be trying to facilitate, and evaluators will have little basis for deciding what outcomes to measure.2


Many scientists and practitioners have offered suggestions. Most importantly, there is wide consensus that being problem-free is not sufficient. “Adolescents who are merely problem-free are not fully prepared for their future” (Pittman, 1991). As noted in Chapter 1 (and described in Chapter 6), this view goes well beyond a prevention focus. It emphasizes that programs aimed primarily at reducing the odds of adolescents becoming involved in problem behaviors are not sufficient. Interestingly, as noted in Chapter 1 many successful “prevention” programs do more than just prevent problem behavior. They also provide experiences aimed at preparing youth for the future. But deciding what constitutes either fully prepared or positive youth development more generally is quite complex. Although many characteristics have been suggested, determining the value of each is not a simple matter. It involves value judgments regarding what is good as well as comprehensive longitudinal research on the links between youth characteristics and adult outcomes. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the many positive assets suggested by both scientists and practitioners and then summarize the empirical foundation supporting these suggestions.

We begin with a brief discussion of the issue of universality versus cultural specificity. Is it possible to come up with a set of indicators that is universal? Or is cultural specificity the norm? The committee debated this issue extensively. There is no question that cultural groups vary in the characteristics they value most for both their youth and adults. A very good example of this is the contrast between groups who value individuality, autonomy, and self-focused achievement and groups who value cooperation and group-focused achievement efforts (Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 2000; Shweder et al., 1998). Specific indicators of well-being are likely to be somewhat different in these two groups. However, it is also likely that there are some universal human needs that manifest themselves in specific characteristics or assets as indicators of the individuals’ well-being. Even so, it is likely that the exact manifestations


We use the term “outcomes” cautiously since most of the indicators we discuss are not final outcomes per se but rather indicators of progress along a successful life path.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement