cal and emotional development for black adolescents with strong African American identities. The data suggest that these youth respond to the experiences of racial discrimination with an increased commitment to doing well in school and to equipping themselves with all of the social and intellectual skills needed to succeed in mainstream society (Wong and Taylor, 1998).
More comprehensive long-term longitudinal work and more work focused on actually changing these assets and then assessing the effect of such changes on well-being are urgently needed. In addition, little is known about the importance of these characteristics across cultural, ethnic, social class, and gender groups. The little available evidence suggests that most of these characteristics are important in all cultural groups (see Scales and Leffert, 1999). However, this work is still in its infancy.
There is very strong concurrent and longitudinal correlational evidence of the predictive importance of connectedness, being valued by the larger society, and institutional attachments for positive youth development. These social assets predict school success, mastery of all types of “taught” skills, long-term educational and occupational attainment, good mental health, positive personal and social identities, confidence in one’s efficacy, optimism, and good self-regulation skills of all kinds. These social assets also predict both the avoidance of involvement in problem behaviors and a relatively smooth transition into such key adult roles as intimate partner, spouse, parent, worker, and active community member (e.g., Cairns and Cairns, 1994; Connell et al., 1995; Conger and Elder, 2000; Furstenberg et al., 1999; Wentzel, 1991; Werner and Smith, 1992). These relations hold for all groups studied. However, there have been very few experimental studies focused on assessing whether changes in these social assets are causally related to changes in either current well-being or future successful transition into adulthood.
The need to belong has been suggested to be one of the strongest human motivational needs (Bowlby, 1969, 1988; Rossi and Rossi, 1990). As a result, individuals act as though they are highly motivated to become a part of a larger social group, even if such associations are not always good for them in the long run. Becoming integrated into a group usually entails adopting the group’s social norms, behaviors, and values. As identification with the group becomes stronger and more long-lived, the individual is likely to internalize these values and norms. It is this