Youth Identity: Transition to Adulthood Explored Through Altered Book Construction

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Charles, Tori
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
This study explored art therapy as a vehicle for exploration of self-identity in a sample of urban youth transitioning to adulthood. Five emerging adults were recruited from a Washington DC area arts-based nonprofit organization to engage in altered book construction as a way to explore negative and positive experiences that had impacted their identity. In addition to creating an altered book, participants also completed pre and post surveys, as well as created audio recordings in which they shared in further depth about a negative experience that had impacted their identity. Based on theory in the areas of youth identity development and narrative therapy, the researcher hypothesized that the creation of altered books would bring self-awareness and clarity to the personal identity of the participants, as well as provide a safe space to release emotions in connection with identity. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes that occurred during the youth’s creative process. The themes identified by the participants included: relationships, physical appearance, and cultural appropriation. The findings indicated that supportive relationships with family, friends, and in the community can impact an individual’s identity and how they view themselves. The themes found during the study support the hypothesis that interwoven ideas and actions of others and society impacts how one can perceive the self based on what each individual has experienced. Creating narrative art allowed each individual to tell these experiences, express ideas, and gain reflective distance, enabling them to understand who they are and why.