grade levels and changing roles and expectations, and major psychological changes linked to increasing social and cognitive maturity. With so many rapid changes comes a heightened potential for both positive and negative outcomes. Although most individuals pass through this developmental period without excessive problems, a substantial number experience difficulty.
The committee reviewed the basic tenets of human development, particularly during adolescence, and summarized the key characteristics of adolescent development. We focused on aspects of adolescent development and successful transitions to adulthood that have implications for program and policy design.
Beyond eliminating problems, the committee agreed that young people need skills, knowledge, and a variety of other personal and social assets to function well during adolescence and adulthood. But deciding what constitutes positive youth development is quite complex. Many characteristics were considered, and the committee recognized that selecting any particular set involved judgments regarding what is good. Nonetheless, longitudinal research does provide support for the links of some youth characteristics to subsequent positive adult outcomes. We were able to agree that there are some universal needs—such as the need to feel competent, to be socially connected, and to have one’s physical needs taken care of—that provide a basis for suggesting a set of assets and experiences very likely to be important for well-being. We also agreed that the failure to have these needs met is very likely to have negative consequences for well-being. We also agreed that there is extensive cultural specificity in exactly how these needs are met, as well as in the exact nature of how the assets are manifested in particular individuals. This means that the local cultural context must be taken into account as programs are designed and evaluated.
Based on a review of theory, practical experiences, and empirical research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and others, the committee identified a set of personal and social assets that both represent healthy development and well-being during adolescence and facilitate successful transitions from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. We grouped these assets into four broad developmental domains: physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional, and social development. Box ES-1 summarizes the four domains and specifies the assets within each.