Positive Youth Development

Tuffs University recently released a report which included data from 18 land grant universities, including the University of Nebraska.  This report focused on the first five waves of research in the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. Many early researchers in the field of adolescents based their theories and observations of the assumption that youth are inherently ‘at risk’, were ‘broken’ and needed to be ‘fixed’.  Because of this premise, that is a largely what they saw.

Some features of Positive Youth Development (PYD) include traits known to researchers as the 5 C’s.  These C’s include competence, confidence, connection, character and caring/compassion.

  • Competence – a positive view of one’s actions in specific areas of life.  These areas include social, academic, cognitive, health and vocational.
    • Social competence refers to interpersonal skills,
    • Cognitive competence refers to cognitive abilities or decision making,
    • Academic competence refers to school performance as shown in part by grades, attendance and test scores,
    • Health competence includes using nutrition, exercise and rest to keep oneself fit,
    • Vocational competence includes work habits and exploration of career choices.
  • Confidence – an internal sense of overall positive self-worth and self-efficacy.
  • Connection – having positive bonds with people and institutions that are reflected in exchanges between the individual and his or her peers, family, school and community in which both parties contribute to the relationship.
  • Character – respect for societal and cultural norms, possession of standards for correct behaviors, a sense of right and wrong, and integrity.

A 6th C exists but can only be obtained when the other 5 have been or are being met. The 6th C encompasses contributions to self, family, community and the institutions of a civil society.

The relationship between PYD and risk behaviors is not perfectly simple or uniform.  Because youth each have a unique background also aiding in their development, not all those who are from environments full of resources and support stay away from the many troubles of life.  Studies have indicated that there is a link between PYD and programs that go beyond simple extracurricular activities and actually focus on promoting youth development.  Creating a program which effectively serves the youth population with programming and activities holds three traits.  Those traits include positive and sustained relationships between youth and adults (youth/adult partnerships), activities that build on important life skills and opportunities for children to use these life skills as both participants and as leaders in valued community activities.

This is only a small introduction to the Tuff’s report and we will continue to explore it over the next few months.  But ask yourself this… If fostering the 5 C’s is the only way the 6th C, ever occurs, what are we currently doing or not doing to foster the growth of those 5 traits in our youth today?


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  1. #1 by Da Loloz on 6, April 2010 - 12:33 pm

    I live in a place with more bottle store than schools.

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