Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development (PYD) and 40 Developmental Assets

“The PYD framework asserts that every young person has the potential for successful, healthy development as well as the capacity for positive development. PYD originates from a strength-based view of adolescence that is juxtaposed to a deficits perspective of youth. It critiques the common research practice that only measures the problem behaviors of youth and fails to examine the positive behaviors youth also may exhibit” (Chung and McBride, 2015, p.193).

The 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents were developed by the Search Institute in 1997 to establish a foundation for healthy youth development. The assets are split into external and internal categories with subgroups for each. External assets subgroups include support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. Commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity are the four subgroups of internal assets (Search Institute, 2007).

To find out more information about the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents go to: http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

Key Principles of PYD

Youth.gov, a government website that works to “create, maintain, and strengthen effective youth programs” (Youth.gov, 2016, p.1), provides a list of key principles to positive youth development:

  1. Positive youth development is an intentional process. It is about being proactive to promote protective factors in young people.
  2. Positive youth development complements efforts to prevent risky behaviors and attitudes in youth, and complements efforts that work to address negative behaviors.
  3. Youth assets are both acknowledged and employed through positive youth development. All youth have the capacity for positive growth and development.
  4. Positive youth development enables youth to thrive and flourish in their teen years, and prepares them for a healthy, happy and safe adulthood.
  5. Positive youth development involves youth as active agents. Adults may set the structure, but youth are not just the recipients of services. Youth are valued and are encouraged to bring their assets to the table. Adults and youth work in partnership.
  6. Youth leadership development is a part of positive youth development, but youth aren’t required to lead. Youth can attend, actively participate, contribute, or lead through positive youth development activities.
  7. Positive youth development involves civic involvement and civic engagement—youth contribute through service to their communities.
  8. Positive youth development involves and engages every element of the community—schools, homes, community members, and others. Young people are valued through this process. Positive youth development is an investment that the community makes in young people. Youth and adults work together to frame the solutions (Youth.gov, 2016).

To find out more information about the Key Principles of Positive Youth Development go to:


Positive Youth Development at the Office on Children and Youth








The Office on Children and Youth (OCY) implements and facilitates Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP) in various settings such as middle schools, high schools, and community sites. TOP ® promotes and uses a Positive Youth Development framework and is a national evidence-based program designed to empower teens and enable them to make healthy choices. TOP® is a component of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program at OCY and is integral in our efforts to reduce pregnancy among teens, increase school attendance and grades, and decrease dropout rates. Facilitated by trained OCY staff, TOP® serves over 100 students each year in various clubs across Harrisonburg. Participants complete 20 hours of community service learning each year. This learning benefits youth participants and the community. Through their contributions to the betterment of their neighborhoods, teens alter community members’ perspectives on youth, which helps to build self-esteem. This cycle fosters positive attitudes towards adolescents, building self-efficacy and self-worth. Evidence-based results show teens who participate in TOP® have a decreased risk of becoming a teen parent, dropping out of school, and spending time in jail or prison. Youth who participate also have an increased rate of graduating high school on time, participating in community service, and making healthy choices.

By the Numbers

Evidence-based results show teens who participate in TOP® have a…

60% Lower risk of academic

88% Participation in community service

60% Lower risk of dropout

53% Lower risk of teen pregnancy

52% Lower risk of school suspension

(Wyman Center, 2014, p.3)


To learn more about the Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program visit:


Theory and Practice on Positive Youth Development









Chung, S., and McBride, A. M. (2015). Social and emotional learning in middle school curricula:

A service learning model on positive youth development. Children and Youth Services  Review, 53 (1), p.192-200. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.04.008.

Search Institute. (2007). 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

Wyman Center. (2014). Annual Report: Transforming Today’s Teens, Discovering Tomorrow’s Leaders. Eureka, MO: Wyman Center.

Youth.gov. (2016). Key Principles. Retrieved from http://youth.gov/youth-topics/positive-youth-development/key-principles-positive-youth-development