Opportunities for skill building and mastery;
Opportunities to develop confidence in one’s abilities to master one’s environment (a sense of personal efficacy);
Opportunities to make a contribution to one’s community and to develop a sense of mattering; and
Strong links between families, schools, and broader community resources.
Since these features typically work together in synergistic ways, programs with more features are likely to provide better supports for young people’s positive development.
Although all of these features are key to the success of children and adolescents at all ages, specific settings may focus their priorities differently to meet the developmental needs of particular participants—for example, younger children need more adult-directed structure and supervision than older youth and the skills that one needs to learn in childhood are different from those that need to be learned in adolescence. Supportive, developmental settings, as a result, must be designed to be appropriate over time for different ages and to allow the setting to change in developmentally appropriate ways as participants mature. Positive development is also best supported by a wide variety of these experiences and opportunities in all of the settings in which adolescents live—the family, the school, the peer group, and the community. Still, exposure to such opportunities in community programs can compensate for lack of such opportunities in other settings.
Community programs can expand the opportunities for youth to acquire personal and social assets and to experience the broad range of features of positive developmental settings.
Programs can also fill gaps in the opportunities available in specific adolescents’ lives. Among other things, these programs can incorporate opportunities for physical, cognitive, and social and emotional development; opportunities to deal with issues of ethnic identity, sexual identity, and intergroup relationships; opportunities for community involvement and service; and opportunities to interact with caring adults and a diversity of peers who hold positive social norms and have high life goals and expectations.