Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development

Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development

Based on the literature, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of twelve federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created a definition of positive youth development:

Positive youth development is an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youths' strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.

Positive youth development has its origins in the field of prevention. In the past, prevention efforts typically focused on single problems before they surfaced in youth, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency.

Over time, practitioners, policymakers, funders and researchers determined that promoting positive asset building and considering young people as resources were critical strategies. As a result, the youth development field began examining the role of resiliency—the protective factors in a young person's environment—and how these factors could influence one's ability to overcome adversity. Those factors included, but were not limited to: family support, caring adults, positive peer groups, strong sense of self and self-esteem, and engagement in school and community activities.

Researchers and practitioners began to report that young people possessing a diverse set of protective factors can, in fact, experience more positive outcomes. These findings encouraged the development of interventions and programs that reduced risks and also strengthened protective factors. These programs and interventions are strengthened when they involve and engage youth as equal partners, ultimately providing benefits both for the program and for the involved youth.

Feature Articles
Youth Speakers Share Their Hopes for the Future Youth Speakers Share Their Hopes for the Future

Seven youth speakers at the recent Innovative Collaborations to Promote Positive Youth Outcomes: A Federal, State, and Local Dialogue conference shared their experiences as youth at risk – as well as how they were able to get their lives on track.

Teenage friends with books and smiling Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs Develops Common Language on Positive Youth Development

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs supports several subgroups, including one focused on Positive Youth Development.

Students in a Science Lab Engineering students mentor at middle school with STARBASE

This spring through the STARBASE Nebraska program, six University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering students have dedicated an hour each week to go back to sixth grade and help the next generation of engineers.

photo of Sierra Washington State Youth Take Civic Activism To New Level

Non-academic barriers to learning, such as those facing Sierra, were the focus of a Civic Engagement Forum in February of 2009. This two-day event brought young people from dropout prevention and school health programs to advise the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC).

4H logo How much do you know about…4-H and Positive Youth Development?

4-H provides opportunities for youth development and for youth to develop skills, practical knowledge, and wisdom through observing, doing, and living through experiences.

Girl and her Mentor A Match Made in Pittsburgh Cultivates a Young Girl's Strengths

Eleven-year-old Summer needed a positive environment where she could be a child and not grow up too fast. Gwyneth Gaul, a 28-year-old fundraiser, provides that positivity as Summer's mentor. The two were "matched" by Amachi Pittsburgh, which pairs children of incarcerated parents with caring adults.