Developing assets

Successful futures for our children are directly tied to their healthy development as human beings. One way to approach the big topic of positive youth development is through the framework of 40 Developmental Assets. The idea of assets was born out of research by the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to providing leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities. The asset framework is used by many programs in Oregon and "asset-building" is happening in many of our communities.

How can I use the 40 Developmental Assets with my child?

Search Institute studies of more than 2 million youth since 1989 reveal that when young people experience more of the assets, they are more positive and successful in their development. When there are fewer assets present, the possibility is greater that they will engage in risky and problem behaviors. As a parent, you can use the asset approach to find focus and encouragement in your daily involvement with your children.

Developmental Assets have been identified for early childhood (ages 3 through 5), middle childhood (ages 8 through 12), and youth (grades 6th through high school). Together, they create a set of developmental building blocks. Each list of assets includes external and internal assets. As you become familiar with the asset lists, you will recognize that they reinforce or replicate many of the suggestions that are incorporated into this Web site.

The first 20 Developmental Assets in each list focus on positive experiences that young people receive from the people and institutions in their lives. Four categories of external assets are included in each set:
  • Support
    Young people need to experience support, care, and love from their families, neighbors, and many others. They need organizations and institutions that provide positive, supportive environments.
  • Empowerment
    Young people need to be valued by their community and have opportunities to contribute to others. For this to occur, they must be safe and feel secure.
  • Boundaries and expectations
    Young people need to know what is expected of them and whether activities and behaviors are "in bounds" and "out of bounds."
  • Constructive use of time
    Young people need constructive, enriching opportunities for growth through creative activities, youth programs.
The second 20 Development Assets focus on internal qualities that guide positive choices and foster a sense of confidence, passion, and purpose. The framework includes four categories of internal assets:
  • Commitment to learning
    Young people need to develop a lifelong commitment to education and learning.
  • Positive values
    Young people need to develop strong values that guide their choices.
  • Social competencies
    Young people need skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life.
  • Positive identity
    Young people need a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise.

Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Search Institute. All rights reserved. This chart may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial use only (with this copyright line).

The Search Institute provides many additional resources to support asset-building by parents. To find out more about their publications and tools, go to their Web site at