40 assets that youth need to succeed

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Studies conducted by the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the past 25 years, of more than 6 million young people in the United States and around the world to understand: how young people experience developmental assets, variations in those experience for different groups of young people, and how experiences of assets relate to key outcomes, including both high-risk behaviors and thriving.

Grounded in extensive research in youth development, resiliency, and prevention, the Developmental Assets represent the relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to avoid risks and to be successful. These 40 assets are powerful for all young people, regardless of their gender, economic status, family, or race/ethnicity. Levels of assets are better predictors of high-risk behaviors or of a youth’s likelihood to thrive than poverty or being from a single-parent family.

The average young person experiences approximately 20.6 of the 40 developmental assets. Females report higher average levels of assets (21.3) than males (19.9). The most common assets reported by youth are: integrity (75%), achievement motivation (75%), and family support (73%), positive view of personal future (73%), positive peer influences (72%), honesty (71%), and responsibility (70%). 

The least commonly reported assists by young people were: positive family communication (33%) youth as resources (32%), adult role models (32%), parent involvement in schooling (32%), community values youth (25%), and reading for pleasure (22%), and creative activities (20%)

The more assets that a youth has, the fewer high risk behaviors they will exhibit. Youth with low asset levels (0-10) assets engage, on average, in 7.7 of the 24 risk behaviors, compared to 0.7 risk behaviors among their peers who experience 31-40 assets. 

Of the 40 assets, 20 are labeled as external assets.  External assets revolve around positive experiences in the environment from parents, school and community.  These external assets are further organized into four groups:  support; empowerment; boundaries and expectations; and constructive use of time.

The remaining 20 assets are labeled as internal assets. These assets focus on the self-concept of the youth; their morals and ethics; and their desire to create for themselves a positive future.  The 20 internal assets are also divided into four groups:  commitment to learning; positive values; social competencies; and positive identity.

Adults who interact with youth in any setting have a responsibility to help youth development their assets. Assets don’t happen accidentally. Most often adults must strategically plan opportunities and experiences to enhance certain assets. Adults who work with youth organizations such as 4-H; mentoring; scouts; summer recreation leagues and faith based organizations can implement activities that create an asset based experience. 

City councils and county government can make youth development asset promotion the culture of their community to ensure that each youth have the opportunity to be successful…all because the adults surrounding them care about their future. More information on the Search Institute and the 40 developmental assets can be found at:  http://www.search-institute.org

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