Exploring Normative Trends of Positive Youth Development: An Examination of Adolescent Social and Emotional Skills

Ross, Katherine, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tolan, Patrick, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Jennings, Patricia, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williams, Joanna, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Harris, Alexis, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation presents three empirical studies that explore social and emotional development in adolescence through the framework put forth by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The first study confirmed the five-factor structure of the CASEL model and showed the model’s predictive validity for important outcomes for youth such as grades, school engagement, depressive symptoms, delinquency, and risky behaviors. This study suggested that the CASEL model is appropriate and useful for studying adolescent social and emotional development. Study 2 explored the normative growth trajectories for social and emotional development and the component skills (self awareness, self management, responsible decision making, creating relationship skills, and relationship quality) in a longitudinal sample of adolescents from ages 10 to 18. The results indicated that SEL growth is complex, and often non-linear, and significantly varies by gender. Additionally, the component skills each followed a unique growth trajectory, indicating that there is value added in viewing each as distinct, while interrelated, components of SEL. Study 3 employed a person-centered approach to examine profiles of social and emotional functioning and their relation to important youth outcomes. The results suggested that social and emotional functioning is not homogenous and that different profiles of functioning are associated with different outcomes for youth. In culmination, the work in this dissertation suggests that (1) there is utility in the CASEL model for studying adolescent social and emotional development, (2) social and emotional growth is complex and quite varied between gender and component skills and (3) adolescents tend to present a profile of social and emotional function that can be linked to important youth outcomes. Collectively, these studies begin to shed light on potential avenues for studying and ultimately promoting positive social and emotional growth in adolescence.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
positive youth development, social and emotional learning, adolescence
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