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Adopt a personal framework

In this article Katherine Main describes the four attributes that The Smith Family identify as essential for the development of emotional literacy.
Adopt A Personal Framework
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You can adopt a positive youth development (PYD) framework from one of the existing PYD models. Adopting a framework will help to ensure your interactions with young adolescents can be positive.

Emotional literacy attributes

In Step 2.6 we introduced The Smith Family’s 1 positive youth development (PYD) model labeled, emotional literacy. Now let’s look more deeply at the four attributes or characteristics that The Smith Family identify as essential for the development of emotional literacy. As you read about each of these attributes, consider how they might align with your own personal PYD model.

Self-esteem – ‘I am worthy’

Self-esteem refers to how a person sees themselves and their overall concept of self-worth. Adolescents with high self-esteem have confidence and positive feelings about themselves, face challenges in life, accept failure and unhappiness at times, and are open with people. An important aspect of self-esteem is our beliefs about how others view us, as perceptions of self are largely based on social interactions. In this, older adolescents are more likely to be sensitive to the opinions of peers.

Competence – ‘I am capable’

Competence (or self-efficacy) refers to the ability to operate effectively within one’s environment. It is closely related to self-esteem and involves a person’s confidence in overcoming barriers and performing tasks.2 It includes having a sense of purpose, educational aspirations, and anticipation and belief in a bright future. According to Bandura 2, self-efficacy affects the amount of effort and persistence that a person devotes to a task.

Autonomy – ‘I am in control’

Autonomy refers to an adolescent’s growing ability to think, feel, make decisions, and act on her or his own. A young person who has achieved a sense of autonomy will not simply react spontaneously to circumstances and other people, but will manage their responses reflectively and proactively with a sense of direction that they have chosen for themselves.1 Autonomy is a central factor in an adolescent’s growing independence and adoption of adult roles and responsibilities. Autonomy has special meaning in the preteen and teenage years as it signifies that an adolescent is a unique, capable and independent person who depends less on parents and other adults.

Relatedness – ‘I matter to others’

Relatedness refers to feeling significant to others and being a part of social networks with friends and peers. Networking and social support systems need to be established early and maintained for young people to maximise their likelihood of success in all areas of their lives. This can be achieved through formal relations with teachers and other professionals, and informal relations with siblings and peers.1

Adopting your own framework

We’ve looked at how The Smith Family’s emotional literacy and other PYD models have been used to support adolescent learners, now it’s time for you to consider adopting your own personal framework.

Selecting key skills

The first step is to select a PYD framework that best supports the development of the social and emotional competencies of the young people you interact with. You could choose one of the ones discussed or another framework. You need to consider the young people that you come into contact with and how the development of each key attribute may be encouraged with them in mind.

For example, both frameworks discussed above have discussed ‘competence’. What does being competent mean for young people in the context that you work in? If you are working with adolescents in a youth group, being competent may mean:

  • working with others to achieve common goals
  • feeling a sense of purpose

In another context, competence may have a slightly different meaning.

Describing skills in context

Next, for each key skill, write down the skill and then ask some or all of the following questions:

Competence (I am capable)

  • What does ‘competence’ look like in this context?
  • How can I encourage young people to develop a sense of competence?
  • What experiences/activities can I facilitate for them that enable them to take risks? Make mistakes? Experience success?
  • How can I help young adolescents develop resilience?
  • How can I tell that the young people I am working with are developing a sense of competence?


An important phase of skill-building is self-reflection. Ensure that you provide opportunities for young people to reflect on their experiences. Remember, you are doing things with them, not to them.

Your task

Think about the PYD frameworks that have been discussed and consider which of those frameworks would best support the development of the social and emotional competencies of the young people you interact with. (Note: There are a number of other PYD frameworks – you can research and select a different one if you wish.)

Share why you chose your framework in the comments.


Adapted from: Pendergast D. Emotional Development in Adolescence. Forthcoming. Chapter 20.

  1. 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:  2 3

  2. Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Macmillan; 1997.  2

© Griffith University
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Supporting Adolescent Learners: Social and Emotional Wellbeing

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