Positive youth development
Positive youth development, or PYD, refers to intentional efforts of other youth, adults, communities, government agencies, and schools to provide opportunities for youth to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities into their adulthoods. Youth development overall is the physical, social, and emotional processes that occur during the adolescent period, from ages 10 until 24 years. Simply speaking, it is the process through which young people acquire the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and abilities required to navigate life (University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development). Although the word 'youth' can be used synonymously with 'child', 'adolescent', or 'young person', the phrase 'youth development' or 'positive youth development' is usually used in the scientific literature and by practitioners who work with youth to refer to programs designed to optimize these processes. It is distinguished from 'child development' or 'adolescent development' in its focus on the active promotion of optimal human development, rather than on the scientific study of age related change.
Importance of youth development
During adolescence, young people experience profound physical changes, rapid growth and development, and sexual maturation, in addition to psychological and social changes. This often leads to issues with personal identity, sense of self, and emotional independence. In an attempt to cope with the complex changes and challenges of development, they may engage in behaviors considered to be experimental and risky  Due to this, several important public health and social problems either begin or peak during these years including homicide, suicide, substance use and abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and teen and unplanned pregnancies. Addressing the positive development of young people can decrease these problems by facilitating their adoption of healthy behaviors and helping to ensure a healthy transition into adulthood 
PYD suggests that helping young people achieve their full potential is the best way to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors.
There are many variations of this approach but important constructs included in all variations are promoting a sense of safety; providing appropriate structures; creating supportive relationships; providing opportunities to belong; providing positive social norms; giving youth responsibilities and meaningful challenges; and providing opportunities for skill building. One of the hallmarks of the positive youth development movement is that it is built on a foundation of scientific research.
In addition, youth development programs typically work through existing social organizations rather than focusing on individual counseling. For example, youth development interventions may focus on youth in families, schools, churches, sports or youth-serving organizations (e.g., 4-H, Boy/Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America,) or work through formal mentoring or apprenticeship programs. In addition, positive youth development programs typically recognize contextual variability in youths' experience and in what is considered 'healthy' or 'optimal' development for youth in different settings or cultures. This cultural sensitivity reflects the influence of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. The influence of ecological systems theory is also seen on the emphasis many youth development programs place on the interrelationship of different social contexts through which the development person moves (e.g. family, peers, school, work, and leisure).
Positive youth development programs are most often designed with the intent of protecting youth from specific risks (e.g., substance use, violence-prone neighborhoods) or to promote specific role transitions (e.g., entry into work). Prevention approaches to youth development attempt to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth before children show evidence of developmental disturbance. Intervention approaches focus on correcting problems once they have occurred. An additional hallmark of these programs is that they are based on the concept that children and adolescents have strengths and abilities unique to their developmental stage and that they are not merely 'inadequate' or 'undeveloped' adults. Lerner and colleagues write: "The goal of the positive youth development perspective is to promote positive outcomes. This idea is in contrast to a perspective that focuses on punishment and the idea that adolescents are broken." Because of its focus on skill acquisition in the context of risk, the phrase 'positive youth development' most often refers to programs focused on children and, more often, adolescents, rather than infants or preschool children.
Practices and current directions
The University of Minnesota's Keys to Quality Youth Development summarizes eight key elements of programs that successfully promote positive youth development. Such programs are physically and emotionally safe, give youth a sense of belonging and ownership and foster their self-worth, allow them to discover their 'self' (identity, interests, strengths), foster high quality and supportive relations with peers and adults, help youth recognize conflicting values and develop their own, foster the development of new skills, have fun, and have hope for the future.
Major reviews focusing on the historical antecedents of current efforts, key elements of effective practice, gaps in the literature, and successful programmatic efforts have been published by the National Academy Press, the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Forum for Youth Investment, and the W.T. Grant Foundations work on mentoring. Other important international organizations include The European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy and the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies. Other important reviews include Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. Organizations such as the Search Institute have developed both guidelines for youth-serving agencies that promote positive development and instruments to assess their success. The W.T. Grant Foundation's From Soft Skills To Hard Data is also relevant.
School-based health centers (SBHCs) are one way in which positive youth development can be facilitated. In a study of students in the San Francisco Unified School District (n=7,314), results suggested that students’ use of SBHCs is associated with positive academic outcomes, particularly through the students’ self-reported perceptions of school assets and caring relationships with an adult SBHC employee.
Using positive youth development
In the US federal government, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes the Positive Youth Development approach. The Peace Corps includes Youth Development among its major program initiatives. In addition, many local cities are adopting positive youth development as their framework to guide youth programming.
- University of Minnesota Extension. "Keys to Quality Youth Development". Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- "Positive Youth Development in the U.S.: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs". Aspe.hhs.gov. 1998-11-13. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
- Breinbauer, C. & Maddaleno, M. (2005). Youth Choices and Change. Washington, DC. PAHO.
- "Healthy People 2020 - Improving the Health of Americans". Healthypeople.gov. 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
- McNeely C, Blanchard J. The teen years explained: A guide to healthy adolescent development. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Adolescent Health; 2009.
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- "Positive Youth Development in the U.S.: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs: Chapter 1". Aspe.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
- Lerner, et al., (2005) Positive youth development - A view of the issues.pdf
- Richard M. Lerner, Jacqueline V. Lerner, Erin Phelps, and Colleagues (2012). "Waves of the Future: The first eight years of the 4-H study of positive youth development". Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Stone, S; Whitaker, K., Anyon, Y., & Shields, J.P. (2013). "The relationship between use of school-based health centers and student-reported school assets". Journal of Adolescent Health 53 (4): 526–532. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.05.011.
- University of Hope, PYD in Juvenile Corrections
- US Department of Health and Human Services Positive Youth Development Information
- Waves of the Future, report on the first eight years of the 4-H study of positive youth development from Tufts University.
- Extension Center for Youth Development at the University of Minnesota