Youth Development: Going to the Next Level; Services for Youth Need to Help Reduce Problem Behaviors, and Increase Pro-Social Attitudes and Skills. (Social Issues)
Witt, Peter A., Parks & Recreation
Youth development as a term and set of practices began to emerge in the late 1980s. However, concerns began that youth programs were being restricted to "at-risk" youth, too often defined as persons of color from economically disadvantaged families, and from single-parent homes. Clearly, it was argued, there were youth from many other backgrounds, living in all parts of almost every community, who were demonstrating problematic behaviors.
In addition, there was a growing professional and public backlash against only dealing with the problems of a few, as opposed to offering services for everyone. Many professionals argued that "all youth are at-risk," that youth across the entire community are in need of services, and that school shootings, drug arrests and pregnancy rates in even middle-class communities are evidence of the need to serve everyone.
Problem Free is Not Fully Prepared
Unfortunately research findings have suggested that approaches to lessening youth problems, whether for some youth or all youth, have "produced weak, transient or no results" (Connell, Gambone, & Smith, 2001, p. 1). While a problems-based approach assumes that there is something wrong with the individual and that we need to provide the skills and knowledge to correct deficiencies, undertaking these types of programs has only had modest success.
However, "problem free is not fully prepared" and "fully prepared is not fully engaged" (Pittman, Irby & Ferber, 2000). Services for youth need to both help reduce problem behaviors, as well as increase pro-social attitudes and skills. The message is that it is possible to be problem free and still not necessarily grow up to be a fully functioning adult, and it is possible to be fully prepared and not use the skills and abilities one has in a positive manner.
These leaps of understanding are the bedrock principles of the youth development movement. According to advocates, efforts need to be made to create organizations and communities that enable youth to move along the pathways to adulthood by supplying the supports and opportunities necessary to develop beyond simple problem prevention. These approaches do not eliminate the need to target specific highrisk individuals for attention, but clearly indicate that efforts should not be restricted to this group or only be concerned with problem remediation. As Gambone et al. (2001) noted:
"At the center of this thinking is the idea that young people are assets in the making -- their development dependent on a range of supports and opportunities coming from family, community and the other institutions that touch them. When supports and opportunities …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Youth Development: Going to the Next Level; Services for Youth Need to Help Reduce Problem Behaviors, and Increase Pro-Social Attitudes and Skills. (Social Issues). Contributors: Witt, Peter A. - Author. Magazine title: Parks & Recreation. Volume: 37. Issue: 3 Publication date: March 2002. Page number: 52+. © 2009 National Recreation and Park Association. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.