From Treatment to Empowerment: Conceptualizing the Role of Young People in Creating Change Processes for Their Peers

Maja Lindegaard Moensted, Niels Buus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Youth-led peer-support initiatives appear well placed to dismantle conventional binaries of youth-adult, as they hold promise as models able to perceive youth outside the role of service recipients. Drawing on ethnographic research at an Australian youth program that included interviews with young people, young and adult volunteers, and staff, this paper investigates the role young people play in determining, creating, and applying change processes for their peers. Through the mechanisms of “cultivating relatability,” “establishing a culture of support,” and “role-modeling alternative pathways,” new possibilities and hope were created. At the core of peer-support efforts was an attempt to increase social integration and a commitment to notions of equality and respect as well as the eradication of unequal power relations between adults and young people. The dual phenomenon of being both the recipient of peer support and facilitators of change processes for others has novel implications for youth programs that work with young people to enhance processes of empowerment and agency and promote positive youth outcomes. Such an approach to working with young people as engaged partners, which gives them a voice and, in particular, asserts the rights of young people to be involved in transforming and recreating their situations, creates opportunities that may both extend the reach and deepen the impact of youth services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391–411
Number of pages21
JournalChild & Youth Services
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Peer-support
  • qualitative research
  • role models/mentors
  • youth participation
  • youth services

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