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Positive Youth Development

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Research in the field of youth development points us toward important issues that we should address if we want to help protect our youth from many of the risks they will face.  Here is a report from the textbook, Adolescent Health:

As part of a 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development — a longitudinal study of adolescent development supported by the National 4-H Council — researchers objectively assessed the following four important assets present in the homes, schools, and communities of youth:

  1. Other individuals: for example, parents who spend high quantities of quality time with their children; high – quality, engaged teachers; and community mentors.
  2. Institutions: for example, structured, after-school programs, sport fields, libraries, and parks and hiking trails.
  3. Collective activity: for example, opportunities for youth and adults to work together on school committees, civic projects, or community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or faith institutions.
  4. Access: for example, the availability of transportation to and from out-of-school-time activities or safe streets and neighborhoods.

These actual assets were positively related to Positive Youth Development and negatively related to indices of risk or problem behaviors (for example, internalizing problems such as depression or externalizing problems such as bullying) at levels generally higher than those associated with perceived assets.

In addition, in all contexts — families, schools, and communities — the most important asset was always the people present in the lives of youth.

It’s worth it for us to carefully consider how we can become involved in the lives of the youth among our families and our communities.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.