some will be more ready for change and growth than others. In addition, any given program will work better for some teens than for others. Finally, we need to recognize that there is very little research that directly specifies what programs can do to facilitate development, let alone how to tailor it to the needs of individual adolescents and diverse cultural groups. Few studies have applied the critical standards of science to evaluate which features of community programs influence development.
Despite these limitations, there is a broad base of knowledge about how development occurs that can and should be drawn on. Research demonstrates that certain features of the settings that adolescents experience make a tremendous difference, for good or for ill, in their lives. For example, research on families and classrooms shows that the presence or absence of caring relationships affects whether an adolescent thrives or has problems. We think it is valid to hypothesize that this will be true in community programs as well.
This chapter employs this wider base of knowledge from developmental science to generate a list of features of adolescents’ daily settings and experiences that are known to promote positive youth development. We suggest that these eight features should be seen as a provisional list— subject to further study—of the processes or “active ingredients” that community programs could use in designing programs likely to facilitate positive youth development. We stress that the implementation of these features needs to vary across programs precisely because they have diverse clientele and different constraints, resources, and goals.
There are numerous theories in developmental psychology, sociology, public health, anthropology, and other fields that direct attention to a panorama of individual, community, and cultural processes that are related to positive development. Appendix B is a review of the theories of human development that highlight ways of seeing the full framework within which development takes place for different youth. It describes how development includes multiple processes: an adolescent’s active creativity, thoughtful mentoring and management by others, acquisition of social capital, and socialization into a culture. The opportunities an adolescent has for development are shaped by numerous personal, institutional, and cultural factors (see Damon, 1997; Feldman and Elliott, 1990; Grotevant, 1998; Steinberg, 2000; Steinberg and Morris, 2001). The major implications of these theories of human development for community programs for youth include the importance of good developmental, cultural, and personal fit; the important role that community organizations can play in helping adolescents build the social capital and life