Home . Radioshow . News Columns . Resources . Contact

The Taos News


can be heard discussing Positive Psychology here.


Positive Youth Development

July 2013

For almost all of the 20th c. most research about young people was based on a deficit conception. Adolescence was considered to be a period of crisis and disturbance in which the young person was either “broken” or in danger of becoming “broken.”   He or she was seen as going through a period of universal and inevitable biologically based storm and stress. This deficit model painted a picture of rampant alcohol and drug abuse, unsafe sex, as well as incessant bullying among teen-agers and created much concern among parents.   

Current Positive Youth Development research being conducted at Tufts University  paints a very different picture of adolescence.  It shows that indeed there are problems which occur during this period, but the fact is, all humans have problems throughout their entire life cycle.  Adolescence is not in and of itself particularly problematic. 

This new perspective arising from biological and developmental science research is entitled Positive Youth Development in order to separate it from the old model.  This new model shows us that most young people do not have a stormy adolescent period.  In fact, the majority of teen-agers exhibit four universal strengths which have beenidentified as competence, confidence, connection, and character.   These strengths enable them to be resilient and engaged.  From these four strengths, two others arise naturally -  caring, and the desire to make a contribution.  Young people who experience these six “C’s” of normal adolescent development end up having the presence of mind to achieve their goals and to be impassioned to contribute without being cajoled. 

All young people have strengths, starting with the strength of their plasticity which allows them to change. In addition, if we use the criteria of purpose in life as the ultimate human concern, a healthy young person exhibits all the elements of this concern.  He or she has something to accomplish which is larger than his or her self and has plans for future action which are meaningful and must be incorporated into his/her identity.

Other individual developmental assets that help young people in fulfilling their perceived purpose are a commitment to learning, having positive values as well as social competencies, and having a positive identity. When their strengths are combined with assets that can be found in their family, schools, faith institutions, youth serving organizations and the greater community at large then it is possible they can achieve the ability to make positive healthy developmental decisions.   It is easy to see how these all these strengths combined prove to be a big help when it comes to them being able to organize their priorities and to achieve their goals.  

In addition to these important intrapersonal assets, it is crucial for the adults in their lives to help them see through the intricacies of the stated and unstated rules of the educational system and the labor market.  They need to know such things as how much effort is needed in making a career plan and in getting to work on time every day.   This kind of strategic thinking helps them to develop their executive function which aids in intentional self-regulation and gives them hope for a positive future.  They also need to be able to bond with others, to have resilience to recover from difficult circumstances, and to exhibit social and moral competence.

It is now within our power to promote positive development in our youth.   We know that young people have strengths and that all communities possess resources to enhance the development of youth.  If we create an alignment across the strengths of their families, schools, and communities, we can enhance the lives of youths, and enable them to be active and engaged citizens who contribute to a more civil society and a better nation.

For further information on Positive Youth Development:  Lerner, R. M. (2007). The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescents from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years.



Home . Radioshow . News Columns . Resources . Contact