Positive Youth Development
Adolescence, while a period of great biological, social and emotional change, is also a period of opportunity and growth for young people. At one time, adolescence was viewed as period of “stress and storm” and well-being was defined as merely the absence of negative factors, such as drug use, delinquent behavior or precocious sexual behavior. It was believed that the personal strengths necessary to experience healthy development were unique to only some youth. Fortunately, both adolescent development theory and adolescent health promotion practice have evolved.
The field of Positive Youth Development (PYD) has developed from this evolution. The principles of PYD advance the view that all youth, even those who experience great challenges or adversity, have the capacity to experience positive health and social outcomes. PYD recognizes that youth have interconnected relationships with the world around them. Young people are influenced by and learn from the individuals, institutions and norms that surround them. As a result of their interactions with their environment, young people develop both internal and external assets, personal strengths and environmental supports that enable youth to achieve positive outcomes despite the challenges or adversity of adolescence.
The field of PYD promotes a resiliency-based approach to adolescent health policy and programs, an approach which builds on youths’ strengths rather than focusing only on preventing negative outcomes. Young peoples’ strengths can be fostered by supporting the protective factors in their environment, such as caring relationships, high expectations and opportunities for participation and contribution. Research shows that young people who have the opportunity to develop their social competence, problem solving skills, autonomy and sense of purpose demonstrate better health outcomes. Caring relationships can be fostered within families, such as with parents; at schools, such as with teachers or counselors; and within the broader community, including informal relationships with friends or neighbors as well as formal ties to youth programs. High expectations can be held of young people in their families, such as parents’ belief in their child’s ability to succeed; in schools, particularly through high academic standards, and in communities. Finally, opportunities for participation and contribution can be offered in the family, school and community.
Principles of PYD have guided the development of policies and programs to support adolescent well-being. PYD programs focus on creating resources, experiences and opportunities for young people in their families, school and communities to develop their personals strengths. However, more evaluation is needed to determine which programs work to change outcomes and with which youth populations.
Data and research are essential tools for raising awareness of adolescent health issues, to plan programs and service delivery, and to formulate policy at the state and local levels. CAHC is committed to maintaining a website that serves as a gateway to a wide array of resources, and regularly updating our site to include the most up-to-date research. Direct links are provided when possible, and abstracts are provided for journal articles.
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