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Preventing Problems vs. Promoting the Positive

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Preventing Problems vs. Promoting the Positive

Parents generally want their children to avoid drugs, violence, and jail, and they don't want them to drop out of high school or become a teen parent. However, they also want children to be happy and emotionally healthy, to have positive relationships with other people, and to contribute to the community.

Despite the desires of parents for positive outcomes for their children, there is surprisingly little focus on positive youth behaviors in public data files used by politicians and the media to inform public opinion and public policy. The indicators of child well-being that researchers and the government typically track about children in general and about youth in particular are limited to measures of problem behaviors and difficulties. Indeed, there is generally little agreement about what constitutes positive, healthy development.

In this paper, they discuss the need to define and measure indicators of positive child well-being. They argue that it is essential to develop valid and reliable indicators of positive attitudes, beliefs and outcomes so that positive development does not continue to be construed as merely the absence of negative behaviors and outcomes. They also summarize the insights from practitioners working on youth development programs, describe the available research on this topic, and suggest a number of constructs which could be measured and tracked as indicators of positive development. Such a system of measurement is needed if we want to monitor children's adherence to parents' (and society's) positive expectations of them.

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