The field of youth development has gone through its own growing pains — with researchers and program funders alike, discovering what youth workers in the field have long known – and what studies like these from the Harvard Family Research Project and the Hewlett Foundation show us. Also, click to read the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s funded study, evaluating the outcomes of the positive youth development movement.

It’s Better…

… more effective, and fun too, when we provide teens with experiences that: recognize, and build upon their strengths; or that target the risk factors shown to be impediments to healthy development; or that helps them to acquire the social assets they need to successfully navigate through life, rather than simply focusing on their problems.

Community Service
Water Testing at the Brooklyn Bridge Park 2009

The MacArthur Foundation also reported…

What part don’t you understand?

The The MacArthur Foundation also reported the countless valuable benefits that assets building programs can legitimately boast, but were disheartened to discover that the the very teens that needed the most support — those most at-risk, were the hardest to engage.

” The lack of knowledge about [inner-city] youth, the context of poverty or it’s impact on healthy development is very disturbing”  Richard Jessor Ph.D , MacArthur Foundation Researcher

Many urban teens never enrolled at all, or enrolled, but were unable to adjust to the programs’ demands or participate long enough to earn education credentials, improve their work readiness and life management skills, or achieve any other real benefit.

High rates of program dropout combined with the inability to meaningfully engage inner-city youth — mostly of color – disenfranchised or poor were all cited in a report that strongly recommended interdisciplinary collaboration to provide a firmer grasp on the complexity of urban teen development — knowledge of which was already being hijacked by a psychology of adolescence that was confined largely to middle-class, white teens.

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