Positive Youth Development focus on building or promoting positive qualities in adolescents and focus on adolescents’ development in a social context, including the family, school and/or community (Catalano et al., 2002) . It suggests that good life can be encouraged by identifying individual strengths of character and fostering them (Seligman. 2002).
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Positive youth development goal is to build and strengthen personal qualities that enable adolescents to grow and flourish throughout life (Park, 2004). Positive youth development suggests that by focusing on adolescents’ strengths, the impact of negative risk factors will be reduced (Thornberry, 1995). Focusing on adolescents’ strengths in multiple domains, such as family, school, and community, is what is particularly important in buffering adolescents from the effects of risk factors (Thornberry, 1995). Positive youth development sets the main guidelines as to how we can best support adolescents healthy development. Lerner (2005) states that Positive youth development outcomes can be identified as the “Five C”; Competence (academic, social, vocational skills), Self-Confidence, Connectedness (healthy relationship to community, friends, family), Character (integrity, moral commitment), Caring and Compassion (Lerner at al., 2005). Positive youth development focuses on the adolescents’ positive outcomes rather than negative outcomes (Catalano et al., 2002).
The positive youth development approach aims to provide the maximum impact on the life-path of adolescents (Catalano et al., 2002). Youth development suggests long-term outcomes. Adolescents who consistently experience healthy attitudes and clear expectations for positive behaviour within their families, schools, and communities are less likely to become involved in risky behaviours, especially if they have developed strong bonds to the individuals and social groups within these settings (Garmezy, 1971). Adolescents have to experience and embrace the newly acquired skills and positive relationships over a long period of time to be effective. Positive youth development strategies have to accompany adolescents throughout their growing up years. While short term positive outcomes are important and should be built on, Positive youth development suggests positive long term outcomes.(Park, 2004).
The Positive Youth Development focuses on building on the adolescents’ strengths, talents and interests encouraging wellness as much as on remedying deficits. Youth development strategies target all adolescents. It suggests that creating supportive and enriching environments for all adolescents will lead to positive outcomes as well as reduced negative outcomes (Lerner, 2004).
The Positive Youth Development perspective stemmed from the work of comparative psychologists who had been studying the plasticity of developmental modes that emerged from the fusion of biological and contextual levels of organisation (Benson et al., 2006). The work of Garmezy’s (1983) ideas about the invulnerable child, which suggests that adolescents’ protective factors can reduce the impact of risk factors, followed by Werner’s (1982) work on resiliency were the cornerstone for the positive youth developmental approach (Damon, 2004). In 1997 Benson focused on the “developmental assets”, idea, which explains the adolescents’ positive characteristics in contrast to the incapacities of adolescents. The exploration of adolescence by developmental scientists interested in developmental systems theory resulted in the elaboration of the Positive Youth Development perspective (Benson et al., 2006).
The Positive Development Perspective Versus the Deficit View
The exploration of a strength- based ideal promotes the concept of positive human development (Lerner, 2004). Since the founding of the scientific study of adolescent development (Hall, 1904), the predominant conceptual frame for the study of adolescence has been one of prevention and elimination of risk factors that make adolescents and youth vulnerable to maladaptive behaviours ( Benson et al., 2006).
The goal of Positive Youth Development is not merely restricted to surviving in the face of adversity but actually growing throughout life (Lerner, 2007). Interventions targeting only one single problem have come under criticism. Broad based interventions can therefore have broad effects. Thus programs that promote wellness and building strengths such as character strength among youth and sustain it across the life span may pay much greater dividends, not only preventing in the short run disorders but also building the long run moral, healthy, and well developed people who can over come challenges in life and enjoy the good life (Albee 1996; Cowen 1994,1998; Durlak 1997;Elias 19995) Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, and Hawkins (1999) noted that problem behaviours are tracked more often than positive ones and, while an increasing number of positive youth development interventions are choosing to measure both, this is still far from being the standard in the field.
The Positive Youth Development approach suggests that adolescents are resources to be developed, and not as problems to be managed (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003a,b). It builds on the idea of resilience and protective factors; suggesting that adolescents have the personal strength and resilience to help them avoid problems such as alcohol, drugs, and school violence (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Curtis, 2000). People are pleased when intervention programs reduce the rates of drug abuse or teenage crime. However there are few positive indicators to which people may point to reflect the desirable, healthy, and valued behaviours among their children and adolescents (Lerner, 2004).
Replacing the deficit view of adolescence, the PYD model regards adolescents as having strengths. The PYD model suggests that increases in well-being and thriving are possible for young adolescence through aligning the strengths of adolescents with developmental assets present in their social and physical ecology (Lerner, 2005). Earlier prevention programs only focused on the reduction of the influence of well-established risk factors for the development of problem behaviours. The health and well-being of adolescents require as much attention to promoting developmental strengths as to directly combating risk, environmental threats, and social dysfunctions that obstruct human development (Benson, 2006). These two approaches ought to be complementary and in balance.
Positive Youth Development Enhances the Well Being of Young People
Positive Youth development program strive to build strengths, competence, and positive qualities in children (Catalano et al., 2002). Earlier prevention programs only focused on the reduction of the influence of well- established risk factors for the development of problem behaviours. The Positive Youth Development approach focuses on lowering the impact of developmental risks and increasing the influence of protective factors. Protective factors are targeted by prevention strategies aimed at influencing a wide range of different problem behaviour being developed ( Jessor, 1995). School based substance prevention programs can be effective in reducing consumption rates of substance during adolescences (Tobler et al., 2000). Such programs employ interactive teaching methods, thus providing contact and communication opportunities between students, encouraging refusal skills, allowing feedback to be received in a non-threatening climate, and enabling students to practice acquired skills. Along with the interactive teaching approach, PYD prevention programs promote resistance, assertiveness, communication, and problem solving skills against social pressure (WHO, 1997). The characteristics for effective prevention programs against adolescent substance misuse can best be reflected in life skills programs implemented within school or community setting ( Tobler & Stratton, 1997) The life skill program can help adolescents through;
Enhancing a Sense of Personal Safety
Adolescents need to have a sense of physical and emotional security, they need to feel that adults will protect them from any emotional or physical harm. It is important for adolescents to feel less apprehensive of negative outcomes when failing to achieve certain goals, thus adolescents need to be encouraged to take ” positive risks”
Youth at a program feel as though the adults there will protect them from any physical
harm. Young people who are encouraged to take “positive risks” without negative consequences for their mistakes become less fearful of failure and more likely to pursue “stretch” goals, objectives they might once have rejected as out of their reach (Seligman, 2002).
Encouraging Relationship Building
Adolescents need many supportive relationships to help them navigate their adolescence. They need guidance from adults as well as emotional and practical support from their peers. Research has identified these adult-child and peer relationships as the key to helping young people overcome the obstacles of adolescence and adolescence relationships (Lerner, 2004).
Fostering Meaningful Youth Participation
Simple participation is not enough to promote positive youth development: youth must have an active role in shaping the program. They must have the opportunity to practice and develop leadership skills by planning projects, initiatives, and activities (O’Donnell et al., 1995).Giving youth a meaningful role in the program will heighten their sense of belonging to the program, fostering deeper relationships with the adult staff and other youth participants (Park, 2004).
Providing Opportunities for Community Involvement
Young people are often looking for a sense of purpose. Creating opportunities for young people to become involved in the community, and for community members to interact with youth, is a powerful way to foster this sense of purpose (Larson, 2000). It is also a successful and innovative way of advancing community change.
Life skills programs encourage a mutualism relationship between the youth of a community and the community as a whole. By engaging in dialogue and action together, youth can learn more about the community in which they live, giving them greater respect for it, and preparing them to become active and responsible citizens within it. At the same time, the community can overcome negative stereotypes about the young, and gain a greater understanding of the assets of the youth who live there.
Positive Youth Development in relation to working with adolescents.
PYD perspective presents a real shift in thinking of how we provide services for young people. It suggests that motivation results from using reinforcers effectively. Focusing on adolescents’ character strength and nurturing positive skills can actually increase intrinsic motivation and increases adolescents sense of autonomy, achievement, and the understanding of why we succeed and fail (Benson, 2006). Positive Youth development challenges communities to take a new look at its resources and how they can be used to support young people.
Positive Youth Development perspective helps adolescents take responsibilities for their own learning by setting and monitoring goals, using positive personal skills, and employing effective strategies. In addition, teacher characteristics including personal teaching efficacy, modelling, caring, and high expectations together with classroom climate and instructional variables to enhance motivation.
Motivation is increased when adolescents work in a safe and orderly environment, experience success, understand tasks and the reasons from them, and experience optimal challenge, Instructors can increase adolescents’ motivation by preparing attractive activities and tasks, involving the adolescents, personalising content, and providing informative feedback.
Life is full of different stresses and risks. Neither society nor parents can completely protect children from them, it is the children who themselves have to meet these challenges (Lerner, 2000). However we can prepare them to overcome adversities in life and further more to thrive. By identifying important developmental strengths such as character strengths and life satisfaction by facilitating their development, and by strengthening and maintaining them, we can help youth achieve the healthy, happy, and good lives that they all deserve (Benson, 2006).