Building Blocks for Raising Healthy Children and Youth

Since its creation in 1990, Search Institute’s framework of Developmental Assets has become the most widely used approach to positive youth development in the United States.

Background—Grounded in extensive research in youth development, resiliency, and prevention, the Developmental Assets represent the relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to avoid risks and to thrive.

The Power of Assets—Studies of more than 2.2 million young people in the United States consistently show that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors (see table below) and the more likely they are to thrive. Assets have power for all young people, regardless of their gender, economic status, family, or race/ethnicity. Furthermore, levels of assets are better predictors of high-risk involvement and thriving than poverty or being from a single-parent family.

The Gap—The average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets. Boys experience three fewer assets than girls (17.2 assets for boys vs. 19.9 for girls).

Percentage of 6th- to 12th-Grade Youth Reporting Selected High-Risk Behavior Patterns, by Level of Developmental Assets*
High-Risk Behavior Pattern

0–10 Assets

11–20 Assets

21–30 Assets

31–40 Assets

Problem alcohol use—Has used alcohol three or more times in the past month or got drunk once in the past two weeks.





Violence—Has engaged in three or more acts of fighting, hitting, injuring a person, carrying or using a weapon, or threatening physical harm in the past year.





School Problems—Has skipped school two or more days in the past month and/or has below a C average.





* Data based on aggregate Search Institute sample of 148,189 students across the United States surveyed in 2003.

External Assets: Setttings, Relationships and Activities that create a positive environment for young people

 4 Categories of External Assets:

Support:Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for appreciate and accept them. The assets in this category name how and where young people experience support.

Empowerment: Young people need to feel valued and valuable. They also need to feel safe.

Boundaries and Expectations: Young people need clear rules and consistent consequences. They also need encouragement to do their best.

Constructive Use of Time: Young people need opportunities outside of school to learn and develop new sills and interests with other youth and adults.

Internal Assets: The values, skills and beliefs that young people also need to fully engage and function in the world around them. 

4 Categories of Internal Assets:

Commitment to Learning:Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.

Positive Values: Young people need to develop strong guiding values to help them make healthy choices.

Social Competencies: Young people need the skills to interact effectively with others and cope with new situations.

Positive Identity: Young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel they have control over things that happen to them.

To sign up to receive weekly asset building newsletters, contact Rachel Pena at