Preventing Problems, Promoting Development, Encouraging Engagement: Competing Priorities or Inseparable Goals

This paper summarizes several major shifts that have occurred in the past 15 to 20 years in what researchers, policy makers and practitioners think about what young people need, what they get and where they get it. There have also been important shifts in thinking about what young people do, should do and can do, and when it is reasonable to expect results. Based on work started in 1990 at the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research at AED, this paper expands upon Pittman and Irby's 1996 paper, Preventing Problems or Promoting Development. This updated version incorporates critical ideas about young people as participants and change makers — ideas that, in our minds, constitute the next, more powerful iteration of the youth development approach.