grains. Third, when this information was available, we wanted to know whether the program features hypothesized to be important in Chapter 4 were indeed important in both facilitating positive youth development and preventing the emergence of serious problems. Finally, as a lead-in to the next chapter, we also wanted to assess the quality of these evaluations. We include in this chapter comments on whether the evaluations selected for inclusion in this chapter meet the most rigorous methods of evaluation—described in Chapter 7—that can be used with community programs for youth.


The committee reviewed seven reputable reviews and meta-analyses of prevention and promotion programs for youth from the fields of mental health, violence prevention, teenage pregnancy prevention, and youth development.1 We considered reviews that included both programs for youth with a primary focus on prevention and programs explicitly focused on a youth development framework since, as explained previously, the committee found the distinction between prevention and positive youth development not very clear in practice. Programs with prevention goals, for example, often included components common to programs with youth development goals. Details of the programs included in the meta-analyses reviewed are summarized in Table 6–1.

As noted, the primary objective of reviewing these meta-analyses was to provide our best assessment of the extent to which community programs have beneficial effects for youth. Our secondary objective was to determine the extent to which these programs incorporate the features of positive developmental settings developed in Part I and whether there is evidence of links between these program features and positive youth outcomes. Since none of the programs were designed with these specific assets and features in mind, we often had to make assumptions about likely features from the descriptions of the programs included in the various reviews. Through this review, we also identified the strengths and limitations of these evaluations.


We included reviews and meta-analyses published between 1997 and 2000 that appeared in either published, professionally reviewed journals, or selected government documents. In the latter category, only government documents using rigorous methods of review were included in order to reduce the potential biases associated with reviews conducted by groups with high stakes in positive or negative conclusions.

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