Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Introduction


Our analysis framework of program and evaluation criteria produced a range of diverse youth programs for review, some of which may be described as positive youth development, some as promotion programs, and others as primary prevention.  Readers may question how the label of positive youth development fits a particular program with a prevention focus.  The goals of this project were to analyze what programs do, and what their evaluations measure, rather than focusing on how they were labeled.  We found that a number of programs traditionally considered primary prevention interventions incorporated many of the same positive youth development constructs as programs usually viewed as positive youth development programs.  As will be demonstrated in this chapter, many programs with a "primary prevention" label were in fact embedded with numerous positive youth development strategies, and measured positive youth outcomes in addition to changes in problem behavior.

In this first section we describe the organization of the chapter and summarize the criteria used to exclude evaluations.  The remaining sections of the chapter describe the settings, content, research design, and results of 25 well-evaluated positive youth development programs.  These 25 programs incorporated positive youth development constructs into universal or selective approaches with youth between the ages of six and twenty.  Their evaluations used a strong research design (experimental or quasi-experimental with viable comparison groups) and an acceptable standard of statistical proof, provided adequate methodological detail to allow an independent assessment of the study's soundness, and produced evidence of significant effects on youth's behavioral outcomes.