Positive Youth Development: An Overview
Positive youth development (PYD) is an approach to working with young people that shifts our focus from a problem and deficit-oriented perspective to one that acknowledges and builds upon the strengths and positive characteristics of youth (Commission on Positive Youth Development, 2005; Hamilton & Hamilton, 2004). PYD has its roots in developmental psychology, developmental epidemiology, and prevention science and is supported by a broad range of programs and agencies including the federal Family and Youth Services Bureau, the Administration for Children and Families, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the 4H program. The goal of PYD is to build the competence, confidence, character, caring, and connections that will support a young person’s transition into a healthy, happy, responsible, and productive adulthood; once an adolescent has this foundation in place, she is able to cope with challenges and setbacks, and is more apt to contribute to her community. PYD approaches engage youth, their families, and caring community members to provide the scaffolding that young people need to identify and develop their strengths, minimize risks, and buffer against psychological problems. PYD complements and can accommodate much of our new knowledge about adolescent brain development and the research on contemporary issues facing adolescents.
Principles of Positive Youth Development
– All youth need support and scaffolding.
– Identify and build on strengths.
– Include and engage youth whenever possible.
– Caring families and communities are critical.
– “Problem free is not fully prepared.”
– “Fully prepared is not fully engaged.”
Why Positive Youth Development?
– Optimistic and proactive approach that offers alternative to focus on problems & deficits.
– Engages youth and empowers them to build strengths and assume leadership.
– Theory and research based approach useful in program and policy development and increasingly embraced by -funding sources.
– Provides rationale/common understanding for decisions.
– Consistent with research on adolescent brain development & authoritative parenting.
What Does PYD Accomplish?
– Engages youth & develops competence, confidence, and character.
– Improves self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-control..
– Facilitates caring relationships with peers, parents, other adults.
– Builds and strengthens connections with school and other institutions.
– Encourages setting goals and making healthy decisions & lifestyle choices.
– Supports contributions to family and community.
Putting Positive Youth Development into Practice
– See youth as resources, not problems.
– Help young people identify their strengths.
– Surround youth with caring adults to provide positive role models to help them learn skills and appropriate behaviors.
– Engage youth, but provide “scaffolding.”
-Structure challenging experiences to help build complex, adaptive brains by increasing potential for forming and sustaining neuronal connections.
– Provide opportunities for “safe” risk taking to build confidence & competence.
– Encourage paid work, internships, and volunteering.
– Acknowledge & encourage healthy behaviors and choices.
– Provide opportunities to make decisions and coaching in decision making.
– Assist youth to conceptualize help seeking as mature behavior.
– Ensure youth know how to access quality mental health and reproductive health services.
– Encourage youth to think about and plan for the future.
– Provide opportunities to participate and contribute.
– Celebrate achievements and positive experiences.