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ACT for Youth

Principles of Positive Youth Development

Positive youth development is a framework that guides communities in the way they organize services, opportunities, and supports so that young people can develop to their full potential. Positive youth development is not just another program. Communities that adopt a youth development approach emphasize these principles:
  • Focus on strengths and positive outcomes. Rather than taking a deficit-based approach, communities intentionally help young people build on their strengths and develop the competencies, values, and connections they need for life and work.
  • Youth voice and engagement. Youth are valued partners who have meaningful, decision-making roles in programs and communities.
  • Strategies that involve all youth. Communities support and engage all youth rather than focusing solely on "high-risk" or "gifted" youth. Communities do, however, recognize the need to identify and respond to specific problems faced by some youth (such as violence or premature parenthood).
  • Community involvement and collaboration. Positive youth development includes but reaches beyond programs; it promotes organizational change and collaboration for community change. All sectors have a role to play in making the community a great place to grow up.
  • Long-term commitment. Communities provide the ongoing, developmentally appropriate support young people need over the first 20 years of their lives.

Featured Resources: Understanding Positive Youth Development

Manual: Positive Youth Development 101
Authored by Jutta Dotterweich, this curriculum offers an orientation to the youth development approach for professionals entering the field of youth work.

Positive Youth Development (14 minutes)
In this narrated presentation, Jutta Dotterweich of Cornell University discusses the origins, research, and concepts behind this approach.

Principles for Youth Development (PDF)
An excellent overview by Stephen F. Hamilton, Mary Agnes Hamilton, and Karen Pittman is provided in this chapter of "The Youth Development Handbook: Coming of Age in American Communities." Reprinted with permission.

Understanding Youth Development Principles and Practices (PDF; formatted for screen readers)
In this edition of Research Facts and Findings, Janis Whitlock of Cornell University reviews key features of the positive youth development framework.

Positive Youth Development Resources in Spanish

Principios del Desarrollo de Jóvenes (Principles of Youth Development)
Resultados Positivos de Jóvenes (Positive Outcomes)
Etapas del Desarrollo en Adolescentes (Stages of Adolescent Development summary chart)