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Youth Development Framework
school age kids sitting on steps

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is an approach that focuses on building strengths and attributes that can buffer the impact of stress and obstacles young people face.

There is an increased national focus on the use of PYD interventions for preventing adolescent risk behaviors. There is growing evidence that such interventions can lead to positive outcomes. Healthy People 2020 calls for ongoing, rigorous evaluation to determine exactly what components of a PYD approach lead to successful outcomes.


Adolescent health and youth development go hand-in-hand. Youth who, with support from their families and communities, successfully engage in the developmental tasks of adolescence are more likely to experience a sense of well-being, withstand life’s stresses, choose health promoting behaviors and avoid activities and behaviors that can lead to negative health and life outcomes. Developmental attributes that are central to PYD have been dubbed the “5 C’s”:

  • Competence: intellectual ability and social and behavioral skills
  • Connection: positive bonds with people and institutions
  • Character: integrity and moral centeredness
  • Confidence: positive self-regard, a sense of self-efficacy, and courage
  • Caring/Compassion: humane values, empathy, and a sense of social justice.

8 key elements of a Positive Youth Development framework are outlined in the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) report entitled “Toward a Blueprint for Youth: Making Positive Youth Development a National Priority”:

  • Provide youth with safe and supportive environments.
  • Foster relationships between young people and caring adults who can mentor and guide them.
  • Provide youth with opportunities to pursue their interests and focus on their strengths.
  • Support the development of youths’ knowledge and skills in a variety of ways, including study, tutoring, sports, the arts, vocational education, and service learning.
  • Engage youth as active partners and leaders who can help move communities forward.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to show that they care – about others and society.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles and teach positive patterns of social interaction.
  • Provide a safety net in times of need.


The Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development works to unleash the potential of youth, adults, organizations and communities to engage together in creating a just and equitable society.

The Konopka Institute works to provide information and best practices in positive youth development to anyone who is in a position to help adolescents.

2008 Positive Youth Development Toolkit: Engaging Youth in Program Development, Design, Implementation, and Service Delivery (pdf). This toolkit is a collaborative project of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NCWRCOI), The University of Oklahoma’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Centers (RHYTTAC), and the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Youth Development (NCWRCYD) and provides strategies for implementing PYD within youth-serving organizations and tools for engaging youth.