Individuals do not necessarily need the entire range of assets to thrive; in fact, various combinations of assets across domains reflect equally positive adolescent development.
Having more assets is better than having few. Although strong assets in one category can offset weak assets in another category, life is easier to manage if one has assets in all four domains.
Continued exposure to positive experiences, settings, and people, as well as abundant opportunities to gain and refine life skills, supports young people in the acquirsition and growth of these assets.
The committee recognized that very little research directly specifies what programs can do to facilitate development, let alone how to tailor it to the needs of individual adolescents and diverse cultural groups. Few studies have applied the critical standards of science to evaluate which features of community programs influence development.
Despite these limitations, there is a broad base of knowledge about how development occurs that can and should be drawn on. Research demonstrates that certain features of the settings that adolescents experience make a tremendous difference, for good or for ill, in their lives. There is good evidence that personal and social assets develop in developmental settings that incorporate the features listed below and in Table ES-1. The exact implementation of these features, however, needs to vary across programs, with their diverse clientele and differing constraints and missions. Young people develop positive personal and social assets in settings that have the following features:
Physical and psychological safety and security;
Structure that is developmentally appropriate, with clear expectations for behavior as well as increasing opportunities to make decisions, to participate in governance and rule-making, and to take on leadership roles as one matures and gains more expertise;
Emotional and moral support;
Opportunities for adolescents to experience supportive adult relationships;
Opportunities to learn how to form close, durable human relationships with peers that support and reinforce healthy behaviors;
Opportunities to feel a sense of belonging and being valued;
Opportunities to develop positive social values and norms;