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ACT for Youth

Features of Effective Youth Development Settings

In its 2002 review of rigorously evaluated, community-based programs, the National Research Council provided an evidence base for effective youth development programs [1]. Currently, these eight features of effective youth development settings serve as quality standards for youth programs.
  • Physical and Psychological Safety: positive, respectful interactions among peers and staff, conflict resolution, and physically sound facilities.
  • Appropriate Structure: clear, consistent, age-appropriate expectations for behavior; rules and boundaries.
  • Supportive Relationships: good communication, warmth, and genuine connection.
  • Opportunities to Belong: an inclusive, engaging environment for all; cultural competence.
  • Positive Social Norms: positive, pro-social values and expectations.
  • Support for Efficacy and Mattering: genuine opportunities for youth to make a difference; youth-centered practices that challenge, empower, and focus on improving competencies.
  • Opportunities for Skill Building: developing competencies for life, further education, work, and citizenship.
  • Integration of Family, School, and Community Efforts: collaboration to offer the rich developmental context that helps young people succeed. Competencies grow through opportunities to practice skills in a variety of situations.


[1]   National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2002). Community Programs to Promote Youth Development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. The National Academy of Sciences Report Brief: Community Programs to Promote Youth Development (PDF) summarizes the study findings.