First Advisor

Cynthia Mohr

Date of Publication

Fall 1-4-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Developmentally disabled -- Research, People with disabilities -- Social conditions -- Research, Qualitative research, Social integration



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 169 pages)


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a research approach that benefits from the expertise of community members being involved in the research along all stages of a project (Israel et al., 2003). CBPR is often utilized with marginalized populations in order to amplify a community's voice on important issues in their lives (Bastida, Tseng, McKeever, & Jack, 2010; Minkler & Wallerstein, 2008). In the past, persons with disability have been excluded from research in order to protect them from exploitation. This practice of exclusion undermines opportunities for persons with disabilities to be independent and make decisions that are important for themselves and their communities. Exclusion also limits the generation of new knowledge that can benefit them (McDonald & Keys, 2008). Through involvement on a CBPR project, persons with disabilities are given the opportunity to become empowered within the context of the project (Atkinson, 2004; Oden, Hernandez, & Hidalgo, 2010). This study examined empowerment definitions, evolution of empowerment definitions, and facilitators and barriers to community partners with and without disabilities becoming empowered through their work on a CBPR project. Overall, community partners' definitions of empowerment related to individual and setting-level characteristics. Individual-level empowerment was defined as self-efficacy, self-esteem, control over decision-making, and disability rights advocacy. Facilitators to empowerment within the CBPR process were promoting inclusion, promoting an accessible partnership, sharing of power within and between groups, and actively sharing and gaining knowledge within and between groups. Inaccessible communication, inaccessible language, and lack of project ownership were identified as possible barriers to empowerment. In most cases, empowerment definitions remained stable across one's work on this project, but there were instances of positive change in the lives of some community partners who expressed being empowered through the partnership. CBPR provides an opportunity for persons with developmental disabilities to be included in the research processes as well as possibly gain important qualities throughout, such as empowerment. This study situated the individual's empowerment beliefs and behaviors within the CBPR setting, identifying both facilitators and barriers, and provides support that a CBPR process can be empowering for community partners. Future research in collaboration with community partners should continue to focus on empowerment in all stages of the research project, local collaborations, and continued diversity of community engagement in research. Engaging in a formal reflection process and documenting the process for other researchers to learn from diverse barriers and facilitators to empowerment is encouraged.


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