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

Middle and high school assets

The 40 developmental assets for youth are helpful with young people in grades 6 through 12. If you would like to print this list to share with your family or post in your house, go to The list is also available in Spanish at

Asset Category
Asset Name Asset Definition


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

Positive family communication

Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parent(s).

Other adult relationships

Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.

Caring neighborhood

Young person experiences caring neighbors.

Caring school climate

School provides a caring, encouraging environment.

Parent involvement in schooling

Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.


Community values children

Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
Children as resources Young people are given useful roles in the community.
Service to others Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
Safety Young person feels safe at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.

Boundaries and expectations

Family boundaries Family has clear rules and consequences, and monitors the young person's whereabouts.
School boundaries School provides clear rules and consequences.
Neighborhood boundaries
Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people's behavior.
Adult role models
Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
Positive peer influence
Young person's best friends model responsible behavior.
High expectations Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.

Constructive use of time

Creative activities

Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
Child programs Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
Religious community Young person spends one hour or more per week in activities in a religious institution.
Time at home Young person is out with friends "with nothing special to do" two or fewer nights per week.

Commitment to learning

Achievement motivation Young person is motivated to do well in school.
Learning engagement Young person is actively engaged in learning.
Homework Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
Bonding to adults at school Young person cares about her or his school.
Reading for pleasure Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.

Positive values

Caring Young person places high value on helping other people.
Equality and social justice Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
Integrity Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
Honesty Young person "tells the truth even when it is not easy."
Responsibility Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
Healthy lifestyle Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.

Social competencies

Planning and decision making Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
Interpersonal competence Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
Cultural competence Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Resistance skills Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
Peaceful conflict resolution Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Positive identity

Personal power
Young person feels he or she has control over "things that happen to me."
Self-esteem Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
Sense of purpose Young person reports that "my life has a purpose."
Positive view of personal future Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

The 40 assets are based on research on adolescents 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).