Inclusion Criteria for Reviewing Positive Youth Development Programs
To be included in this review, programs had to meet the following criteria:
- Address one or more of the positive youth development constructs, defined above.
- Involve youth between the ages of six and twenty.
- Involve youth not selected because of their need for treatment. Only programs for children in the general population or children at risk were included. Delinquency, drug abuse, and mental health treatment programs were excluded.
- Address at least one youth development construct in multiple socialization domains, or address multiple youth development constructs in a single socialization domain, or address multiple youth development constructs in multiple domains. Programs that addressed a single youth development construct in a single socialization domain were excluded from this review.
As a result, this review included only promotion, universal, or selective programs (Gordon, 1983, 1987; Institute of Medicine, 1994). "Universal" indicates that the entire population is included without regard to risk for problems or disorders. "Selective" programs work with youths at significantly higher than average risk for health and behavior problems due to individual, family, school, peer, or other environmental factors, who have not yet developed disorders, symptoms, or problems. Universal and selective programs may include health promotion programs focused on building positive youth development, prevention programs focused on reducing the initiation of problem behavior, or in many cases, a combination of both promotion and prevention goals.
There is a growing enthusiasm for multi-year, multi-component prevention programs in promoting lasting behavioral improvements (Dryfoos, 1990; Kirby, et al. 1995). Much of the positive youth development literature emphasizes comprehensiveness as an essential characteristic of positive youth development programs. In practice, comprehensive can have several meanings. For programs to be considered comprehensive and included in this review, they had to address multiple youth development constructs, or had to address youth development constructs across multiple social domains. The domains in which a program operated were determined by identifying the social settings or socialization units where the intervention focused: family, school, community, church, youth club, or service organization. The next section describes these domains.