SS2 December 2021


Mădălina MIREA
West University of Timișoara

Abstract:The 2021 volume “Roma Minority Youth Across Cultural Contexts Taking a Positive Approach to Research, Policy, and Practice” edited by Radosveta Dimitrova, David L. Sam, and Laura Ferrer- Wreder, published at Oxford University Press, provides one of the most comprehensive to date research collections on Roma youth in Europe from a positive youth development framework. As a recurring challenge on Europe’s human security agenda, the question of tackling the various marginalization (racial, cultural, educational, and financial) suffered by Roma youth is usually approached from a deficit-model perspective. The book at hand proposes an assets-centered approach, which functions under the premise that all youth have assets and resources which they can mobilize for their development. The wide range of empirical data collected from European countries under this overarching theoretical framework is a valuable tool for policymakers and researchers alike. The book is notable for its policy implications in the field of Roma integration, as well as through its theory testing by extending PYD models to minority, non-mainstream populations.
Keywords:Positive youth development; PYD; Roma youth; human security
Contact details of the authors:  E-mail:
Institutional affiliation    of the authors:West University of Timisoara
Institutions address:Bd. Vasile Pârvan no. 4, Timișoara, 300223, Romania +40 256 592 111,

Roma Minority Youth across Cultural Contexts: Taking a Positive Approach to Research, Policy, and Practice is a welcome contribution in the field of positive youth development (PYD). While PYD research has been developed largely in interaction with mainstream, middle-class American youth, the

contribution under review stretches the limits of PYD models by applying them to a minority population, the Roma. This enriches existing literature two-fold: by contributing to studies on an underrepresented group and by extending the limits of PYD to diversity samples. Most importantly, it moves beyond deficit psychosocial models which focus on the pathological when discussing Roma integration and empowerment and instead works from a positive psychology assumption that all youth have access to resources and strengths which they can mobilize for their own advancement.

This aspect should place the book also in the sightlines of human security researchers and practitioners, as the Roma people are a recurring point on Europe’s human security agenda. Framing Europe’s most numerous minorities in a positive psychology light does not detract from assessing the discrimination faced by this vulnerable group, but rather help build a more comprehensive springboard for human security policies. Well-being appears as a central concern and conceptual tool across the various contributions in the volume, which makes it a fertile basis for policymakers and practitioners concerned with societal resilience, as well as researchers and students in these fields.

The first part of the book provides an introductory framework on the current status of the Roma population, one of Europe’s largest and most vulnerable minorities, exposed to discrimination, marginalization, long-term acculturation, economic deprivation, and illiteracy. Through a threefold structure, this part introduces the reader to Roma history, to existing integration strategies, within an outstanding attempt of mapping the key cultural and contextual elements in defining Roma populations across countries (Chapter 1). A special attention is given to the appraisal of the already existing American Roma literature, and to the attempt to understand positive youth development (PYD) in the case of Roma youth immigrants and their overwrought family experiences in the United States (Chapter 2). A comprehensive cross-countries overview on Romani youth and traveler children, targeting inequality policy measures, undertaken care and educational interventions, and good practices in early childhood services are proposed at the end of part one (Chapter 3).

The second part highlights, within a twofold design, the theories on Roma youth adaptation and well-being, both throughout traditional and strengths based PYD principles. Conceptual operationalization and practical interventions demanding community evidence-based participatory contribution, of high relevance for a secure identity formation during adolescence and emerging adulthoods, are being stressed (Chapter 5). Embedding the positive youth development (PYD) framework into enhancing the research and bettering the interventions and social policy on highly stigmatized minorities, especially in Romaphobic societies, are noticeably analyzed (Chapter 6).

The third part is where the bulk of the book is concentrated, defining its empirical mindedness. This section collects empirical data from a wide sample of European countries with a Roma minority: Bulgaria (Chapters 6, 7, 8), Kosovo (Chapters 6, 8), Albania, Romania (Chapter 8), Hungary (Chapter 9), and Serbia (Chapter 10). Methodology wise, the selection of chapters comprised in Part C is well rounded, including purely quantitative studies (Chapters 6, 8), mixed methods approaches (Chapters 7, 10), as well as qualitative case studies (Chapter 9). Comparative chapters like Wiium and Uka’s and Abubakar et al. are complemented by self-contained studies like Johnson et al. which underline within-group variation. Chapters 8, 9 and 10 can be assessed as a trifecta on Roma education, seeking to interrogate how to achieve positive educational outcomes, be it through supporting social connectedness as a resource for school engagement (Associations Between Social Connectedness and Academic Achievement Among Roma Youth in Eastern Europe) or by interrogation perpetuation of problematic Roma narratives in formal and informal school settings (Youth Development, Education, and Identity: A Case Study of Attitudes Toward Roma Youth in Hungary) or by implementing alternative educational programs (How Positive Youth Development Framework Can Improve Lives of Excluded People: The Case of Low-Income Roma Youth in Serbia). Chapter 11 offers some reflections on how positive development and Roma youth can mutually benefit each other, whether in policymaking and activism or in theory making and testing. The concluding chapter brings the editors back to the foreground with suggestions on how to build on the lessons illustrated in the empirical data collected in the book, as well as how these can be generalized. As a recurring challenge in Europe’s human security agenda, Roma needs and government action mismatch is highlighted while discussing policy implications of the research contribution at hand.

Overall, with its empirical focus and wide geographical range of data, the book constitutes a much-needed tool in the arsenal of any policymaker in Europe concerned with tackling human security and the Roma question specifically. Its innovative proposition of adopting a positive, assets-centered approach is a welcome departure from a pathologized, deficit-based model which seeks to ‘fix’ Roma culture so as to save it from underdevelopment and discrimination. Students

and researchers will find it equally compelling through its demonstration of a good mix of methodologies and samples which serve for highlighting either comparative or within-group variation, according to needs.