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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Leadership and Youth Development

NCJ Number
Date Published
4 pages
Based on a literature review, this paper examines the theoretical foundation and research-based outcome evidence for using knowledge of factors in positive youth development to create environments for youth that facilitate such development.
The theoretical foundation for youth competency development borrows from control theory (Hirschi, 1969). Control theory hypothesizes that social controls are what prevent people from engaging in delinquent and criminal behavior. When these social controls are weak or nonexistent, deviant behavior is likely to occur. The theoretical context for youth development programs is similar. Such programs are more concerned with the basic needs and stages of youth development than with focusing on fixing problem behaviors. They intend to provide youth with skills and social competencies needed to perform constructive tasks that are valued by normative social institutions, i.e., legitimate employment, positive family interactions, and community contributions. This focus on the development and practice of positive behaviors creates a buffer against delinquent behavior. In testing this theory of delinquency prevention, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates youth development programs can produce individual protective factors that increase positive behaviors and attitudes while preventing or decreasing problem behaviors (Benson and Saito, 2000). Some key research studies that have found positive outcomes from youth development programs are cited. The programs subjected to research evaluations demonstrated youth participants' improvement in moral development, positive self-esteem, moral reasoning, and sense of social responsibility. Perhaps the most convincing research on youth development to date is a meta-analysis of 25 program evaluations conducted by the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington (Catalano et al.,1998). 12 references