Youth Development Program

⇒ Positive youth development, or PYD, refers to intentional efforts of other youth, adults, communities, government agencies, and schools to provide opportunities for youth to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities into their adulthoods.

⇒ Youth development overall is the physical, social, and emotional processes that occur during the adolescent period, from ages 10 until 24 years.

⇒ Simply speaking, it is the process through which young people acquire the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and abilities required to navigate life .

⇒Although the word 'youth' can be used synonymously with 'child', 'adolescent', or 'young person', the phrase 'youth development' or 'positive youth development' is usually used in the scientific literature and by practitioners who work with youth to refer to programs designed to optimize these processes.
⇒It is distinguished from 'child development' or 'adolescent development' in its focus on the active promotion of optimal human development, rather than on the scientific study of age related change.

Importance of youth development

⇒During adolescence, young people experience profound physical changes, rapid growth and development, and sexual maturation, in addition to psychological and social changes.

⇒This often leads to issues with personal identity, sense of self, and emotional independence. In an attempt to cope with the complex changes and challenges of development, they may engage in behaviors considered to be experimental and risky .

⇒Due to this, several important public health and social problems either begin or peak during these years including homicide, suicide, substance use and abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and teen and unplanned pregnancies.

⇒Addressing the positive development of young people can decrease these problems by facilitating their adoption of healthy behaviors and helping to ensure a healthy transition into adulthood .

Key characteristics

⇒PYD suggests that helping young people achieve their full potential is the best way to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors.

⇒There are many variations of this approach but important constructs included in all variations are promoting a sense of safety; providing appropriate structures; creating supportive relationships; providing opportunities to belong; providing positive social norms; giving youth responsibilities and meaningful challenges; and providing opportunities for skill building. One of the hallmarks of the positive youth development movement is that it is built on a foundation of scientific research.

⇒In addition, youth development programs typically work through existing social organizations rather than focusing on individual counseling. For example, youth development interventions may focus on youth in families, schools, churches, sports or youth-serving organizations or work through formal mentoring or apprenticeship programs. In addition, positive youth development programs typically recognize contextual variability in youths' experience and in what is considered 'healthy' or 'optimal' development for youth in different settings or cultures. This cultural sensitivity reflects the influence of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. The influence of ecological systems theory is also seen on the emphasis many youth development programs place on the interrelationship of different social contexts through which the development person moves .

⇒Positive youth development programs are most often designed with the intent of protecting youth from specific risks (e.g., substance use, violence-prone neighborhoods) or to promote specific role transitions (e.g., entry into work). Prevention approaches to youth development attempt to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth before children show evidence of developmental disturbance. Intervention approaches focus on correcting problems once they have occurred. An additional hallmark of these programs is that they are based on the concept that children and adolescents have strengths and abilities unique to their developmental stage and that they are not merely 'inadequate' or 'undeveloped' adults. Lerner and colleagues write: "The goal of the positive youth development perspective is to promote positive outcomes. This idea is in contrast to a perspective that focuses on punishment and the idea that adolescents are broken.

⇒Because of its focus on skill acquisition in the context of risk, the phrase 'positive youth development' most often refers to programs focused on children and, more often, adolescents, rather than infants or preschool children.