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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
one category may be able to offset weak assets in another category, life is easier to manage if one has assets in all four categories.
Although the body of evidence supporting the assets listed in this chapter is growing, much more comprehensive longitudinal and experimental research on a wider range of populations that follows children and adolescents well into adulthood is needed in order to understand which assets are most important to adolescent development and which patterns of assets are linked to particular types of successful adult transitions in various cultural settings. There is a pressing need for longitudinal studies to illuminate:
How these assets work together (this means more comprehensive studies of both assets and outcomes) and
How these various assets are manifested and valued in different cultural groups.
There is also a pressing need for more field-based experimental studies to confirm the hypothesized causal relations in complex settings.
In conclusion, it is also important to note that these personal and social assets do not exist in a vacuum. Evidence suggests that these assets influence life chances because they both (1) facilitate the engagement of youth in positive social settings that support continued positive development and (2) protect them against the adverse effects of negative life events, difficult social situations, pressure to engage in risky behaviors, and academic failures. So on one hand, the personal and social assets discussed in this chapter can increase life chances. On the other hand, excessive and prolonged exposure to negative life events, dangerous settings, and inadequate schooling are likely to undermine young people’s life chances despite their assets. Young people need continued exposure to positive experiences, settings, and people as well as abundant opportunities to gain and refine their life skills in order to support the acquisition and growth of these assets.