Prevention Plus: Forty developmental assets, external and internal

In our last column we introduced the Search Institute, a pioneering organization in the field of youth development. This group has compiled a list of 40 Developmental Assets that have a powerful positive impact on young people. Teenagers who have a number of these assets are much more likely to exhibit positive values that lead to success in school, good health and becoming responsible and productive adults, plus they are much less likely to get involved in risky behaviors. Unfortunately, many teenagers possess less than half of the 40 assets. As a community we can change this, since we all have the ability to build assets in our young people’s lives.

The list of 40 assets is divided into two distinct sections, External Assets and Internal Assets. Both are equally important in creating a strong foundation in a young person’s life. As a community, if we provide the external assets of support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations and constructive use of time, it allows our youth to better develop the internal assets of commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity.

Creating a strong foundation in a young person’s life doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. Simply making a conscious effort to take time, remain patient and provide a lot of love and care is a good start. Most often, the primary adult role models are parents, but other adult relationships are a critical component, too. Whether a teacher, coach, preacher, neighbor, boss, counselor, babysitter/nanny or any other adult figure in a kid’s life, we all play a role in developing our youth. Being a good role model can be as easy as saying an encouraging word when a young person needs it or welcoming them into your shop with a smile or asking them about their day. Support doesn’t have to be big or loud to be meaningful. So, please consider the impact you could have and strive to make a difference each day. Wouldn’t you have liked that if someone had done it for you … and don’t you remember when someone did?

In the weeks and months ahead, we will highlight one of the individual 40 Developmental Assets.

Our goal is to provide research-based support to help raise thriving youth in our Ridgefield community.

The full list of developmental assets is available online at

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