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What Is Youth Development?

Youth development is a philosophy that is the foundation of working with youth. It is not something that is done to or for youth; it is something done with youth.

Youth development is a way to engage young people as active contributors to their own well-being and the well-being of the communities in which they are a part. This is a holistic approach that encompasses multiple dimensions including: physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual. The focus is on the whole youth.

The youth development approach is centered on helping young people develop and build their own assets. This is a major divergence from a deficit approach that focused on young people and the participation in and potential for problem behavior. The research of the last twenty some years has shown that the youth development approach is highly successful in assisting young people to gain the skills and qualities needed to thrive and become successful adults.

The principles of youth development include the promotion of safety for young people; the encouragement of building positive relationships with peers and competent, caring, connected adults; the fostering of the meaningful engagement of young people; the providing of opportunities for community involvement; and the creation of challenging and engaging learning opportunities and experiences for young people where they can build skills.

Break the Cycle and Hazelden are groundbreakers in embracing the principles of positive youth development as practical applications to preventing dating violence. As an organization, we are dedicated to preventing teen dating violence and creating safe places (physical, social and emotional) for youth; building relationships, encouraging meaningful participation and helping youth build critical skills including decision-making, communication, and leadership.

For further research and information on youth development:

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