A Scoping Review of the Theory and Practice of Positive Youth Development

Jeffrey Waid, Maia Uhrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Adolescence is a period of development that is widely understood as a time of exploration, experimentation and engagement with risk behaviours. Prevention and intervention with adolescent youth require a nuanced understanding of the factors associated with adolescent risks and the ways in which youth acquire and master the skills needed to promote healthy development. To assist social workers in providing developmentally and contextually sensitive services to adolescents, this study undertook a scoping review of the theory and practice of positive youth development. A total of sixty-five articles published between 1997 and 2017 were reviewed. Major contributions to the theory of positive youth development are summarised and followed by a description and appraisal of research evidence for seven programme formats that include camp, wilderness-adventure and outdoor programmes, sports, art, music, mentoring and school-based programmes. Results suggests positive youth-development programmes are diverse and can be tailored to a range of adolescent needs spanning geographic and cultural contexts; however, due to methodological heterogeneity, empirical support is not equal across programme formats. Considerations for social work researchers, educators and practitioners who are interested in utilising positive youth development as a social work prevention and intervention with adolescents are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research support was provided by the School of Social Work and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.


  • Prevention
  • risk
  • youth work


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