Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Goal-Setting, Planning Abilities, and Resourcefulness as Protective Factors for Court-Involved Youth

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Carolyn Tompsett (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Ashley McCoy (Other)

Third Advisor

Eric Dubow (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)


Following incarceration, youth often experience significant challenges such as an inability to distance themselves from peers involved in criminal behavior, transitioning to a new school, or a change in caregiving (Pratt, 2019; Sullivan, 2004). To navigate these challenges, youth need to be able to set goals, create plans, and follow through on their plans—often with the assistance of others. Youth in the justice system are found to have difficulty setting realistic goals and planning for goal-focused behavior (Lemus et al., 2017; Carrol et al., 2013). They may have particular difficulty with such tasks due to low self-esteem, a lack of models for desired outcomes, and lower perceptions of self-regulatory abilities and academic achievement (Abrams & Aguilar, 2005; Carrol et al., 2013; Clinkinbeard & Zohra, 2012). Help-seeking or resourcefulness is beneficial when an individual is faced with a problem that they cannot solve on their own (Bekhet & Garnier-Villarreal, 2018; Zausniewski, 2016). Such problems are often encountered by court-involved youth. Social support and relationships with parents/caregivers influence behavior, determine social resources available for youth to solve problems, and their ability to seek help (Catalano & Hawkins, 1996; Heaney & Israel, 2008). Existing studies show resourcefulness to be associated with positive outcomes (e.g., academic success, social and adaptive functioning; Bekhet & Garnier-Villarreal, 2018; Li et al., 2018; Zauszniewski, 2006). Limited research is available regarding court-involved youth and their use of resourcefulness for reentry related goals.

The present study examined goal-setting and planning abilities of court-involved youth and positioned these abilities as protective factors within the Social Development Model (Catalano & Hawkins, 1996). The study analyzed how goal-setting and planning abilities are related to resourcefulness, and how goal-setting and planning abilities related to social support, psychological distress, prosocial activity involvement, impulsivity, peer and self-deviance, and criminal history. Overall, youth were found to generate fewer and less specific goals than in previous community samples. Impulsivity was found to negatively predict goal-setting, planning, and use of resourcefulness strategies. Environmental factors such as involvement in routine activities and perception of social support, along with individual factors such as impulsivity and mental health, were related to resourcefulness and goal-setting and planning skills. Results are discussed as they contribute to the growing body of literature on strategies to improve reentry programming with a strengths-based perspective, specifically in terms of goal-setting, planning, and resourcefulness. Directions for future studies involving court-involved youth are proposed.