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

Elementary assets

The 40 developmental assets for middle childhood are helpful with children in grades 4 through 6. If you would like to print this list to share with your family or post in your house, go to

Asset Category
Asset Name Asset Definition


Family support Family life provides high levels of love and support.

Positive family communication

Parent(s) and child communicate positively. Child feels comfortable seeking advice and counsel from parent(s).

Other adult relationships

Child receives support from adults other than her or his parent(s).

Caring neighborhood

Child experiences caring neighbors.

Caring school climate

Relationships with teachers and peers provide a caring, encouraging school environment.

Parent involvement in schooling

Parent(s) are actively involved in helping the child succeed in school.


Community values children

Child feels valued and appreciated by adults in the community.
Children as resources Child is included in decisions at home and in the community.
Service to others Child has opportunities to help others in the community.
Safety Child feels safe at home, at school, and in her or his neighborhood.

Boundaries and expectations

Family boundaries Family has clear and consistent rules and consequences and monitors the child's whereabouts.
School boundaries School provides clear rules and consequences.
Neighborhood boundaries
Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring the child's behavior.
Adult role models
Parent(s) and other adults in the child's family, as well as non-family adults, model positive, responsible behavior.
Positive peer influence
Child's closest friends model positive, responsible behavior.
High expectations Parent(s) and teachers expect the child to do her or his best at school and in other activities.

Constructive use of time

Creative activities

Child participates in music, art, drama, or creative writing two or more times per week.
Child programs Child participates two or more times per week in co-curricular school activities or structured community programs for children.
Religious community Child attends religious programs or services one or more times per week.
Time at home Child spends some time most days both in high-quality interaction with parents and doing things at home other than watching TV or playing video games.

Commitment to learning

Achievement motivation Child is motivated and strives to do well in school.
Learning engagement Child is responsive, attentive, and actively engaged in learning at school and enjoys participating in learning activities outside of school.
Homework Child usually hands in homework on time.
Bonding to adults at school Child cares about teachers and other adults at school.
Reading for pleasure Child enjoys and engages in reading for fun most days of the week.

Positive values

Caring Parent(s) tell the child it is important to help other people.
Equality and social justice Parent(s) tell the child it is important to speak up for equal rights for all people.
Integrity Parent(s) tell the child it is important to stand up for one's beliefs.
Honesty Parent(s) tell the child it is important to tell the truth.
Responsibility Parent(s) tell the child it is important to accept personal responsibility for behavior.
Healthy lifestyle Parent(s) tell the child it is important to have good health habits and an understanding of healthy sexuality.

Social competencies

Planning and decision making Child thinks about decisions and is usually happy with results of her or his decisions.
Interpersonal competence Child cares about and is affected by other people's feelings, enjoys making friends, and, when frustrated or angry, tries to calm her- or himself.
Cultural competence Child knows and is comfortable with people of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and with her or his own cultural identity.
Resistance skills Child can stay away from people who are likely to get her or him in trouble and is able to say no to doing wrong or dangerous things.
Peaceful conflict resolution Child attempts to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Positive identity

Personal power
Child feels he or she has some influence over things that happen in her or his life.
Self-esteem Child likes and is proud to be the person he or she is.
Sense of purpose Child sometimes thinks about what life means and whether there is a purpose for her or his life.
Positive view of personal future Child is optimistic about her or his personal future.

The 40 assets were developed based on extensive review of the theory, research, and practice base for childhood development by the Search Institute. Copyright 2003, 2006 by Search Institute. All rights reserved. This chart may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial use only (with this copyright line).

The middle childhood assets can be linked to the Developmental Assets framework for early childhood and the youth Developmental Assets framework to create a practical and unified approach to the healthy growth across the first two decades of life. If you would like to see the assets list for young children, ages 3 to 5, go to