Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Fosters Belief in the Future

11/13/1998

Belief in the future is the internalization of hope and optimism about possible outcomes. This construct is linked to studies on long-range goal setting, belief in higher education, and beliefs that support employment or work values. "Having a future gives a teenager reasons for trying and reasons for valuing his life" (Prothrow-Stith, 1991: 57). Research demonstrates that positive future expectations predict better social and emotional adjustment in school, and a stronger internal locus of control, while acting as a protective factor in reducing the negative effects of high stress on self-rated competence (Wyman, Cowen, Work & Kerley, 1993).

Operational Definition.  Programs which sought to influence a child's belief in his or her future potential, goals, options, choices, or long range hopes and plans were classified as promoting belief in the future. Strategies included guaranteed tuition to post-secondary institutions, school-to-work linkages, future employment opportunities, or future financial incentives to encourage continued progress on a prosocial trajectory. Belief in the future could also be fostered by programs designed to influence youth's optimism about a healthy and productive adult life.