Academic journal article College Student Journal

Developmental Assets: Validating a Model of Successful Adaptation for Emerging Adults

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Developmental Assets: Validating a Model of Successful Adaptation for Emerging Adults

Article excerpt

This brief report assesses the validity of applying the adolescent-based developmental assets model to emerging adults. Developmental assets are specific constructs which predict future success, including positive individual characteristics and environmental resources. The researchers developed a self-report survey based on a subset of the assets and outcome behaviors most applicable to emerging adults. Correlational analyses revealed significant relationships of moderate strength between the perceived level of developmental assets and thriving behaviors (r = .40,p< .01), risky behaviors (r = -.36, p < .01), and academic success (r = .28, p < .01). Furthermore, a path analysis yielded significant coefficients wherein assets influenced thriving, risk, and collectively, academic success. Results suggest that the developmental assets framework applies to emerging adults and warrants further investigation.

Keywords: emerging adults; developmental assets; college; academic success


Emerging adulthood, defined as the age range from 18 to the mid- or late-20's, is an especially pivotal period of development, and recent research has shown that despite increases in college enrollment, drop-out remains very high (one fourth of all freshmen do not continue to their second year; Arnett & Tanner, 2006). This high rate of college dropout produces burdens, including student loan debt, students moving back home, familial tension, and difficulties finding work in an increasingly competitive market. Although not all college attrition results from academic struggle, research investigating factors which may affect academic performance in college-enrolled emerging adults could assist in preventing these challenges and contribute to the positive development of this population.

To address the issues of non-success in college, the authors propose using a model initially designed for adolescents. According to the developmental assets theory developed by the Search Institute, there are 40 distinct constructs which can be present in the lives

of adolescents and which predict future success (Leffert et al., 1998). The developmental assets model includes internal and external assets, which are positive characteristics of the individual as well as positive influences present in the individual's environment, respectively. Internal assets are characteristics such as commitment to learning, future planning, and a sense of positive identity. External assets include variables such as availability of support systems, opportunities for empowerment, and structure for the constructive use of time (Leffert et al., 1998).

In regard to using research to inform policy, the adolescent model has been very informative over the past several years. Perceived levels of assets have been consistently linked to a set of outcome factors categorized as thriving and risk behaviors. Findings from the work of Leffert, Benson, Scales, Sharma, Drake, and Blyth (1998) have shown that adolescents with more assets exhibit better physical health and stronger grades (i.e., "thriving behavior") and are less likely to use illicit drugs or drink and drive (i.e., "risk behavior"). Furthermore, this line of research has seen great success in its implementation to public health policy. Many neighborhoods and school systems have been assessed for asset-based strengths and weaknesses. As a result, programs have been developed that focus specifically on building assets in areas where particular improvements are needed. In addition, youth programs across the nation like the YMCA, the American Camping Association, National 4-H, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and faith-based youth groups are beginning to adopt the developmental assets model as a way to positively impact the adolescents involved (Benson, 2008).

Considering the strength of the adolescent-based developmental assets model, the question is whether similar progress can be achieved when adapting the model to issues surrounding emerging adulthood. …

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