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


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.