market (obtaining and keeping a job that pays at least a living wage), staying out of prison, avoiding drug and alcohol abuse, and entering a stable and supportive intimate relationship (often through marriage). Some recent studies also include involvement in civic and community activities as indicators of positive adult development.
We found strong correlational support for the relation of most of the assets listed in Box 3–1 with indicators of both positive development during adolescents and the successful transition into adulthood. Because of the recency of interest in the role of cultural understanding and tolerance and social identities, few studies document the association of these assets to well-being. The strongest experimental evidence of a causal relation between personal assets and other indicators of positive development exists for intellectual and social or life skills.
Most of the studies reviewed used only a small subset of these indicators of positive development—often only one. Too many of the studies relied on data collected only at one point in time (called concurrent studies). Findings from such studies are difficult to interpret because the causal directions underlying the relations are unclear. In addition, the majority of the concurrent studies focused on white middle-class populations. In contrast, several ongoing longitudinal studies have included a wide range of populations in many types of environments. The findings of these studies suggest that the findings from the concurrent studies are likely to also be true of groups other than white middle-class populations. Together the concurrent and longitudinal studies provide a growing body of consistent evidence supporting the predictive importance of the set of characteristics we have identified. Nevertheless, more comprehensive longitudinal studies that follow children and youth into and through the young adult years are urgently needed. This need is particularly true for populations that are neither white, middle class, nor suburban. Work on American Indian and recent immigrant populations is particularly sparse.
The issue of causal direction of influence is quite complex and is equally problematic for both concurrent and longitudinal research. It is likely that many of these assets are reciprocally related to each other—making the search for causal order in naturalistic studies difficult. Some researchers argue that such a search is actually counterproductive, precisely because of the complex and reciprocal nature of the relations