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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
and only some components of a youth development framework. Adding local survey data in diverse communities, as has been done in a number of states and individual communities, can help create a more complete picture.
A number of states and many individual communities have fielded youth surveys at the local level. Steps should be taken to expand opportunities so that more communities can benefit from such data. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which sponsors the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, could expand its use in additional metropolitan areas (it is currently fielded in 16 major metropolitan areas) and work with interested states to expand its use down to the school district level. Furthermore, in order to make it a more useful tool for positive youth development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could work to develop optional modules that focus on the domains of development and social settings in which it is currently weak.
Research on many aspects of positive youth development is still in its early stages, with the result that many of the indicators used to represent youth development outcomes in existing surveys are not well tested. Areas in need of particular attention include life skills, social, emotional, and psychological development, as well as most of the domains of developmental settings. Most of the psychometric work that has been done on indicators used in the two most complete community surveys on youth development (the Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors and the Student Survey of Risk and Protective Factors, and Prevalence of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use) are based on cross-sectional data and, in the case of the PSL-AB, on nonrepresentative samples. Longitudinal surveys allow one to explore a crucial aspect of social indicators, namely their relationship to future development as one moves from adolescence into adulthood. The Values in Action initiative, led by psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, is attempting a rigorous classification of strengths and virtues that will include definitions, existing research and available measures, promotional and inhibiting factors, and other valuable information that should provide a useful information base to guide future research and measurement development in this area.
There is evidence that youth-serving organizations have an interest in building their capacity to assess the developmental quality of their programs. To produce useful process evaluations, performance monitoring, and self-assessment, however, community programs for youth