Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development To The Rescue…

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is an approach that focuses on a child’s strengths and potential for change rather than focusing on their negative behaviors and/or risk factors. This approach closely aligns with the Strengths Perspective model that asserts all individuals have deeply ingrained resources and a capacity for change.

The notion is that by teaching social responsibility, a child’s troubling behaviors will lessen or be resolved. The approach is rooted in dynamic systems theory, which indicates that learning occurs in a social context. Thus, the approach looks closely at the youth’s relationships with peers and adults.

Research suggests that theoretically sound physical activity-based Positive Youth Development programs afford opportunities for youth to learn necessary skills to become socially responsible.

Research empathizes that beyond reducing risks, PYD programs can provide opportunities for developing skills, competence, and social relationships because they are interactive and emotionally and socially involved.


Donald Hellison developed a model that has been used to underpin Positive Youth Development programs. The model claims that social responsibility can be taught to youth in physical activity based programs by attending to three core values:

  1. Displaying compassion, care, and respect to youth while listening to their needs
  2. Shifting decision making power to the youth as they progress
  3. Integrating character education and life lessons into the physical activity

Further, the PYD approach suggests that the development of each youth is fostered by their opportunity and ability to form and build meaningful relationships with adults and peers.

Positive Youth Development programs present opportunities for youth to learn values such as: self-control, self-confidence, physical competence, physical activity appreciation, self-discipline, and social responsibility.
Program leaders in PYD may use Hellison’s model to develop and implement programs for young people by focusing on the three core values of:

  • Displaying compassion
  • Shifting decision making power
  • Integrating character education

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Dr. Steve is available for consultation