Every now and then a youth work theory comes along that changes how you do things. Developed by the Search Institute in the USA in 1990 the 40 Developmental Assets represent the relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to avoid risks and to thrive.
The 40 Assets approach has been well researched with over 2.2 million young people in the US. Now I know you might be thinking yeah but we are different from the states and yes things over here in the UK are a little different but not that different, the stats show that the more of the 40 assets a young person has the more likely they are to do well in school, relationships and life and the less assets a young person has the more likely they are to engage in underage drinking, sexual activity, crime and drug taking.
The 40 Assets are split into 2 main categories, Internal and External and are further sub categoried into 8 topics as below
EXTERNAL ASSETS SUPPORT
1. Family Support | Family life provides high levels of love and support.
2. Positive Family Communication | Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
3. Other Adult Relationships | Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
4. Caring Neighbourhood | Young person experiences caring neighbours.
5. Caring School Climate | School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
6. Parent Involvement in Schooling | Parent(s) are actively involved in helping the child succeed in school.
7. Community Values Youth | Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
8. Youth as Resources | Young people are given useful roles in the community.
9. Service to Others | Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
10. Safety | Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighbourhood.
BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
11. Family Boundaries | Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
12. School Boundaries | School provides clear rules and consequences.
13. Neighbourhood Boundaries | Neighbours take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behaviour.
14. Adult Role Models | Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behaviour.
15. Positive Peer Influence | Young person’s best friends model responsible behaviour.
16. High Expectations | Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.
CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME
17. Creative Activities | Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theatre, or other arts.
18. Youth Programs | Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
19. Religious Community | Young person spends one hour or more per week in activities in a religious institution.
20. Time at Home | Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.
INTERNAL ASSETS COMMITMENT TO LEARNING
21. Achievement Motivation | Young person is motivated to do well in school.
22. School Engagement | Young person is actively engaged in learning.
23. Homework | Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
24. Bonding to School | Young person cares about her or his school.
25. Reading for Pleasure | Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.
26. Caring | Young Person places high value on helping other people.
27. Equality and Social Justice | Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
28. Integrity | Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
29. Honesty | Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
30. Responsibility | Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
31. Restraint | Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.
32. Planning and Decision Making | Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
33. Interpersonal Competence | Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
34. Cultural Competence | Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
35. Resistance Skills | Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
36. Peaceful Conflict Resolution | Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
37. Personal Power | Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
38. Self-Esteem | Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
39. Sense of Purpose | Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
40. Positive View of Personal Future | Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.
Simple eh? The more of these 40 Assets a young person has the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviour.
The main reasons I love about this approach is that it reinforces that all young people need assets not just those identified with targeted “needs”, its my experience that those identified with “needs” are often provided with support until the need is no longer there and then all support is removed, leaving the young person with another gap in their life (and I say this as an experienced prevention worker!)
Alongside this though it also promotes a whole community approach to youth work rather that placing an unrealistic expectation on one worker to be the answer to all the issues, anyone and everyone has the potential to build assets in a young persons life – even a congregation!
Previously when working for the Salvation Army we used them to develop creative arts programmes and Council funded one to one mentoring schemes but this can easily be translated into a congregation or centre based approach. Its a great tool to have in your tool box.
For more info there’s a great book called All kids are our kids” by Peter Benson or the Search Institute website has loads of free info check out