YC Magazine highlights 40 Developmental Assets in each issue. These assets are evidence-based to positively contribute to the development of children across their lifespan.
esearch clearly shows that the more assets a young person has, the less likely they are to participate in risk-taking behaviors during adolescence including drug and alcohol use, violence, illicit drug use, and sexual activity. Sadly, the average young person has less than half of these assets according to Search Institute. This article is one in a series to highlight the eight categories of assets in order to more fully engage families, schools, agencies, businesses, and community members in ensuring our children experience as many assets as possible.
consequences. So if they feel that their increased effort in school results in better grades, they have control over the outcomes. If they feel that achievement is because of luck or chance, they will feel they have no control over the situation. Studies have shown that having a feeling of control protects youth from social and emotional risk. One idea to help kids realize what strengths they have to cope with adversity is have them write down answers to these three questions:
POSITIVE IDENTITY This Asset encompasses the following aspects:
2) What protects you, or what has protected you?
1. PERSONAL POWER
3) What inner resources or strengths do you have?
2. SELF-ESTEEM 3. SENSE OF PURPOSE 4. POSITIVE VIEW OF PERSONAL FUTURE Identity development is one of the central tasks of the adolescent period. It focuses on how youth view themselves – their sense of purpose, worth, and promise. Without a positive sense of who they are, they may feel powerless, without a sense of direction or initiative. These assets represent how comfortable a youth is in being him/herself and whether they feel they have control over, and reasons for engaging in all aspects of life. It also signifies whether they are optimistic about the future. Personal Power This is defined as the adolescent feeling like he/she has some measure of control over things that happen. It also includes youth understanding that their choices have certain
1) Who protects you, or who has protected you?
It helps to show them how to choose their own attitude about themselves, and to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Self-Esteem Self-esteem pertains to the way an individual views his/herself and is thought to be an important aspect of overall well-being. Low self-esteem was a significant predictor of loneliness for males, but not for females. It could be because males’ friendships are more group oriented and center around activities, and female friendships are centered around friendship and intimacy. However, physical appearance is an important predictor of overall self-worth for females. They tend to be more dissatisfied with their appearance than males, which takes a toll on their selfesteem. A benefit of self-esteem is that it can reduce a young person’s susceptibility to peer pressure, so it’s important to nurture it. Ideas to help build self-esteem are public recognition for a job well-done. It could be in front of the class, at the dinner table, or in front of a small group at church or extra-
curricular activity. Notes in a child’s lunch bag, school bag, or notebook go a long way in building self-esteem. Sense of Purpose Youth report that their lives have a purpose. We all want to feel like we’re here for a reason, but kids especially. It’s associated with psychological well-being. Research shows that youth who have a sense of purpose have increased self-esteem and decreased emotional or behavioral problems such as depression and sexual risk taking. One community set up a “Vocations On-site.” They had youth who were taking vocational classes serve senior citizens at a nearby care facility by using skills they had learned. Residents were given manicures, culinary students prepared lunch, and students in public services made presentations on fraud and safety tips. What a great experience for both the youth and the senior citizens, and how valued they both must have felt. Positive View of Personal Future Researchers found that emotional distress and suicide were associated with a youth’s lack of a positive view of personal future. Kids who feel they do not have a future may be at risk for a number of different behavioral and emotional problems. It’s important for youth to look at the positive aspects of their future. This can be done by helping them identify what things they want to accomplish and the steps to reach those. Studies have shown that school-based efforts may nurture feelings of selfworth in both children and adolescents. It’s important that parent, teacher, and community be involved in fostering selfesteem among youth. We can all play a part in increasing our youth’s positive identity which can help them be optimistic about their personal future. ■