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Positive youth development frameworks

In this article, Katherine Main introduces two positive youth development frameworks that can be useful for interacting positively with adolescents.
Positive Youth Development Frameworks
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Exploring the potential plasticity (adaptability to change) of adolescent development has led to the construction of a number of positive youth development (PYD) frameworks that view young adolescents through a lens of possibilities rather than problems.

Although there are a number of PYD models, used in different ways, all reflect the reciprocal influence between individuals and context. We are going to introduce you to two of these frameworks and use them as a foundation to discuss their usefulness in helping us interact positively with young people and to build our own personal framework.

The Five Cs

In their PYD model, Lerner, Almerigi, Theokas and Lerner 1 introduced five key areas, or the Five Cs:

  • competence
  • confidence
  • connection
  • character
  • caring

This model has been extended by other researchers who have argued that when a young person incorporates all of the Five Cs into their development, it can result in a sixth C: contributions. This refers to the young person’s own contributions to themselves, their family and their community as an active and informed citizen.

It should be noted that the inverse is also true. Lerner et al. found that young adolescents who had a reduced experience of the Five Cs, were at higher risk of being on a detrimental developmental path. They were more likely to experience a range of personal, social and behavioural problems.

Emotional literacy

A second PYD model is centered about emotional intelligence. The Smith Family 2 have labeled this emotional literacy in their education and learning programs, which aim to enhancing young people’s abilities to:

  • recognise and understand their emotions
  • manage emotions effectively through self-discipline
  • recognise emotions in others through empathy
  • combine these skills to successfully develop and manage relationships for different purposes in different contexts

According to The Smith Family, these abilities are the key skills that make up emotional literacy. These skills depend on the individual developing four key attributes or characteristics:

  • self-esteem
  • competence
  • autonomy
  • relatedness

In the next step we’ll unpack these frameworks further in a discussion comparing the two models.

Your task

In your involvement with adolescent learners, have you come across any other PYD frameworks for developing social and emotional wellbeing?

Search the web for information about other relevant PYD frameworks.

Share your own experiences or the information you find on the web in the comments.


  1. Lerner RM, Almerigi JB, Theokas C, Lerner JV. Positive youth development a view of the issues. The journal of early adolescence. 2005 Feb;25(1):10-6. 

  2. The Smith Family. Emotional literacy: Building strong relationships for lifelong learning [Internet]. Sydney: The Smith Family; 2009 [cited 2018 Aug 09]. 14 p. Available from: 

© Griffith University
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Supporting Adolescent Learners: Social and Emotional Wellbeing

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