Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Measurement of Positive and Problem Behavior Outcomes


The issue of whether a positive youth development intervention measures, as well as addresses, positive-focused outcomes has important implications for the future of the positive youth development field, and is currently the subject of considerable discussion among practitioners, prevention scientists, and the policy community. The minimum requirement for inclusion was that the evaluation measure either reductions in problem behavior, or increases in positive behavior. Measures based on reductions in problem behavior were widely represented in the well-evaluated effective programs, with 24 (96%) interventions using these to assess intervention outcomes. Nineteen programs (76%) used positive outcome measures in addition to measures of problem reduction. This is higher than was expected, and very good news. There is a need for all positive youth development programs to measure both types of outcomes in order to assess fully the effects of these programs on youth. This integrated measurement approach will provide funders of promotion and prevention programs a greater understanding of program effects on all important youth outcomes. Such an integrated approach to measuring youth outcomes has potential for increased funding, and broader applications of positive youth development strategies.

This analysis could not be completed in a meaningful way with the excluded programs. Only a few of the excluded programs met the behavioral outcome criteria, and almost without exception, these were the earlier iterations of subsequently successful programs that had simply had an inadequate evaluation design or failed to prove effects in the first round. What is possible to say is that of the medium confidence programs (n= 12), four of eight would have been described as having important youth outcomes (e.g., career maturity, academic performance, positive self-concept, improved family relations), had their evaluation designs been much stronger.