Developmental Assets:
An Investment in Youth

We’re not talking about financial assets, but developmental assets- the “capital” children and youth need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. By examining extensive research on the influences in young people’s lives, Search Institute has identified 40 developmental assets that form a foundation for healthy development. These are key factors that enhance the health and well-being of young people. When drawn together, the assets offer a set of benchmarks for positive child and adolescent development. The assets clearly show important roles that families, schools, congregations, neighborhoods, youth organizations, and others in communities play in shaping young people’s lives.

External Assets

The first 20 developmental assets focus on positive experiences that young people receive from the people and institutions in their lives. Four categories of external assets are included in the framework:


Young people need to experience support, care, and love from their families, neighbors, and many others. They need organizations and institutions that provide positive, supportive environments.


Young people need to be valued by their community and have opportunities to contribute to others. For this to occur, they must be safe and feel secure.

Boundaries and expectations

Young people need to know what is expected of them and whether activities and behaviors are “in bounds” and “out of bounds.”

Constructive use of time

Young people need constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs, congregational involvement, and quality time at home.

Internal Assets

A community’s responsibility for its young does not end with the provision of external assets. There needs to be a similar commitment to nurturing the internalized qualities that guide choices and create a sense of centeredness, purpose, and focus. Indeed, shaping internal dispositions that encourage wise, responsible, and compassionate judgments is particularly important in a society that prizes individualism. Four categories of internal assets are included in the framework:

Commitment to learning

Young people need to develop a lifelong commitment to education and learning.

Positive values

Youth need to develop strong values that guide their choices.

Social competencies

Young people need skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life.

Positive Identity

Young people need a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise.

Compeer volunteers foster many of these developmental assets in their young friends. By having a Compeer, our young friends receive support from a non-parent adult, have an adult who models positive, responsible behavior,encourages the young person to do well, and makes constructive use of time through creative activities. They learn how to plan ahead and make choices, they develop empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills, gain knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds, gain high self-esteem, and are optimistic about her or his personal future. Through each visit, you are making an investment you can expect high yields from – as young people become healthy, contributing members of families, communities, workplaces, and society!

Information taken from See the website for a complete listing of the 40 Developmental Assets.