What is Positive Youth Development?

happy girl jumping in air while holding an umbrella

The term Positive Youth Development (PYD) has been a topic of discussion for researchers for the last few decades. It’s becoming more relevant due to the growth rate of common adolescent troubles such as drugs, teen pregnancy, mental health, crime, and school issues. A collection of 20 federal organizations called Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, stated the definition for positive youth development (PYD) as:

PYD is an intentional, prosocial 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 operationalized by the Five Cs: competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion. It is the product of positive experiences, positive relationships, and positive environments all coming together in one’s life. We break down the Five Cs and how they could be defined in today’s youth.

The first classification, competence is defined as having a positive and healthy view of one’s actions in a certain area of their life: social, cognitive, academic, health, and vocational. Social competence is seen as deeper personal skills, this would include skills one uses to end a conflict or start a new relationship. Cognitive skills refer to one’s ability to make the best decision despite the circumstances. Academic skills pertain to one’s performance in school. This includes everything from grades on report cards, to attendance, and extracurricular activities. Physical health, nutrition, and exercise are classified as health competence. Vocational competence involves career choices and the routes we take in life to explore our professional path (Lerner 2018).

The second classification is confidence. Confidence can be interpreted as trusting a situation, but it also can be viewed as feeling self-assurance of one’s appreciation of one’s attributes.

Confidence is the self-worth we feel and carry into everyday situations. This is the foundation of the framework that excels us in our personal and professional life. It is very important to be able to instill confidence in youth during their developmental stage, so they can be equipped for their future by having the ability to believe in themselves. The next classification is connection. Connection in PYD is possessing positive relationships within the community. Connection can range from relationships with friends and colleagues. It can also include relationships with landmarks and geographical locations one feels connected to. A person can also have a connection with companies and organizations they support.

The fourth classification of PYD is character. This is seen as the respect a person has for their community. If a youth respects their community, they make sure to follow the laws within that community, while respecting the cultures within the community and surrounding areas. Basically, it is having a sense of morality and having integrity. The final classification is compassion. Compassion gives us the ability to be empathetic and understanding towards others. Even if you may not share the same experiences, you can still understand the emotions they are feeling.

All of these classifications make up what it means to have PYD. When positive relationships, environments, and experiences are present, the Five Cs are developing. With the ever-evolving changes in society, it makes it difficult to connect with adolescents. More teenagers are spending time with their friends, rather than their parents. There is research behind positive youth development has shown youth are directly benefited from mentors. This is why mentors who are trained in Positive Youth Development are becoming more important than ever before.

This is where we come in. The Institute of Youth Excellence and Development (IYDE) coaches your volunteers to develop or improve effective youth programs that generate lasting results. We help create, maintain, or fix your youth programming by providing customized turn-key solution training. By bringing our expertise to your organization, we help develop the youth in the community by giving them the opportunity to experience Positive Youth Development, which we believe every youth deserves.

For more information on how IYDE can come to you, give us a call at 513-623-4608 or visit us online at www.iyde.org.

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