A.C.S.E.S.O Gran Canaria, identifies positive youth development (PYD) as a major new approach for interventions. We can describe it as “the intentional process of providing all youth with the support, relationships, experiences, resources, and opportunities needed to become successful and competent adults.”

A growing number of evaluations suggest that PYD can improve youth outcomes, and that incorporating it into existing interventions can enhance their effectiveness.

For example, youth are more likely to join, attend, and be engaged in all types of programs that employ a positive youth development approach.

Positive youth development has been defined by eight key elements:

  1. Physical and psychological safety;

  2. Supportive relationships;

  3. Opportunities to belong;

  4. Support for efficacy and mattering;

  5. Positive social norms;

  6. Opportunities for skill-building;

  7. Appropriate structure; and

  8. Integration of family, school, and community efforts.

If these approaches are successful for youth, why wouldn’t they be effective for adults too?  

Physical and psychological safety are critical from infancy to old age

Providing an environment that is free of bullying, trauma, and crime and which respects people’s privacy and dignity is the basic element of positive youth development. Physical safety is widely understood to be important, but providing psychological safety in the form of an attractive clean space, confidentiality, and a pleasant respectful staff is important at all ages.

Supportive relationships are critical for adolescent development ,

We know that humans are a social species and that relationships matter throughout life. For youth, these may include relationships with parents, teachers, youth workers, mentors, peers, and staff in after-school programs. Mentoring is often recommended for adolescents as a way to provide a positive relationship with a caring adult. An apprenticeship, with supportive supervisors and colleagues, might provide an analogous relationship for an emerging adult. We believe that programs that serve low-income adults should also follow this approach and that it will be beneficial for service providers that support adults to recognise the value of ongoing positive and caring relationships.

Opportunities to belong, support for efficacy and mattering

These also answer the basic human needs to affiliate and to be respected and have a sense of personal worth and social role valorisation. As adolescents build their personal identity, these elements of a PYD program can help to recruit, retain, and engage adolescents. The same is true for adults, who want to be valued members of sports teams, clubs, or work groups. Older adults similarly want to be treated with respect and to feel worthwhile and employability training, job search programs etc. can provide them with this.

Positive social norms are critical elements of a functioning society

They provide positive goals for what people should aspire to, not simply what is bad, wrong, negative, illegal, or ill-advised. No one at any age wants to have others admonish them constantly about what not to do. Rather, adults and emerging adults benefit from having positive goals to be fostered and achieved, as in PYD programs. Adults generally want to be good at something and play a role in their community. Learning new skills in a supportive and positive environment helps adults to be responsive to approaches that assume and foster such positive norms.

Opportunities for skill-building vary by age and appropriate structure will also vary by age

At every age, we seek to attain new competencies and perform well in our roles. Programs that recognise and build on this positive motivation, in settings that are age-appropriate, will likely attract more participation and engagement.

In conclusion, as these principles are proving to be so effective among youth, maybe programs that support adults would also benefit from fostering and adult version, (PAD) positive adult development.

A.C.S.E.S.O has now introduced the 8 key elements into all projects and programmes for youth and adults alike and we are also developing a multilateral research project with several other organisations throughout the EU. 

For more information about PYD, visit this Wiki.