Youth and Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Julie M. Johnson. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2011


This study investigates if Nebraska Improvisational Theatre (Improv) increases a sense of belonging, positive identity, positive values, and decreases risky behaviors in participating youth. Improv is a positive youth development program focusing on health promotion through theatre. Training involves building teamwork skills, theatre skills, and self-esteem building. This work adds to research on youth development programs. It also expands on previous qualitative research on the Improv program (Knox, 1998.)

Youth were surveyed before Improv training, one week later, and six months later. Data is analyzed from three different trainings in 2002 with 50 participants completing all surveys. Participants are ages 14-18, both boys and girls, and of various ethnic backgrounds. Improv administrators previously collected the data. The survey included questions from various instruments, such as developmental assets questions or the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Data was analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA or repeated measures t-tests, as some data was only collected twice.

Findings were inconclusive, partly due to extremely small sample size. However, some results were significant to the .05 level. Results from one training showed a decrease in sense of belonging while the others showed no change. For positive values, some individual item scores increased while others decreased. A few positive identity individual items scores dropped. One risky behavior item showed a change in a negative direction.

In response to the lack of change of scores or decrease of scores in belonging, positive identity, and positive values scales, program administrators should find ways to help local teams address these issues after training and throughout the year. However, because of the inconclusive nature of the results, more research is needed with larger sample sizes. The survey instrument should be improved and a control group should be used. More research is still needed on youth development programs.

Advisor: Julie M. Johnson