Theoretical Framing of Positive Youth Development: Relational Development Systems Theory and Life Course Theory

Theoretical Framing of Positive Youth Development: Relational Development Systems Theory and Life Course Theory

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Theoretical Framing of Positive Youth Development: Relational Developmental Systems Theory and Life Course Theory
The concept of positive youth development (PYD) originates from developmental scientists’ interests in the innate, albeit, relative plasticity of human development and the importance of the continuous relationship between the individual and their context (Lerner, 2005; Lerner, 2009; Lerner 2014; Geldof, 2014). This comparatively new theory takes a positive perspective by shifting the focus from deficit models to a strengths based model. The language of PYD is traceable to psychological studies dating back to the World War II era (Terman, 1939), but empirical support for the concept is more recent (Lerner, 2009; Lerner, 2014). While there are varying scholarly views on PYD (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003), the most comprehensive empirical support comes from the Five C’s Model, which emerged from the larger 4-H Study of PYD. Prior to the 4-H study the question of how to measure PYD was unanswered (Phelps et al., 2009). However, through the assessment of the 4-H results, the Five C’s, being: competence, confidence, character, connection, and caring, were determined as important, latent constructs of PYD (Lerner, 2014, Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003). The following is a brief delineation of each of the Five Cs:1) Competence is related to the social, cognitive, academic and vocational view the adolescent has of himself or herself. 2) Confidence is defined as an overall positive internal measure of self worth. 3) Connection relates to the positive social bonds the adolescent has with his or her peers, family, and community members. 4) Character reflects the respect held for social and cultural norms along with a sense of morali...


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...amily or generational, and cohort or historical, time can be integrated to promote what instances of positive human development” (Gelhof, 2013, p. 71; Lerner et al, 2012). By asking this complex question we begin to see the system in which development is taking place. We begin to understand the complex, unique person—context relationship (system, action and embodiment) that guides the understanding of the latent PYD variables. Through this understanding we may find, regardless of the virtually infinite contextual variations that can influence life trajectories, that wide spread positive outcomes are possible as a result of culturally relevant and meaningful PYD based programs.



Works Cited




Doyle, O., Harmon, C.P., Heckman, J., and Tremblay, R. (2009) Investing in early
human development: Timing and economic efficiency. Economics and Human
Biology 7 1-6


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