This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Pivoting to Meaningfully Connect with Youth: Youth Relationship Educators’ Perceptions of Success During the Coronavirus Pandemic




Almond, Lindsey

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Human Development and Family Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



This study considered the experiences of youth-focused relationship educators as they transitioned to online education due to the coronavirus pandemic. The aim was to understand the process and impact of these experiences on educators’ determination of success when transitioning online. Youth relationship education (YRE) programs are generally considered prevention programs aimed at providing youth with knowledge and skills to support healthy romantic relationships both now and in the future. YRE has previously been provided mainly through in-person delivery modalities; however, the coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented historical event that led to a drastic shift in programming practice. Research is scarce on relationship educators’ perceptions of their teaching and implementation, but especially so during a time of unpredictability and quick changes in order to continue conducting YRE programming. Through an interpretive grounded theory approach, focus groups and interviews were conducted with 12 diverse community-based youth relationship educators who had implemented programming in-person and online. The analysis revealed a core grounded theory of Pivoting to Meaningfully Connect, showing the process and elements of arriving at the determination of success for YRE educators. Three categories, made up of sub-categories and codes, encompass the core grounded theory category. These categories include Choosing to Continue, Building and Maintaining Connections, and Moving Forward for Success. From across the categories within the findings, five influential topics to consider about the way YRE educators perceive success were found: (i.) connecting with youth to make an impact, (ii.) having supportive partnerships through which to reinforce the process of meaningfully connecting, (iii.) adapting to promote inclusivity, (iv.) getting to know youth on a deeper level to encourage connections and engagement, and (v.) reconsidering what success is through connections and engagement. YRE educators in this study perceive themselves as being able to make real, meaningful changes in their youths’ lives through their work. Implications based on the findings from this work are indicated through practice and future research.