‘I dare’: experiences of young adults at risk participating in a one-year inclusive-theatre project in Norway

  • Ellen Andvig Høgskolen i Buskerud og Vestfold fakultet for helsevitenskap
  • Jan Kåre Hummelvoll Høgskolen i Buskerud og Vestfold
Keywords: empowerment, inclusive theatre, mental-health problems, school dropout, social belonging, social participation, young adults at risk


Introduction: In Norway one of three young people drop out of high school. For young people to be on the outside of education or work may develop feelings of isolation and lack of control, resulting in alienation from both authority and community that may further marginalize them. Some develop mental-health problems.

Aim: The aim of this study was to describe and interpret the experiences of young persons neither in school nor working who participated in a one-year inclusive-theatre project. The research questions were as follows: How do the participants describe their experiences with inclusive theatre related to self-image? How does participating in inclusive theatre affect their social belonging and participation? 

Method: Three multi-stage focus-group interviews with participants were carried out. The data material was analysed with thematic content analysis.

Findings: The main theme was ‘a changed self-image’ and four sub-themes emerged: ‘increased self-confidence’, ‘increased ability to cope’, ‘responsibility’, and ‘connectedness to others and society’.

Conclusion: Through increased self-esteem, the participants explored opportunities to form their own development and to find a way to pursue their goals as part of society. They dared to meet the challenges which had provided them with good experiences and a more meaningful life. They went through a social process of empowerment where there was the recognition, promotion, and strengthening of their ability to satisfy their own needs, involving a mobilization of the necessary resources in order to feel in control of their own lives. They began to believe in a future with education, work, and friends.

Author Biographies

Ellen Andvig, Høgskolen i Buskerud og Vestfold fakultet for helsevitenskap

Fakultwt for helsevitenskap

førstelektor i psykisk helsearbeid

Jan Kåre Hummelvoll, Høgskolen i Buskerud og Vestfold
Fakultet for Helsevitenskap Professor


Andvig, E. (2014). Förundran i hermeneutisk forskning - ett exempel från fokusgruppsamtal [Wonder in hermeneutic research: an example from focus-group discussions]. In E. Lassenius & E. Severinsson (eds.) Hermeneutik i vårdpraxis. Det nära, det flyktiga, det dolda. [Hermeneutic in the caring practice: The close, the fleeting, the hidden]. Malmø: Gleerups Utbildning AB.

Andvig, E., Svanoe, K. & Borg, M. (2016). Gaining a Foothold: How Housing and Belonging Support Youth-at-risk in Getting a Grip on Adulthood. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 4, 26-37. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jss.2016.41004

Askheim, O.P. (2003). Empowerment as guidance for professional social work: an act of balancing on a slack rope. European Journal of Social Work, 6(3), 229-240. DOI: 10.1080/1369145032000164546

Bhukanwala, F. (2014). Theater of the oppressed in an after-school program: Middle school students’ perspectives on bullying and prevention. Middle School Journal, 46(1), 3-12.

Boal, A. (1995). The Rainbow of desire: The Boal method of theatre and therapy. London: Routledge.

Boal, A. (1998). Legislative Theatre. New York: Routledge.

Boal, A. (2003). Games for actors and non-actors. New York: Routledge.

Boal, A. (2006). The aesthetics of the oppressed. New York: Routledge.

Bond, G.R., Drake, R.E. & Campbell, K. (2012). The effectiveness of the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment for young adults: results from four randomized controlled trials. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 6(suppl-S1), 30.

Bungay, H. & Vella-Burrows, T. (2013). The effects of participating in creative activities on the health and well-being of children and young people: a rapid review of the literature. Perspectives in Public Health, 133(44), 44-52. DOI: 10.1177/1757913912466946

Butler, E., Bakker, T.E. & Viljoen, G. (2013). Poetic and therapeutic encounters in an adolescent drama group. South African Journal of Psychology 43(1), 94-104. DOI: 10.1177/0081246312474413

Costello, E.J., Egger, H. & Angold, A. (2005). 10-year research update review: the epidemiology of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders: Methods and public health burden. Journal of American Academic Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(10), 972-986.

Daykin, N., Orme, J., Evans, D., Salmon, D., McEachran, M. & Brain, S. (2008). The Impact of Participation in Performing Arts on Adolescent Health and Behaviour. A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(2), 251-264.

Drake, R.F. & Becker, D.R. (2006). The individual placement and support model of supported employment. Psychiatric Services, 47(5), 473-475.

Drury, J., Evripidou, A. & van Zomeren, M. (2015). Empowerment: The intersection of identity and power in collective action. In D. Sindic, M. Barreto & R. Costa-Lopes (Eds.), Power and identity (pp. 94-117). London: Psychology Press.

Ellison, M.L., Klodnick, V.V., Bond, G.R., Krzos, I.M., Kaiser, S.M. & Fagan, M.A. (2014). Adapting supported employment for emerging adults with serious mental health conditions. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research. 42(2), 206-222.

Faigin, D.A. & Stein, C. H. (2010). The Power of Theater to Promote Individual Recovery and Social Change. Psychiatric Services, 61(3), 306-308.

Follesø, R. (ed.) (2011). Gi Viljen Mulighet! Sluttrapport Ungdom i Svevet 2007–2010 [Give the Will a Possibility. Final Report Youth in Flight] UIN-rapport vol.12. Bodø: Universitetet i Nordland.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.

Gjærum, R.G., Ineland, J. & Sauer, L. (2010). The Story about Theater Organizations, the Public's Approval, and the Actors' Identity Formation in Nordic Disability Theater. Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation 9(4), 254-273 DOI:10.1080/1536710X.2010.523648

Gjærum, R.G. & Rasmussen, B. (2010). The Achievements of Disability Art: A Study of Inclusive Theatre, Inclusive Research, and Extraordinary Actors, Youth Theatre Journal, 24(2), 99-110, DOI: 10.1080/08929092.2010.518909

Graneheim, U.H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24(2), 105–112.

Granerud, A. & Eriksson, B.G. (2014). Mental Health Problems, and the Impact of Green Care Services: A qualitative, Participant-Focused Approach. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 30(4), 317-336.

Gürgens, R. (2004). En usedvanlig estetikk: om betydningen av egenproduserte teatererfaringer for det usedvanlige mennesket. [An extraordinary aesthetic: The meaning of self-produced theatrical experiences for the extraordinary person]. Trondheim: NTNU- trykk.

Halvorsen, B., Hansen, O.J. & Tägtström, (2012). Unge på kanten. Om inkludering av utsatte ungdommer. [Youth at the edge. On including youth at risk]. Nordisk ministerråd 2012:005.

Hawkins, S.T. & Georgokopolus, A. (2010). Dramatic Problem Solving: Community Conflict Transformation through Interactive Theatre in Costa Rica. International Journal of Arts and Sciences, 3(8), 545-560.

Horghagen, S. & Josephsson, S. (2010). Theatre as Liberation, Collaboration and Relationship for Asylum Seekers. Journal of Occupational Science, 17(3), 168-176.

Hummelvoll J.K. (2008). The multistage focus group interview: A relevant and fruitful method in action research based on a co-operative inquiry perspective. Norsk Tidsskrift for Sykepleieforskning, 10(1), 3-14.

Hummelvoll, J.K. & Severinsson, E. (2005). Researchers’ experience of co-operative inquiry in acute mental health care. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 52(2), 80–188.

Hyggen, C. (2015). Unge utenfor utdanning og arbeid i Norden. Utfordringer, innsatser og anbefalinger. [Young people outside education and work in the North. Challenges, initiatives and suggestions]. Nordisk Ministerråd, Tema Nord, 2015:536 http://dx.doi.org/10.6027/TN2015‐536

Kane, K.M. (2013). Best Practices in the Performing Arts Transformation and Flourishing in a Progressive Summer Dance Theater Program for Adolescents. Journal of Dance Education, 13(3), 71–77. DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2013.810341

Kemp, M. (2006). Promoting the health and wellbeing of young black men using community-based drama. Health Education, 106(3), 186-200.

Kogstad, R.E., Agdal, R. & Hopfenbeck, M.S. (2014). Narratives of Natural Recovery: Youth Experience of Social Inclusion through Green Care. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(6), 6052-6068. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph110606052

Langeland, S., Herud, E. & Ohrem, S. (2014). Fattigdom og levekår i Norge – status 2013. [Poverty and living conditions – status 2013]. NAV-rapport 2014, nr.1. Arbeids- og velferdsdirektoratet.

Larson, R.W. & Brown, J.R. (2007). Emotional development in adolescence: what can be learned from a high school theater program? Child Development, 78(4), 1083-1099.

Lee, S., Tsang, A., Breslau, J., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Angermeyer, M., Borges, G., et al. (2009). Mental disorders and termination of education in high-income and low- and middle-income countries: Epidemiological study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 194(5), 411-417. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.054841

Mahar, A.L., Cobigo, V. & Stuart, H. (2013). Conceptualizing belonging. Disability & Rehabilitation, 35(12), 1026-1032.

Mohler, C.E. (2012). How to turn ‘a bunch of gang-bangin’ criminals into big kids having fun’: Empowering Incarcerated and At-Risk Youth through Ensemble Theatre. Theatre Topics, 22(1), 89-102. DOI: 10.1353/tt.2012.0002

Munford, R. & Sanders, J. (2014). Negotiating and Constructing Identity: Social Work with Young People Who Experience Adversity. British Journal of Social Work, 45(5). DOI: 10.1093/bjsw/bcu059

NOU (2009, No.22) (Norwegian Official Report), Whatever you do, do it well – better coordination of services for children and adolescents, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.

NOVA (Norwegian Social Research), (2014). Ungdata -Nasjonale resultat 2013 [Youth Data - National results 2013] Report No. 10/14. Oslo: Norwegian Social Research Institute.

Patel, V., Flisher, A.J., Hetrick, S., McGorry, P. (2007). Mental health of young people: a global public-health challenge. Lancet, 369(9569), 1302-1313.

Ramsdal, G., Gjærum, R.G., & Wynn, R. (2013). Dropout and early unemployment. International Journal of Educational Research, 62(6), 75–86.

Rumberger, R.W. & Lim, S.A. (2008) Why Students Drop Out of School. A Review of 25 years of research. California Dropout Research Project. Santa Barbara: University of California.

Ryan, P., Baumann, A.E. & Griffiths, C. (2012). Empowerment: Key Concepts and Evidence Base. In P.

Ryan, S. Ramon & T. Greacen, (Eds.), Empowerment, Lifelong Learning and Recovery in Mental Health: Towards a new paradigm (pp. 135-203). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Salmon, D. & Rikaby, C. (2014). City of One: A Qualitative Study Examining the Participation of Young People in Care in a Theatre and Music Initiative. Children & Society, 28(1), 30–41. DOI:10.1111/j.1099-0860.2012.00444.x

Settersten, R.A. & Ray, B. (2010). What’s going on with young people today? The long and twisting path to adulthood. The future of children, 20(1), 19-41.

Statistics Norway (2013). Gjennomstrømming I videregående opplæring 2007 – 2012. [Passing in Upper Secondary Education 2007-2012]. www.ssb.no/vgogjen.

Steigen, A.M, Kogstad R. & Hummelvoll, J.K. (2015). Green Care services in the Nordic countries: an integrative literature review. European Journal of Social Work, 19(5), DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2015.1082983

The Norwegian Ministry of Health (2014-15). Melding til Stortinget nr. 19 (2014-15). Folkehelsemeldingen. Mestring og muligheter. [White paper on health promotion. Coping and possibilities]

Thompson, S.J., Ryan, T.N., Montgomery, K.L., Lippman, A., Bender, K. & Ferguson, K. (2013). Perceptions of resiliency and coping: homeless young adult speak out. Youth Society, 48(1), 58-76. DOI: 10.1177/0044118X13477427.

WHO, (1998). The World Health Report. Life in the 21st century: a vision for all. Geneva.

Woodall, J.R., Warwick-Booth, L. & Cross, R. (2012). Has empowerment lost its power? Health Education Research Advance Access, 27(4), 742-745. DOI:10.1093/her/cys064

Wooster, R. (2009). Creative inclusion in community theatre: a journey with Odyssey Theatre. Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 14(1), 79-90.

World Medical Association (2008). The Declaration of Helsinki. Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. Retrieved from Http:// www.wha.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/.
How to Cite
Andvig, E., & Hummelvoll, J. K. (2017). ‘I dare’: experiences of young adults at risk participating in a one-year inclusive-theatre project in Norway. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 7. https://doi.org/10.7577/njsr.2101