Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Summary of Positive Youth Development Programs Set in Communities


Two well-evaluated positive youth development interventions in communities demonstrated significant youth behavior outcomes.  Both programs used experimental research designs and random assignment of children to intervention and control groups.  One, Bicultural Competence Skills, used a skill and competence-based curriculum; the other, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, was a mentoring program without a skills component.  Bicultural Competence Skills included follow-up results.  Although Big Brothers/Big Sisters did not include long-term follow-up, it provided a sustained intervention exposure (18 months) and measurement period.

Both programs sought to build bonding, competence, and positive identity, but their approaches to promoting these constructs were very different.  Each addressed healthy bonding relationships in its own way: Big Brothers/Big Sisters with individual adults, and Bicultural Competence Skills through strengthening the bonds that bicultural children have to both majority and sub-group cultures.  While Bicultural Competence Skills addressed competence directly through a skills training curriculum, Big Brothers/Big Sisters took the approach that the primary mechanism of changes in competence (social, behavioral, emotional) are based on the development of a consistent adult-child bond in a mentoring relationship.

In both evaluations, program strategies had a measurable impact on students' outcomes.  Positive youth outcomes included greater self-control, assertiveness, and healthy and adaptive coping in peer-pressure situations (Bicultural Competence Skills program), and improvements in school attendance, parental relations, academic performance, and peer emotional support (Big Brothers/Big Sisters).  Problem behaviors were also reduced or prevented.  Substance use was lower in the experimental groups for both interventions, and hitting, truancy, and lying were reduced as a result of participation in Big Brothers/Big Sisters.