Research Work involvement & Grant


Character and Thriving Among Kenyan Youth

A novel measure of character for use with street children and youth enrolled in schools.

MMU will grow as a center for youth development work in Kenya.

Increased capacity for evaluation of youth-serving organizations in Kenya.

Title for practitioner-oriented white paper in Swahili.


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Executive Summary

We propose to develop a measure of character for Kenyan youth who live and are educated in a range of contexts, including rural schools, urban schools, and children who are homeless (i.e. “street children”). Our goal is to move beyond the often superficial acknowledgement of context in developmental science, which typically amounts to exploring mean differences using measures created and normed in western cultures.

The product of this work will be an actionable measure to inform the development, evaluation, and continuous quality improvement of Kenyan youth development programs. We will employ an exploratory sequential mixed methods design (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2011), beginning with semi-structured interviews with 60 youth and 15 adults. Interviews will initially be structured around the Five Cs of Positive Youth Development, meaning character strengths likely discussed will include self-regulation, diligence, perseverance, future-mindedness, thrift, wisdom, hope, gratitude, honesty, compassion, empathy, selflessness, and social responsibility. 

Using the interview data as a guide, we will create a new Swahili-language measure of character strengths and administer the measure to a sample of 450 youth (150 living in each context). The resulting data will allow us to establish a reliable factor structure and examine criterion-related validity. We will then evaluate the usability and relevance of the measure to Kenyan youth development programs. In addition to the publicly available measure, outputs include three manuscripts submitted to peer-reviewed journals, a practitioner-oriented white paper, and a policy brief. Short-term outcomes include improved evaluation capacity and program effectiveness of Kenyan youth-serving organizations. Long-term outcomes include improved life chances among Kenyan youth, an expanded academic presence of Maasai Mara University as a center for youth development research, and the incorporation of the measure in subsequent research.




Kennedy Onyiko

Work Description


John Geldhof

G. John Geldhof

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