Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

From Positive Youth Development to Youth's Engagement: The Dream Teens

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

From Positive Youth Development to Youth's Engagement: The Dream Teens

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the early 1990s, a group of researchers initiated the Social Adventure Project in Portugal with the aim of studying and promoting social behaviour and health amongst young people. The first project included a range of interventions targeting vulnerable young people. The goal was to promote social competence by increasing young people's behavioural, cognitive and emotional repertoires, since it was considered that this could reduce both aggressive and inhibited patterns of interpersonal interaction and risky behaviours. Interventions were focused on young people, but also included training for professionals and families. Subsequently, other projects were developed with a focus on universal interventions following the same theoretical background and intervention model. In the early nineties, the team was involved in several national and international projects targeting young people's health and well-being, in order to provide a baseline for understanding, at a national and international level, the state of the art and the development of evidence-based interventions. The range of national and international projects included: HBSC - Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, KIDSCREEN, TEMPEST, PEER-Drive Clean, RICHE, DICE, Y-SAV, CED - Find your own style, and more recently, Dream Teens. All interventions, ultimately, intended to motivate young people to improve their social skills and increase their social participation, in order to achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle.

The challenge in 2010 and beyond was to understand how to best apply a positive and proactive approach in a rapidly changing, 'crisis-ridden' society, redressing the balance between programmes that focus on disease and those centred on the happiness and wellbeing of individuals and societies, valuing and promoting their competences instead of focusing on their deficits, and encouraging their active participation within a lifespan perspective. This paper discusses the course of our own work in Portugal and present a critical review of various significant perspectives and their evolution during the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century; the cited authors are not, necessarily, the most important in the area, instead, we refer to those that, for one reason or another, were the most inspiring for our team work and trajectory. Finally, we present a critical review of the core scientific literature concerning our investigation and intervention work with adolescents, starting from an education and promotion of competences perspective, ending with a perspective committed to youth engagement and civic participation.

Critical Review

In the first historical period, intervention models oriented towards 'behaviour change' were merely concerned about overt behaviours (verbal and non-verbal) and covert behaviours (cognitions and emotions). In the area of social skills, in this initial period, overt behaviours were assumed as those whose learning would guarantee social competence. In a second stage, social competence was built from much more than a set of simple social skills and had to be adjusted to one's gender, age, social situation, culture, or historical period. Furthermore, social competence would not be a matter of simple overt behaviours but rather complex covert behaviours that included verbal and nonverbal aspects and also thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and physiological responses. Authors such as Felner, Lease, & Philips (1990), Matos (1997), McFall (1982) and Spence (1980) helped establish an indepth understanding of this process. Later, there was a shift to a positive approach that would lead to promoting assets and individual strengths; in addition the role of social competences, self-regulation and resilience became more salient. During the same period, researchers highlighted the importance of social cohesion and social support as wellbeing facilitators. Authors such as Kia-Keating, Dowdy, Morgan, and Noam (2011), Lerner, Phelps, Forman, and Bowers (2009), Matos (2005), Matos & Sampaio (2009), Rutter (1979, 1987), Simões, Matos, Tomé, and Ferreira (2008) helped to promote these issues. …

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