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


There were eight evaluations (32%) of single domain-focused programs, two based in communities and six based in schools. Eight evaluations (28%) reported programs in two domains, one of these combined school and community, and seven of these combined school and family. Nine evaluations (36%) reported programs in three domains, seven combined school, family, and community, one combined family, church, and community, and one combined school, community, and workplace. Thus the total number reporting multiple-domain interventions was 17 (68%).

More than half (21, or 53%) of the excluded programs were in a single domain; about a quarter (10, or 25%) were in two domains, six (15%) were in three, and three (8%) were in four domains.

Representation of the School Setting in Positive Youth Development Programs

Across the possible settings in which effective, well-evaluated positive youth development programs were conducted, the school domain was by far the most widely represented, with 22 (88%) programs basing at least some of their components there. Sixsingle domain programs were based in schools, and 16 multiple-domain programs had a school component. The typical profile of a multiple-domain program that incorporated a school component used the school as a primary base of operations (e.g., for trainings conducted in classrooms), for strategic and consistent access to children, and for access to school resources (e.g., teachers trained to implement the intervention curriculum).

The finding for school domains was similar in excluded programs, with 32 (80%) having some school component.

Representation of the Family in Positive Youth Development Programs

Family domain programs were identified in one of two ways:  if the program used some components based in the physical home setting, or if evaluators used other methods not necessarily in the home setting to involve the family or parents. No evaluations were identified of effective single domain programs operating solely in a family setting. However, among multiple-domain programs, the family component was widely represented. Overall, 15 (60%) of the effective programs used family or parent strategies. Among two and three-domain programs, almost all addressed some of their program strategies to the family or parents (seven of eight of the two-domain and eight of nine of the three-domain).

Only eight (20%) of excluded programs had a family component or operated in a family setting.

Representation of the Community in Positive Youth Development Programs

The community domain was represented in 12 (48%) programs. Two of these programs were based solely in the community, and only one of the two-domain interventions combined community and school strategies. All nine of the three-domain programs incorporated some community-based strategies. The profile of these multiple-domain programs indicated that the community was not typically a primary base of operations for most programs. They used the community's resources and physical opportunities to augment or enhance strategies based in the other domains (e.g., volunteering in the community as a way to practice new principles learned in the school domain). However, these programs were often based on program principles that stressed the importance of addressing community risk and/or protective factors as an integral part of producing successful youth positive youth development outcomes. Communities were incorporated either through using their social, economic, or physical resources, or targeting specific community risk factors, or attempting to influence community-level policies and practices. About half of these three-domain programs (Across Ages, Midwestern Prevention Project, Valued Youth Partnerships, Woodrock) emphasized the development of strategic relationships or partnerships with the community.

Half the excluded programs (20, or 50%) used some community component or operated in the community domain.