Positive Youth Development, or PYD, is based on a body of research suggesting that certain “protective factors,” or positive influences, can help young people succeed and keep them from having problems. According to this research:
PYD favors leadership and skill-building opportunities under the guidance of caring adults. It looks at youth as assets to be developed and gives them the means to build successful futures.
Evidence for PYD
In an attempt to find out what types of programs encourage positive growth in young people, a committee of youth policy experts at the National Research Council of the Institute of Medicine undertook a two-year review of theoretical research and promising programs to determine which features of positive developmental settings could be proven effective. They released their results in 2002. They found that programs were more successful if they provided youth with:
Researchers have evaluated many programs that target specific issues (e.g., substance abuse prevention) using a PYD approach. And there is a growing body of evidence that PYD programs can prevent a variety of risk behaviors among young people and improve social and emotional outcomes.
For example, an evaluation over time of local 4-H programs looked at how positive influences in the lives of youth help protect against problems. Youth consistently engaged in 4-H were found to be at much lower risk of having personal, social and behavioral problems than other youth. They were less likely to smoke and drink than their peers, had better grades and were more likely to expect to attend college.
However, a comprehensive review of all the available evidence on PYD is still needed.
FYSB and PYD
As part of its mission to provide leadership on youth and family issues, FYSB promotes PYD among federal agencies, states, local governments, youth workers and the general public. FYSB and its staff believe that youth programs enhance their services when they give young people as many of the positive elements identified by the National Academies of Science as possible.
Here are some ways FYSB spreads the message about PYD:
Things to Read
Want to read more about PYD?
Youth Speak Out
Young people talk about their experiences with Positive Youth Development in this podcast series, produced for FYSB by the Clearinghouse.
Portions of this Web page were adapted from material on the Youth.gov website and in NCHYF's “Putting Positive Youth Development Into Practice.”