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Invited Commentary: Exploring the Promises, Intricacies, and Challenges to Positive Youth Development

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 43 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2014 Pages: 1027-1035
Margaret Beale Spencer; Tirzah R. Spencer
Date Published
June 2014
9 pages
The authors highlight the need for and critical importance of the program of research reported in this Special Issue. The authors emphasize that a focus on positive youth development is sorely overdue. The impressive project covering one decade, 42 States and 7,000 participants demonstrates critical contributors to positive youth development.
The two identified themes emerging from the set of papers are that contexts and the nature of assets matter for youth. Collectively, the papers explored a variety of positive youth development relevant questions and utilized combinations of annual assessments and data sources from an extraordinary data base. The core methodological and conceptual flaw across papers was the under-representation of minorities in the data set, which limited the generalizability of findings. While the major shortcoming was acknowledged at the onset and recognized as a failing in each paper, nevertheless, merely conceding the flaw was seen as insufficient given the policy, practice, and research implications. The inadequate sampling and follow-up of youth from families which continue to face persistent social inequality and having the most to gain from a positive youth development conceptual strategy and was a major shortcoming; it prevented within group analyses. The co-authors note that although research decisions made limited the generalizability of the positive youth development research strategy for non-white American youth, the intended goals for inclusiveness are evident and, accordingly, suggest a level of hopefulness. Abstract published by arrangement with Springer.