A Positive Youth Development Research Agenda

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (Working Group) recognizes the importance of Positive Youth Development (PYD) and works to ensure that current research-based content is included on youth.gov and to identify resources that support federal efforts in promoting positive youth development and Click here to download the PDF of A Positive Youth Development Research Agendayouth engagement. The Working Group created a national Research Agenda on PYD (PDF, 2 pages), thus giving researchers, practitioners, and policymakers a point of reference for future policies, programs, and research, including evaluations. This Research Agenda on PYD can also be used to stimulate conversations and increase attention to this topic area across agencies. In addition, the research agenda can serve to increase funding support for research and serve as a guide for university scholars and students. For more information on the development of the Research Agenda, see Dymnicki et al. (2016). Developing a Federal Research Agenda for Positive Youth Development: Identifying Gaps in the Field and an Effective Consensus Building Approach. Journal of Youth Development, 11.

This page describes efforts by the Working Group to identify key questions for a federal PYD research agenda to address. The questions below were developed through consultations with participants from many federal agencies who specialize in different areas of research work. The most current version of the research agenda is presented here. Three research domains were identified by the federal colleagues: (1) conceptual issues of PYD, (2) data sources and indicators, and (3) program implementation and effectiveness, based on the work done by National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2002) and more recent work in the field.

Research Questions Related to Conceptual Issues of PYD

  1. To what extent do PYD principles1 increase the likelihood that practices2 or programs lead to improved outcomes for youth and adults?
  2. How can PYD be measured at both the individual and contextual (e.g., relationship, community, society, and system) levels?

Research Questions Related to Data Sources and Indicators

  1. What are valid and reliable measures of PYD?
  2. What are the core competencies needed by staff (e.g., practitioners, providers) to implement PYD practices or programs?

Research Questions Related to Program Implementation and Effectiveness

  1. How can we measure the fidelity of PYD programs as they are being implemented?
  2. How can we assess the extent to which fidelity is related to PYD program effectiveness?
  3. How can we reliably measure dosage (frequency, duration, and intensity) of PYD programs? To what extent do these elements moderate program effectiveness and outcomes?
  4. What are the features of the settings in which PYD programs are delivered that contribute to positive outcomes?
  5. What modifications may need to be made to PYD programs to best serve the needs of diverse (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, poverty level, risk level) youth?
  6. How can input from participating youth and staff be incorporated into the design and implementation of PYD program evaluations?

References

1 Principles are a philosophy or approach emphasizing active support for the growing capacity of young people by individuals, organizations, and institutions, especially at the community level (Hamilton et al., 2004).
2 Practices are a planned set of activities, in which PYD principles are applied to foster the developmental process in young people (Hamilton et al., 2004).

Other Resources on this Topic

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).