Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development
Based on the literature, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of twelve federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created a definition of positive youth development:
Positive youth development is an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youths' strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.
Positive youth development has its origins in the field of prevention. In the past, prevention efforts typically focused on single problems before they surfaced in youth, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency.
Over time, practitioners, policymakers, funders and researchers determined that promoting positive asset building and considering young people as resources were critical strategies. As a result, the youth development field began examining the role of resiliency—the protective factors in a young person's environment—and how these factors could influence one's ability to overcome adversity. Those factors included, but were not limited to: family support, caring adults, positive peer groups, strong sense of self and self-esteem, and engagement in school and community activities.
Researchers and practitioners began to report that young people possessing a diverse set of protective factors can, in fact, experience more positive outcomes. These findings encouraged the development of interventions and programs that reduced risks and also strengthened protective factors. These programs and interventions are strengthened when they involve and engage youth as equal partners, ultimately providing benefits both for the program and for the involved youth.