Youth Development and Its Importance in Today’s World

The five Cs of positive youth development are competence, confidence, connection, care/compassion and character. Youth development is a process that prepares a young person to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood and achieve his or her full potential. Youth development is promoted through activities and experiences that help young individuals  develop social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies.

Conditions that promote healthy youth development should be supported through programs and activities in schools and communities. Youth development researchers and practitioners emphasize that effective programs and interventions recognize youths’ strengths and seek to promote positive development rather than addressing risks in isolation. But why do we need to focus on the development of our youth at all? 

Well, there can be several reasons ranging from the fact that they are the future of any nation to the study that shows youth  who are constructively involved in learning and doing and who are connected to positive adults and peers are less likely to engage in risky or self-defeating behaviours.

There are various aspects of positive youth development some of which include the following.

Firstly, positive youth development is intentional.  That is, it is purposeful and deliberate. It may, and should, seem warm and casual; but it is actually a planned out and thoughtful approach that involves training staff and monitoring whether these practices are actually being implemented on a day-to-day basis.

It is also pro-social. This means that it benefits other people or society as a whole. Importantly, researchers find that getting youth involved in pro-social activities, such as volunteer work, reduces the likelihood that they will engage in problematic behaviours.  Just how this happens isn’t specified, though.  It could be volunteering as an individual (perhaps in your organization!), or working on a community project, or doing a group activity with other youth.

Importantly, positive youth development is an approach. In other words, it is not a specific curriculum or a particular program that can help them. It is rather a general sense of compassion they can develop through such activities. 

And it engages youth.  This means that it does not “lecture” or “teach” but seeks to interest them in learning, for example, by involving them in a project that they themselves are invested in. This goes beyond just doing things and includes being emotionally involved and cognitively involved – caring and thinking – about what the program has to offer.

Secondly, positive youth development is not a “one-size-fits all” sort of approach. The unique and particular strengths of each individual are likely to vary a lot, and it may take some effort to find out what they are. Whatever their strengths, the goal is to recognize, use, and enhance those particular strengths. 

It is important, of course, to prevent problems. However, the PYD strategy involves building strengths, knowing that youth with greater strengths generally have fewer problems.

To reach these positive outcomes, PYD provides opportunities.  This might include:

  • Jobs, job training
  • Volunteering, service-learning
  • Youth advisory boards
  • Referrals for assistance, or
  • Activities such as sports or mentoring

And, of course, a critical component of this approach is the positive relationships that are fostered. This means relationships that are affirming of the youth, relationships that are warm in age-appropriate ways, consistent, and trustworthy. Many young people  have not experienced trustworthy and respectful relationships with adults, and it is important to provide the former with those.

 

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