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The 5 C’s of Positive Youth Development and its Program

Youth development is a process that prepares a young person to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood and achieve his or her full potential. Youth development is promoted through activities and experiences that help youth develop social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies. Youth leadership is part of the youth development process and supports the young person in developing: (a) the ability to analyse his or her own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have the self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and abilities to carry them out (including the ability to establish support networks in order to fully participate in community life and effect positive social change); and (b) the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviors of others, and serve as a role model.

5 C’s of Positive Youth Development
Source: Unsplash

The 5 C’s of Positive Youth Development (according to the NE Department of Health & Human Services) include:

1. Connection

A feeling of safety, structure, and belonging; positive bonds with people and social institutions.

2. Confidence

A sense of self-worth and mastery; having a belief in one’s capacity to succeed.

3. Character

Taking responsibility; a sense of independence and individuality; connection to principles and values.

4. Competence

The ability to act effectively at school, in social situations, and at work.

5. Contribution

Active participation and leadership in a variety of settings; making a difference.


Positive Youth Development (PYD) is the entire system of support (school, home, community) that builds upon the strengths of youth and recognizes the risky behavior they may exhibit. PYD involves youth as active agents – adults and youth work in partnership. Civic involvement is a big component of PYD and works best when every element of the community in involved (school, home, community).

ICAN has incorporated the 5 C’s of Youth Development and PYD in a number of ways.

  • We have adopted a behavior management system designed to focus on the positive attributes in youth’s behavior.

  • We offer a structured play model that encourages youth to practice real life skills through play.

  • We offer hands-on learning that provides unique experiences and reinforces skill building.

  • We emphasize staff and volunteers being strong role models for youth.

  • Youth participate in community service projects – they not only participate in the activity, they help come up with what they are going to do and plan the components as well.

Finally, youth have an opportunity each Friday to choose a recreational activity they would like to participate in. These activities range from soccer to karate, to “Girls Circle” which fosters self-esteem and helps girls maintain authentic connections with their peers.

Youth development programs

Conditions that promote healthy youth development are supported through programs and activities in schools and communities. Youth development researchers and practitioners emphasize that effective programs and interventions recognize youths’ strengths and seek to promote positive development rather than addressing risks in isolation. Youth who are constructively involved in learning and doing and who are connected to positive adults and peers are less likely to engage in risky or self-defeating behaviors.

Positive youth development programs strengthen young people’s sense of identity, belief in the future, self-regulation, and self-efficiency as well as their social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral competence.

Positive youth development (PYD) programs provide youth with networks of supportive adults. Unlike many prevention programs that focus solely on risk behaviors, PYD programs aim to develop and enhance positive characteristics of individuals and their surrounding context. By increasing protective factors rather than focusing on risk behaviors related to a single adverse outcome, PYD programs have benefits across a range of health and academic outcomes.

Providing the conditions for positive youth development is a responsibility shared by families, schools, and communities. The conditions for healthy youth development reside in families, schools, and communities.

Families promote healthy youth development when they:

  • Provide support;

  • Have positive family communication;

  • Are involved in their adolescent’s school;

  • Have clear rules and consequences and monitor their adolescent’s whereabouts;

  • Provide positive, responsible role models for other adults, adolescents, and siblings;

  • Expect their adolescent to do well; and

  • Spend time together.

Schools promote healthy youth development when they:

  • Expect commitment from youth;

  • Have a caring school climate;

  • Have clear rules and consequences;

  • Provide positive, responsible adult role models; and

  • Expect youth to do well.

Communities promote healthy youth development when:

  • Adults advocate for youth;

  • Neighbors monitor youths’ behavior;

  • Adults model positive, responsible, and healthy behavior;

  • Youth model positive, responsible, and healthy behavior;

It is unusual for all these positive influences to be present at the same time; unfortunately, too many youth grow up in circumstances that provide limited support for healthy development.

Well-designed and well-run youth development programs promote youth leadership by involving youth in needs assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. A growing number of organizations include youth on their boards of directors. Effective programs engage all participating youth in constructive action through activities such as service learning, arts, and athletics; and emphasize common values such as friendship, citizenship, and learning.

Positive Youth Development perspective helps adolescents take responsibilities for their own learning by setting and monitoring goals, using positive personal skills, and employing effective strategies. In addition, teacher characteristics including personal teaching efficacy, modelling, caring, and high expectations together with classroom climate and instructional variables to enhance motivation.

Motivation is increased when adolescents work in a safe and orderly environment, experience success, understand tasks and the reasons from them, and experience optimal challenge, Instructors can increase adolescents’ motivation by preparing attractive activities and tasks, involving the adolescents, personalising content, and providing informative feedback.

Life is full of different stresses and risks. Neither society nor parents can completely protect children from them, it is the children who themselves have to meet these challenges. However we can prepare them to overcome adversities in life and further more to thrive. By identifying important developmental strengths such as character strengths and life satisfaction by facilitating their development, and by strengthening and maintaining them, we can help youth achieve the healthy, happy, and good lives that they all deserve.


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