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


The methodological successes and challenges of positive youth development studies will be discussed and summarized next. In this section we will describe the relative strengths and weaknesses of the methodology used in the evaluations of the 25 programs. As much as possible, we will provide relevant definitions and explanations to frame the importance of each empirical issue in the larger context of evaluation quality and its implications for the positive youth development field.

The major methodological issues associated with the evaluation of positive youth development interventions involve the quality of the program, the quality of the evaluation design, and how well the evaluation report portrays the important aspects of the study. A well done evaluation ideally sets up a reliable framework for testing the impact of the program. If the evaluation report is not comprehensive or leaves out important information, then it is not possible to judge the reliability and validity of the results or the viability of the conclusions. The strongest evaluations used an experimental research design with random assignment or, if this was not viable, a quasi-experimental design with well-matched, well-analyzed comparison groups. Within this framework, it was further necessary that evaluators used an acceptable standard of statistical proof, paid attention to reporting key methodological and analytic details, and described the limitations of their study. In this way, it is possible to gain a clear picture of how evaluators conceptualized and measured the effects of their strategies, and the relative merits of the outcomes.