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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
the list identified in this chapter is a step toward formulating a framework for features of community programs that support the acquisition of assets of personal and social development and, in turn, support positive adolescent development.
As was summarized in Chapter 3, there is evidence that adolescents with more personal and social assets have greater positive development. Since program features typically work together in synergistic ways, programs with more features are likely to provide better supports for young people’s positive development.
We need to reemphasize the limits of the research used in this chapter. First, the chapter has drawn primarily on studies of such settings as families and schools and then extrapolated the findings to community programs. Research focusing directly on these features in community program settings would increase our understanding of how community programs for youth could incorporate these features into program design and implementation.
Second, we have stressed that our configuration of these features into a list of eight is provisional. The boundaries between features are indistinct, and the titles given to them tentative. It is unlikely that another group of scholars would come up with the exact same list, although the underlying content is likely to be very similar. Research is needed that further sharpens the conceptualization of these features and does so in the context of community programs. It is also possible that new research will find features that we have not included.
Finally, there is evidence that adolescents in communities that are rich in developmental opportunities for them experience reduced risk and show higher rates of positive development. This suggests that communities need a menu or portfolio of programs that provides a fit for every adolescent. Communities need models for how they can assess whether its set of community programs provides good coverage for all youth or whether there are major gaps in who they are serving. Research focusing directly on these features in community programs for youth is essential—research that sharpens the conceptualization of these features in community program settings.