Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Summary of Family, School, and Community-Based Positive Youth Development Programs


The analysis of school, family and community-based interventions identified seven programs that were well evaluated and showed significant effects on youth outcomes.  The family-school-community programs promoted positive youth development constructs and strategies across the three domains, incorporated parent or family involvement, and used resources or opportunities from the local communities in which the children lived.  Five of the seven programs (Across Ages, Adolescent Transitions, Project Northland, Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways, and Woodrock) used experimental research designs, assuring confidence in the internal validity of the observed outcomes.

The school-family-community interventions were frequently based in schools, used units of assignment tied to the schools (e.g., classrooms), and used the school component strategically to tie in the family and community components.  These programs typically placed emphasis on the careful integration and monitoring of individual and group strategies across all three domains.  For example, in Across Ages, the quality and structure of the interactions between the child's mentor and the child's parents were considered as important to successful outcomes as the school-based curriculum.  Programs generally tried to introduce protective factors into all three settings.  While the children were being taught skills, or other youth development strategies were addressed in the program's youth development framework, parents were the focus of efforts to bolster family competence, parent self-efficacy, bonding and alignment with prosocial norms, and local communities were the focus of efforts to use community assets, resources, and partnerships to enhance the success of the other strategies.  In ways similar to those described in the school- and family-domain programs, parents in these programs were typically engaged either through direct parent training or involvement in program implementation or organization.  However, unlike the two-domain school-family interventions, these programs were generally based on program principles that stressed the importance of addressing community risk and/or protective factors as an integral part of producing successful youth outcomes.  As in the school-community domain programs, these interventions incorporated communities either through using their social, economic or physical resources, or targeting specific community risk factors, or attempting to influence community-level policies and practices. More than half of these programs (Across Ages, Midwestern Prevention Project, Valued Youth Partnerships, Woodrock) emphasized the development of strategic relationships or partnerships with the community.

These programs produced improvements in positive youth outcomes including more positive attitudes about older people and higher levels of community service (Across Ages); higher levels of social skills learning (Adolescent Transitions) and school attendance (Across Ages); greater self-efficacy with respect to substance use refusal (Project Northland); higher reading grades and cognitive competence (Valued Youth Partnerships); and improvements in race relations and perceptions of others from different cultural or ethnic groups (Woodrock).  These interventions also had a significant impact on the reduction or prevention of problem behavior in children.  Four programs changed attitudes and practices related to substance use (Across Ages, Midwestern Prevention Project, Project Northland, and Woodrock).  One program successfully changed negative family interaction patterns and reduced levels of family conflict (Adolescent Transitions).  Two programs reduced either school suspension or drop-out rates (Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways and Valued Youth Partnerships).  Two programs reduced aggressive and violence-related behaviors and/or attitudes (Adolescent Transitions, Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways).  Three programs reduced levels of cigarette, marijuana, and/or alcohol use (Midwestern Prevention Project, Project Northland, Woodrock).