Theoretical Framing Of Positive Youth Development: Relational Development Systems Theory And Life Course Theory

1674 words - 7 pages

Theoretical Framing of Positive Youth Development: Relational Developmental Systems Theory and Life Course Theory
The concept of positive youth development (PYD) originates from developmental scientists’ interests in the innate, albeit, relative plasticity of human development and the importance of the continuous relationship between the individual and their context (Lerner, 2005; Lerner, 2009; Lerner 2014; Geldof, 2014). This comparatively new theory takes a positive perspective by shifting the focus from deficit models to a strengths based model. The language of PYD is traceable to psychological studies dating back to the World War II era (Terman, 1939), but empirical support for the concept is more recent (Lerner, 2009; Lerner, 2014). While there are varying scholarly views on PYD (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003), the most comprehensive empirical support comes from the Five C’s Model, which emerged from the larger 4-H Study of PYD. Prior to the 4-H study the question of how to measure PYD was unanswered (Phelps et al., 2009). However, through the assessment of the 4-H results, the Five C’s, being: competence, confidence, character, connection, and caring, were determined as important, latent constructs of PYD (Lerner, 2014, Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003). The following is a brief delineation of each of the Five Cs:1) Competence is related to the social, cognitive, academic and vocational view the adolescent has of himself or herself. 2) Confidence is defined as an overall positive internal measure of self worth. 3) Connection relates to the positive social bonds the adolescent has with his or her peers, family, and community members. 4) Character reflects the respect held for social and cultural norms along with a sense of morality (right and wrong). 5) Caring is related to the adolescent’s sense or willingness to relate or identify with others showing empathy and sympathy (Geldhof et al, 2014).
The Five C’s Model of PYD was tested by the 4-H Study, by centering on youth in their environments looking at whether healthy development could be optimized through the alignment of individual strengths and resources. The results of the 4-H Study revealed that the optimal course to positive development is to replace the deficit model, instead focusing on the strengths of individual youth in their unique environment. This promotes growth of the Five Cs and results in a more positive developmental trajectory. Nationally, there are a multitude of organizations willing and able to promote programs based on the PYD Five Cs model (Lerner, 2014). However, whether each of the Five Cs retain their meaning internationally is in question. More specifically, are the latent variables of the Five Cs Model measured similarly in the subculture of the rural Motashweni village in South Africa? The ultimate goal in questioning PYD’s validity (from the perspective of the villagers) is to determine whether the village and its members would benefit from the...

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