The Empirical Composition of the Five Cs and Their Association With YD Programs

Certainly, given the idea that participation in YD programs is associated with PYD, a direct demonstration of the relation between participation in youth development programs and positive youth development would be quite significant for planning and implementing efforts to promote healthy adolescent development. However, as made clear in the Eccles and Gootman (2002) National Academy of Sciences report, as well as by other reviews of the literature of youth development (e.g., Blum, 2003; Lerner, 2004; Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003a, 2003b), there are relatively few data—and certainly none derived from large-scale longitudinal studies—pertinent to the empirical composition of any of the Five Cs of positive youth development or contribution, to the role of individual and ecological developmental assets in moderating their development, and to the distinctive role of the programs of community-based youth development organizations in serving as a key developmental asset within the ecology of human development. Similarly, there are no longitudinal data indicating that PYD varies positively with youth contributions and negatively with risk behaviors (e.g., substance use and abuse) or with internalizing problems (e.g., depression, anxiety).

As we explain in this chapter, the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development constitutes a large, longitudinal study. A project funded by the National 4-H Council, and conducted within the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development of Tufts University, the 4-H Study is designed to ascertain whether empirical evidence can be found for the Five Cs of PYD. The study also seeks to describe the individual and ecological asset bases of the Cs, including, in particular, community-based YD programs, such as those of 4-H and others (e.g., Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA). The potential contributions of youth development programs are contrasted with (a) programs for youth that are not directed to promoting their positive development, e.g., programs that focus on the reduction of a risk behavior (see Roth, et al., 1998); (b) individual activities, such as music or art lessons; and (c) no participation in programs or activities.

In essence, then, the goal of the 4-H Study is to understand the latent and manifest variables that constitute PYD, and the components of the developmental system that combine to enhance the likelihood of positive development and decrease the likelihood of problematic development, that is, that create conditions for healthy functioning at any one point in time (i.e., what we term "well-being;" Lerner, Bornstein, & Smith, 2003b; Lerner et al., 2003a) and that support the development of exemplary PYD across the adolescent years. The 4-H Study is interested in understanding what propels the young person along a healthy developmental trajectory (i.e., what fosters the process of thriving; Lerner, 2004; Lerner et al., 2003a), and thus what leads youth toward an "idealized" adulthood, one marked by effective contributions to self, family, community, and civil society (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1998; Hein, 2003; Lerner et al., 2003a).

Figure 18.1 presents the theoretical model of the thriving process that we have used to frame the research conducted within the 4-H Study (Lerner, 2004; Lerner et al., 2003a). Derived from the developmental systems conception that mutually beneficial developmental regulations, that is, adaptive individual — context relations, propel a person along a healthy developmental trajectory across life (and that at any one point in time enable a person to be in a state of well-being), the model specifies that when there is an alignment between individual strengths and ecological assets that promote healthy development, the Five Cs will evolve over the course of an individual's development. This development of the Five Cs will result in the above-noted, idealized adulthood, and thus in the sixth C of contribution, that is, in multifaceted contributions of individuals to their selves and their contexts that maintain and perpetuate adaptive individual — context relations.

In short, Figure 18.1 illustrates the idea that adaptive developmental regulation results in the emergence among young people of an orientation to transcend exclusive self-interest and place value on, and commitments to, actions supportive of their social system. This regulatory system enables the individual and individual initiative to prosper. As such, it is this relation—between an individual engaged in support of a democratic system that, in turn, supports the individual—that is the essence of the mutual, individual — context benefits defining healthy developmental regulation.

In sum, this vision of the development and import for self and society of exemplary positive development, or thriving, among youth, frames the 4-H Study. Predicated on the optimistic view of young people, and on the belief that all youth have strengths, and that in all contexts developmental assets may be found to combine with youth strengths in order to actualize positive developmental potentials, the 4-H Study is designed to generate heretofore unavailable longitudinal data elucidating how community-based YD programs contribute to the positive, healthy course of development among American youth. As we explain, such information is vital and timely.



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