Positive Youth Development

What is Positive Youth Development?

Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaborative group of more than 20 federal agencies whose programs and activities affect adolescents, developed the following definition of positive youth development (PYD):

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 young people’s 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.

PYD is a view that sees youth as full of potential rather than overwhelmed by problems that need to be solved. It also promotes the idea that adults can make significant and positive differences in young people’s lives. PYD strategies focus on enhancing the positive qualities adolescents already possess.

There is growing evidence that adding PYD principles in youth-serving programs can have positive effects across multiple parts of young people’s lives, including their physical and mental health, relationships, and academics. A PYD approach has also been particularly effective when working with vulnerable and underserved adolescents, including those who have been maltreated1 and those who are part of racial/ethnic minority groups.2

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1 Oshri, A., Topple, T. A., & Carlson, M. W. (2017). Positive youth development and resilience: growth patterns of social skills among youth investigated for maltreatment. Child Development, 88(4), 1087-1099. https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cdev.12865 back to top

2 Eichas, K., Montgomery, M. J., Meca, A., & Kurtines, W. M. (2017). Empowering marginalized youth: A self‐transformative intervention for promoting positive youth development. Child Development, 88(4), 1115-1124. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28594072/ back to top