Hayes, 1990, 1991; Johnson and Johnson, 1996; Miller et al., 1998; see also Scales and Leffert, 1999). These patterns of findings suggest that programs should be careful in selecting evaluation indicators that closely match the characteristics targeted for support and training.
Consistent findings among a limited number of high-quality correlational (both concurrent—data collected only at one point in time—and longitudinal—data collected over a period of time) studies are emerging to support the predictive importance of such characteristics as prosocial values, spirituality and a sense of purpose, moral character (e.g., Benson and Donahue, 1989; Benson et al., 1997; Eisenberg and Fabes, 1998; Hanson and Ginsburg, 1987; Kirby et al., 1994; Litchfield et al., 1997; Wentzel, 1991; Werner and Smith, 1992), a strong sense of personal responsibility (Elder and Conger, 1999), a strong sense of mattering and meaning in life (DuRant et al., 1995; Elder and Conger, 2000; Werner and Smith, 1992), and a positive and coherent personal identity (Abramowitz et al., 1984; Erikson, 1968; Marcia, 1980; Waterman, 1982). However, many of these studies have been correlational, short term, and have included only one or two assets. Consequently, little is known about the relative predictive importance of these assets. We also know very little about how to influence these characteristics and whether increases in them will actually produce changes in other characteristics in the short term as well as in successful transition into adulthood over the long term.
Similarly, good support is emerging for the potential importance of positive and coherent social identities (identities related to one’s membership in a social group, such as male or female, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Catholic, Irish, etc.). A few recent studies have found that having a strong positive ethnic identity is associated with having high self-esteem, a strong commitment to doing well in school, a strong sense of purpose in life, great confidence in one’s own personal efficacy, and high academic achievement (e.g., Beauvais, 2000; Boykin, 1986; Cross, 1991, 1995; Ford and Harris, 1996; Phelan and Davidson, 1993; Phinney, 1990, 1990; Fisher et al., 1998; Spencer, 1995; Tatum, 1997). Researchers studying the importance of ethnic identities stress the importance of adolescents of non-European ethnic heritage having the opportunity to explore their ethnic identities and other’s ethnicity without fear of being stereotyped, harassed, or rejected (Fine et al., 1997; Tatum, 1997). Community programs may provide such opportunities.
Interestingly, these same studies indicate that discriminatory racial experiences have a less negative association with subsequent psychologi-