Adults as Ecological Assets for Positive Youth Development: An In Depth Examination of Social Resources

Varga, Shannon, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Ecological (i.e. external) assets are an important part of youth’s development under the PYD perspective, in that they support healthy development within contexts in which youth are embedded (Benson, 2003). There are many external assets including caring neighborhoods, familial support, and relationships with non-parental adults. Current research suggests that adults may be the most important ecological assets for youths’ healthy development (Theokas & Lerner, 2006). In fact, America’s Promise Alliance, a center focused on successful youth development, made encouraging relationships with caring adults the center of their initiatives for helping youth (

Ample literature has demonstrated that youth-adult relationships (YARs) are associated with positive psychosocial and behavioral outcomes (Chang et al., 2010; Rhodes, Spencer, Keller, & Liang, 2006; Beam, Chen, & Greenberger, 2002). Many studies have attributed this to the important resources that adults can offer youth, namely social support and social capital (Chang et al., 2010). However, social support and social capital are both complex and multidimensional resources and the literature surrounding them are characterized by a lack of conceptual clarity. This dissertation focuses on increasing our theoretical and empirical understanding of these two resources as they apply to positive youth development.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
social support, youth adult relationships, social capital, positive youth development
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