Positive Youth Development

Setting the Stage for Future Economic Success
Mar 20, 2017 9:05 AM ET

Like an infant who sees rapid physical changes in the short amount of time to toddlerhood, adolescents experience the same kind of rapid change in their social and emotional development on their way to adulthood. Traditional thinking on adolescence characterizes this as a time when youth display negative risk-taking behaviors. A Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach, long used in the United States and other industrialized countries, takes a different view. It treats adolescence as an opportunity to harness the great energy and emotional growth that takes place during this developmental stage. PYD supports young people in building a foundation of skills needed to develop a positive self-concept, healthy relationships, and the motivation to engage in a meaningful way in their communities.

Having played a central role in youth development domestically and in the “global north,” the PYD approach is now gaining ground in low- and middle-income countries. In the many countries around the world that are experiencing a youth population bulge, development agencies are increasingly focusing on this important demographic between the ages of 15-24.  In 2007, the World Bank published a report that suggested investments in youth development translated into benefits for society by increasing young people’s connections to their communities and helping them to make successful transitions to adulthood. Since then, there has been increased attention on the needs of youth and the usefulness of the PYD approach.

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