Our Practice Briefs provide insight into key findings of current high-quality research on youth development topics. Writing in practical, straightforward language, contributors help distill the essential elements of these articles into immediately useable action steps. Let our research and writing strengthen your own practice without having to find and distill the information yourself! The information you find here will ensure your youth development strategies are up-to-date and based on effective practice and will help you “make your case” for the rationale behind your practice to organizational leaders and funders.
We all have to face challenging conversations in our lives—at work, at home, among friends, or over family dinners during the holidays. We might have to deliver bad news, talk about a delicate subject, or discuss something that needs to change. Tackling tricky subjects can be not just hard, but scary. Outcomes are uncertain. Will we say the right thing? Get the resolution we hope for? Maybe find out just how wrong we are? A recent review of advice on how to have difficult conversations reveals two important things to do to get started: one, have them as soon as you can and two, prepare for them. This Practice Brief gives you answers in how to prepare for these conversations and many resources to help with this journey.
Developmental Assets continue to be a strong framework for communities and organizations to use when working on positive youth development practices. Author Deborah Fishers explains what it looks like now and how it is being used.
The foundation for what would become social and emotional learning was laid in the late 1960s as researchers sought ways of helping economically disadvantaged students do better in school by paying more attention to the broader social and emotional contexts in which they lived. Author Deborah Fisher explains how SEL is being used today and what the impact is based on the latest Federal Commission on School Safety report just released.
The last region of the brain to finish developing is the prefontal cortex, which is the seat of executive function skills, helping us plan ahead, consider risk and reward, regulate emotions, and control impulses. Because it is under construction, the adolescent brain is exceptionally sensitive to experience, making adolescence an incredible “window of opportunity” for learning and growth. Author, Erin Walsh explains how we as adults can help teens during this time of growth.
Adolescents with at least one close, supportive friend have greater feelings of self-worth, do better in school, are healthier, show greater empathy, and have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers have found that support from close friends predicts boys’ psychological well-being and academic success even more than support from their parents. Author, Sany Longfellow looks deeper into the importance of friendships especially for boys and how we as parents, teachers, and care givers can foster these friendships.
We know children and youth suffer a multitude of health problems from cyberbullying. And with all the efforts being made the rates of bullying have remaind steady. However we still have too many youth dying from the results directly related to this issue. Read more from author, Deborah Fisher on what can be done. She gives many ideas and resources for both youth and adults on how to help curb this issue.
Young people are demonstrating they are aware of issues adults are talking about. But do adults take youth seriously and really listen to their points of view? What are the issues with why the youth vote is so low? Author Deborah Fisher, looks at the research and gives ideas on how we as adults can encourage our youth to be a part of the discussion on the issues so they understand how voting is essential.
If your school is looking for resources to help become more trauma sensitive take a look at the newest ones out there. Author, Deborah Fisher explains what needs to be done to move into becoming trauma sentitive and what resources are available at no cost.
Dating violence is quickly emerging as a serious public health issue. Author, Anna Nelson discusses what we know about dating violence and what can be done to help promote healthy dating behaviors.
Beyond the obvious notion that purpose feels good, it turns out that leading a life of purpose is associated with all kinds of benefits for young people, including stronger academic performance. Research has also linked adolescent sense of purpose with lowering risk taking behaviours. In this Practice Brief author, Erin Walsh provides resources and activities to help build the sense of purpose in our youth.
To effectively engage our youngest generations, we need to use culturally-relevant strategies that take into account their experience with the world and their approach to priorities. In this Practice Brief, author Anna Nelson explores how to approach Generation Z (GenZ or iGen) from three dimensions: personal, institutional, and instructional. Take a careful look at the information she offers and enhance your work with the GenZ youth you serve!
To actualize 21st Century Positive Youth Development (PYD) not only requires providing safe and supportive, healthy, engaging environments where youth are valued, but also intentional focus on preparing youth to act as civic agents with meaningful voice in critical social justice issues. Author Anna Nelson explores how we build a solid foundation to support our youth in social justice issues in the next 3 briefs.
Stress is a part of life, yet 1 out of 5 children report worrying "a great deal" or "a lot". Author Erin Walsh explains how stress effects the brain and why it can be difficult for them to deal with it. She also gives concrete examples and tools of what we can do as adults to help our youth with coping under stress.
Positive youth development strategies are proven to work both to prevent risk behaviors of all types, including opioid misuse, and to promote well-being for all teens. Author Sandy Longfellow looks at this research and identifies ideas on what more we can do to prevent this misuse.
Two case studies explore positive attitudes and success. Is there a connection? Author Deborah Fisher finds the common threads and what adults can do.
Ben is a junior in the International Baccalaureate program in an urban high school and he’s stressed out. Between IB math, chemistry, and English, performing in the spring musical, serving on a nonprofit arts board, learning to drive, and writing college applications, Ben is in stress overload. His school counselor suggests a mindfulness program to help him manage stress. Ben has never heard of mindfulness before. What is it? And does it really work? Author, Sandy Longfellow looks at the research and the effectivenss with teens.
Schools and youth organizations across the country are realizing that going outside isn’t just “free time.” Instead, nature is a key ingredient in helping students “get to calm” and be ready to learn. While it might be intuitive that natural areas calm the brain, author Erin Walsh has found there is more and more research to back this up.
Many organizations are looking at putting restorative practices into their systems when working for youth. Author Deborah Fisher explores what that can look like in schools and makes it a real possibility for keeping youth at the center of their work.
In its recently released report, “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of children, opportunity, race, and immigration. The report documents the 18 million children and youth in the United States who are immigrants or are daughters and sons of immigrants. Author Deborah Fisher goes on to explain the study was done and discusses what more can be done to improve the lives of our immigrants.
Playing video games and going online are part of living in an increasingly connected society. This comes with its fair share of parent-child power struggles over the amount of time young people spend online or with their devices. When do we call it addictive behavior? What are the signs of this type of addiction? Author Erin Walsh explains what the research is saying so far and tells us what can be done.
"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." -Henry James. But, how do we adults nurture empathy and kindness. Author Sandy Longfellow takes a look at the latest research and gives excellent examples and resources for anyone working with young people.
Since racism is part of the “air children breathe” in the United States, avoiding the topic simply reinforces the status quo. By glossing over current inequalities and the role that race plays in allocating access and opportunities, a “colorblind” approach inadvertently reinforce inequalities, hierarchies, and racial divisions. Want to know more? Continue reading about Erin Walsh's exploration into the importance of intentionally reducing racism with how we talk to our youth.
In the last few months there hasn’t been a shortage of tragic events being covered in the evening news. Between the violence in Charlotte and Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston, images and coverage of trauma and recovery will likely dominate headlines for weeks. This is a good time to remind ourselves of ways that we can help children and youth manage their stress and emotions as they process tragedy. Writer Erin Walsh provides tips on how to move forward with different age groups. Read more....
Research indicates that building and maintaining positive school climate can have a powerful impact on academic success for both individual students as well as entire schools. Students experiencing positive climate don’t skip classes, do better academically, and are more likely to stay in school and graduate. Research also supports reduction in school problems such as bullying and violence. But, how do you build a positive school climate? Read more...
Author Deborah Fisher discusses the importance of developmental relationships. This type of relationship is characterized by enduring emotional attachment, age-appropriate reciprocity between adults and young people, providing progressively more complex patterns of joint activity, and gradually shifting a balance of power from the developed person (i.e., the adult) to the developing person (i.e., the child and youth). This Practice Brief goes on to help us understand how this give youth a voice.
Author, Deborah Fisher explains the current issues with LGBTQ regarding safety and lack of protection for students. Read about what you can do for guidence and strategies in your daily work.
Bullying remains a problem even though in recent years there seems to be a proliferation of bullying prevention programs. In addition, cyberbullying has grown because more children and youth have cell phones or are online. The good news is that there have also been developments that can help us improve our responses to bullying. Author Deborah Fisher takes us through the updates based on the continued research.
We know from recent research there are different degrees to which a young person will possess a "growth" or "fixed" mindset. These mindsets shape their resilience, enjoyment in learning and willingness to try new or challenging things. Author Erin Walsh takes a deeper look into this research and provides a variety of tools and strategies to support a grown mindset.
Bullying and what to do about it has become a common topic in today’s schools. But it’s only been in recent years that the role of the bystander witness to bullying has been examined more closely. Author Deborah Fisher examines the latest research and sources to find out more on how to empower bystanders to stop bullying.
Children and youth today have a world of information at their fingertips. Know what is real or fake is an important skills for young people to have. Author Erin Walsh looks at the research and resources which can be used to help teach our youth how to evaluate the information they find online.
It is clear that teens are sleeping fewer hours than they need. From ages 15 to 22 teens need about 9 hours of sleep a night but studies report less than 10% of American teens get the recommended hours. Author Sandy Longfellow explores what can be done to help teens get the sleep they need.
More and more schools are integrating financial literacy into their curricula. In 2016, 22 states required that high schools offer personal finance classes and 17 states went as far as to require that students take actually them. Research finds a strong relationship between financial knowledge and the likelihood of engaging in a number of financial practices: paying bills on time, tracking expenses, budgeting, paying credit card bills in full each month, saving out of each paycheck, maintaining an emergency fund, and setting financial goals. Author Sandy Longfellow explores positive financial literacy and provides tips for parents and staff to help our youth with this important lifetime skill.
When program funding is coming to the end of it's cycle savvy practitionser know that it takes both money and a successful performance to aquire more funds. We now know developing sustainable programs actually becomes an adaptive change process, not a one-time event or even something necessarily sequential, but rather a process that can be ongoing and cyclical. And planning and evaluation can eventually move sustainable strategies to become part of an organization’s normal operations. Author, Deborah Fisher explores ways to build sustainability based on the newest thinking.
Nurturing, building, maintaining, and improving this environment, this positive school climate, takes a coordinated and purposeful effort that involves teachers, school staff, and everyone in the school community – especially students and parents – developing a vision and a plan for what’s to be achieved together. Results don’t just happen, though. School climate efforts need to be monitored and measured on a regular basis. Fortunately there are a number of great resources available to schools and districts to learn about and then build positive school climate. Read more....
It’s difficult to compare OST studies side-by-side because they use different methodologies and samples, and programs themselves differ considerably in focus, design, setting and goals. As a result of these differences, study findings often appear contradictory and it is difficult to extract proven practices from them. However, many studies illuminate the benefits of participation for older youth, and they point the way to promising practices in the field. What are those promising practices? Read more...
For years, young people were discouraged from drinking and doing drugs because it would “kill brain cells.” Young people were warned against drinking because it was thought to eat away at their finite supply. It turns out that the latest evidence from brain science doesn’t back up this age-old advice. The human brain is far more plastic than originally thought and is capable of regenerating cells throughout the lifespan. Perhaps even more important, the number of brain cells you have isn’t as nearly important as how you use the ones you have. So does this mean that alcohol doesn’t impact the teen brain? Not so fast. Read more...
Teaching children and youth how to have healthy relationships is vital. Interviews with students for a study of sexual harassment in school published in 2011 by the American Association of University Women revealed that many young people mistakenly think sexually harassing someone is an okay even acceptable part of school. What schools can do? Start early to prevent sexual violence later. Clearly young people need to be taught how to have healthy, positive relationships in much the same way we teach them math or sports. Teaching very young children basic friendship skills forms the basis for continuing to teach middle and high school students how to have healthy relationships while avoiding risky ones as they get older. Read more.....
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), defined as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction that vary in severity, are often chronic, and occur within a child’s family or social environment, are a key risk factor for negative health outcomes. Scores of articles have long demonstrated a relationship between exposure to childhood adversity and a range of negative outcomes throughout the life span. Maladaptive protective responses such as drinking, smoking, or having multiple partners have been shown to increase with an increase in ACEs and while they might help to relieve the experience of the immediate stressor, they too contribute to poor long-term health outcomes. Despite these clear ties between childhood adversity and adult health, not all individuals who experience stressful situations suffer negative long-term consequences. Read more.....
That bad experiences in childhood can affect your health later comes as no surprise to anyone today. But, when Vincent Felitti’s weight-loss program at Kaiser Permanente began losing participants in the early 1980s, he started asking questions which led to that eye-opening conclusion. The very people who had been most successful were regaining weight even faster than they lost it. As a preventive medicine physician, Felitti had to learn why. When he asked background questions, the stories of sexual abuse accumulated, and he found that obesity shielded patients from sexual attention. It was an unconscious defense. Read more...
Creativity has many facets. Its hallmarks include originality, purposefulness, and communication. Creativity involves effort “to make something work, to make something better, more meaningful, or more beautiful.” Research links creative youth development programs, including those focusing on arts, humanities, and science with positive outcomes for youth. Arts programs, both in- and out-of-school, provide important avenues for young people to find their voice and discover and hone their capacity for creative problem-solving, self-expression, and innovation. Read more....
It is clear that the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” isn’t borne out by the research. Far from being a “right of passage,” evidence demonstrates that bullying has lasting negative psychological, emotional, and health impacts well into adulthood. A more nuanced understanding of the impact of bullying has propelled a national conversation about school climate and the importance of creating safe and supportive learning environments for all students. Is it possible to catch “mean” behaviors in early childhood before they develop into bullying? Are there factors in early childhood that either contribute to or protect from bullying behaviors later on? Author Erin Walsh explains what the research has found to answer these questions.
Bullying remains an intractable problem in schools. Affecting more than a quarter of middle and high school students every year, bullying is considered one of the most prevalent and potentially damaging forms of school violence. Researchers agree there is no single solution to preventing bullying, however in recent years, studies suggest a combination of evidence-based approaches can help reduce bullying. Author, Debora Fisher examines one approach, social and emotional learning and how it can be used in the fight against bullying.
Many children who have experienced toxic stress (stress that is “too much, too long, and with too little help”) develop a hyper-vigilant stress response system that is fine tuned to perceived threats in their environment. For these young people, school and youth programming can feel like a battlefield, scattered with triggers that initiate a stress response. Read more about author Erin Walsh's exploration into the research on a trauma sensitive approach to de-escalation.
When we last told you about the status of police in schools (Practice Brief #3, July 2013), the nation was still in shock after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting the previous year. Since then, videos have gone viral showing a white sheriff’s deputy in Columbia, S.C. throwing and dragging an African-American student across the floor and another showing a deputy handcuffing an 8-year old third grade student who sobs in agony. The complicated question of whether police in schools help improve safety remains. The national dialogue about that question, however, has entered a new phase. Read more....
Author Deborah Fisher follows the newest trends and thinking on school discipline. She looks at the Council of State Governments’ study, called Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement and discusses how it's findings are changing the way we think about the school-to-prison pipeline disparities.
A fifteen-year-old boy is becoming more independent, but still feels close to his family and is able to confide in a family member. A sixteen-year-old girl knows that her teachers both support her and challenge her to excel. Researchers have long found that positive relationships like these with family members and teachers increase desired outcomes for young people, including academic success, positive self-image, and reduced drug and alcohol use. Read more...
The good news is that these relationships also position young people to make a healthy transition to young adulthood (which can extend from ages 18–34), with minimal problems during their late teens and early twenties. Read more...
In the summer of 2011, teachers in schools across Texas were shocked to discover, along with the rest of the country, that 60% of middle and high school students in their classrooms were being suspended or expelled. An unprecedented Council of State Governments’ study, called Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement, followed every incoming Texas seventh grader over three years through high school and sometimes beyond. Among the comprehensive findings covering nearly a million students was the suggestion that students subject to out-of-school suspension and expulsion were more likely to do poorly in school, drop out, or enter the juvenile justice system at higher rates than students who did not experience this exclusionary discipline.1 This study was instrumental in exposing what is now called the school-to-prison pipeline. Read more...
News headlines over the last ten years have consistently lamented the decline of literary reading among youth and young adults in the United States. The National Endowment for the Arts sounded one of the first warnings of this trend in 2004 with a report entitled Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.1 Reports since then have reinforced this stark picture, pointing to steep drops in literary reading and reading for pleasure among 15-24 year olds.2 In addition to a decline over time, recent data shows that reading for fun drops precipitously from childhood to the teenage years. Read more...
A 14-year-old boy has experienced complex trauma including physical abuse and multiple exposures to community violence. His story is all too common. However, his path to healing holds promise for millions of teens. He started attending a YMCA youth program; this led to a paid internship with a neighborhood arts organization; now he is attending summer school to bring his grades up. What is making a difference for him? Read more...
In the words of a young artist working on a community mural painting project that he helped design, “If I can do this, I can do more…!” Young people have tremendous resources to share with the world. When adults encourage them to find and build on their skills, strengths, and possibilities and when communities work with youth, as opposed to or for them, young people thrive. This is the promise of the Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach. Author Sandy Longfellow looks into the latest directions we see the field of positive youth development going and how it impacts communities and schools.
Children and teenagers today are dealing with extraordinarily high levels of stress. Add to that all the distractions kids face today -- social media and smartphones, for example -- and it makes paying attention in school a lot harder. Author Sarah Rudell Beach explains how mindfulness is showing to be a powerful tool for helping students to be more engaged in school and to stay in the present while at school.
With summer months upon us, many adults may be wondering how to limit screen time for young people during their summer break. Perhaps we need to consider this an opportunity to find ways of enriching the use of technology rather than limiting access. See what author Erin Walsh has found in recent writings on the topic in this Practice Brief!
Social media has been linked to many negative behaviors involving young people. But can it have a positive effect? Author Kiyah Duffey explores some of the research on this topic and provides hope and ideas on how it can be a positive influence.
How we consume, share, and tell stories is changing quickly. We use to only see childrens' stories in book form but now they are finding their way into the electronic scene. Author Erin Walsh looks at the last information about the pros and cons of using electronics over paper.
Young people who have an optimistic, hopeful orientation toward their future have greater school success and experience a greater sense of well-being. Sandy Longfellow looks at the research on realistic optimism and how it can spur action for young people.
Obesity remains a significant health concern for school-aged children. This is especially true in the United States where an estimated 17% of 2-19 year olds are defined as obese (i.e., having excess body fat given their height, as measured by Body Mass Index [BMI]). Author Kiyah Duffey looks at the recent research and sheds light on the comparable aspects of successful obesity prevention work, suggesting that there are some evidence-based best practices that can help you promote positive change.
It has been nearly fifty years since the original marshmallow experiment, launching a series of studies that have shed significant light on the important role that self-discipline plays in children's success. Author Erin Walsh looks at the newest research using marshmallows and how this informs us about trust and reliability.
Currently, more than 5,000 mentoring programs serve an estimated three million young people in the United States. A deep dive into program evaluations finds that mentoring helps improve both promotion and prevention outcomes for youth across behavioral, social, emotional, and academic domains. But what are the youth saying about mentoring programs? Author Deborah Fisher looks at the recent research on the effectiveness of mentoring and what youth are saying.
Adolescence is a time of immense change for an adolescent brain. In this Practice Brief, we explore the emerging research on the impact of nutrition on cognition and brain development. Author Kiyah Duffey explores the current science on the topic and offers recommendations for action.
An increased emphasis on “zero tolerance” for an ever widening set of discipline issues over the past two decades has resulted in skyrocketing suspension and expulsion rates in American schools. These practices have disproportionately impacted minority and disabled students without measurable increases in school safety. In this Practice Brief, author Deborah Fisher explores this reality and addresses three key principles to reverse these trends.
Young people thrive when adults value them as important, contributing members of their communities. Older adults similarly experience strong positive effects on well-being, health, and longevity when they are valued for their wisdom and contributions. In this Practice Brief, author Sandy Longfellow explores the latest findings on intergenerational programs.
There is growing evidence that physical activity has a significant positive impact on the brain. In this Practice Brief author Erin Walsh provides insight into the latest research on the topic and provides specific recommendations for filling the “opportunity gap” for students.
School lunches are getting a make over but improvements in what kids are served in the school lunch line still leaves room for improvement in how they eat while at school. Author Kiyah Duffey discusses the vital role teachers and school staff can play.
Across the country, young people are involved in almost every aspect of civic life through activities, programs, and leadership. Some municipalities have been actively engaging young people in civic life for decades; others are just getting started. Read the highlights of what is being done and who you can contact.
Summer is here, and so is the concern for many about students losing ground on their reading and math skills while they are away from their usual learning environments. In this Practice Brief, Sandy Longfellow explores the latest findings about how family, caregivers, and summer program staff can work together to “slow the summer slide.”
Author Sandy Longfellow explains the newest information coming from the resiliency work. She explores the four waves of resilience research, the evidence that resilience interventions can work and strategies that build resilience in schools.
Our latest Practice Brief explores the Common Core Standards, their history, and the impact they are having in the field of education today. Consider with us where the trend will lead.
Does high self-esteem increase grades, career achievement or decrease substance abuse? Author Erin Walsh looks at the latest review of the literature to answer this question.
Author Kiyah Duffey brings our attention to National Nutrition Month and lists multiple suggestions on where to go to keep this conversation on the front burner.
Author Sandy Longfellow discusses the latest research in what needs to be in place for successful youth engagement in programming.
With the increased attention to bullying and cyberbullying across the country, schools are scrambling to address both age-old and emerging challenges. Author, Erin Walsh gives us the recent research to help us better understand the scope of the problem and craft more effective solutions.
Author, Kiyah Duffey reviews the research to find a possible connection to self-esteem and gardening programs. Read how the two are connected.
How do we offer young people feedback that promotes the development of REAL self-esteem, self efficacy, and tenacity? Sandy Longfellow, Bolster Collaborative contributor, gives us insight into some of the latest thinking on what can be done to improve self-esteem and really make a difference.
In recent years, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has begun incorporating a greater emphasis on enhancing protective factors known to help buffer children and youth from known risks. Writer Deborah Fisher gives us the latest from the agency on two reports which provide valuable insight into the federal government’s evolving thinking about the benefits of implementing more strengths-based interventions.
In this Practice Brief, Bolster Collaborative author Sandy Longfellow explores the emerging research on the need to engage immigrant families in their children's education.
Evidence is quickly driving the conceptual divide in education between so called “hard” and “soft” skills to a close. It is clear that social and emotional processes impact how and what students learn in the classroom. In this practice brief Erin Walsh, author explains how the two work together to impact student performance and what can be done to enhance learning.
Young people have tremendous energy to make the world a better place, and we want them to have opportunities to learn, lead, and contribute to their schools and communities. The question for adults who work with young people is how best to create learning experiences and service opportunities. Sandy Longfellow, author explains how service-learning programs equip young people to make a difference.
Researchers who study the landscape of high school athletics identify two divergent paths—quality programs that yield positive physical, social, and academic results for students and programs that tend to bring out the worst in young people and their families. Read author Sandy Longfellow's explanation on how decision points along the way can make sports a positive experience for youth.
To really understand what children need to succeed in school and life, we need to look at skills that aren’t captured by IQ scores and test results. Skills like concentration, manage impulses, persist through frustration and challenges are part of executive function. In this Practice Brief, author Erin Walsh explains how these skills and others are predictors fo school readiness.
In this Practice Brief, Bolster Collaborative contributor Kiyah Duffey discusses how breakfast contributes to success in school and how brain function is affected by regular breakfast consumption.
This Practice Brief Bolster Collaborative contributor, Deborah Fisher discusses the school trend of hiring resource officers as a preventative measure to school shootings. Do they help? The article may surprise you.
In this Practice Brief, Bolster Collaborative contributor, Deborah Fisher, discusses how children who witness buillying are negatively effected and how a test project explored the concept of turning passive bystanders into helpful peacemakers.
In this Practice Brief Bolster Collaborative contributor, Sandy Longfellow, discusses recent research that clearly confirms the important role non-parent adults play in the development of youth with a strong sense of social connectedness in adolescence and well being in adulthood.
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