Reference: All information about developmental assets in this course was drawn from the Search Institute web site at

Developmental assets refer to the sum of experiences and characteristics that young people experience, which serve as the building blocks that aid them in making wise choices and enable them to become responsible adults. The developmental assets also support young people in avoiding risky behaviours, providing them with an opportunity to thrive from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood.

The framework for the Developmental Assets, which was developed in the 1990’s by the Search Institute, is based on literature and practices on youth development and resiliency. The framework for the developmental assets was initially formulated through studies of over 99,000 6th-12th graders in the United States; further studies resulted in additions to the framework. Through looking at the development of young people holistically, including both internal qualities and external influences, research on over 3 million young people across North America illustrates that the more assets a young person has, the more likely they are to thrive.

The 40 Developmental Assets 

While developmental assets have been identified for early childhood (ages 3-5); middle childhood (ages 8-12) and adolescence (ages 12-18), this course will focus on the assets relating to adolescence.

External Assets


  • Asset #1: Family support
    – Family life provides high levels of love and support.
  • Asset #2: Positive family communication
    – Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
  • Asset #3: Other adult relationships
    – Young person receives support from three or more non-parent adults.
  • Asset #4: Caring neighbourhood
    – Young person experiences caring neighbours.
  • Asset #5: Caring school climate
    – School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
  • Asset #6: Parent involvement in schooling
    – Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.


  • Asset #7: Community values youth
    – Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  • Asset #8: Youth as resources
    – Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  • Asset #9: Service to others
    – Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
  • Asset #10: Safety
    – Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighbourhood.

Boundaries and Expectations

  • Asset #11: Family boundaries
    – Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
  • Asset #12: School Boundaries
    – School provides clear rules and consequences.
  • Asset #13: Neighbourhood boundaries
    – Neighbours take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behaviour.
  • Asset #14: Adult role models
    – Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behaviour.
  • Asset #15: Positive peer influence
    – Young person’s best friends model responsible behaviour.
  • Asset #16: High expectations
    – Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.

Constructive Use of Time

  • Asset #17: Creative activities
    – Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theatre, or other arts.
  • Asset #18: Youth programs
    – Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community.
  • Asset #19: Religious community
    – Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
  • Asset #20: Time at home
    – Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.

Internal Assets

Commitment to Learning

  • Asset #21: Achievement Motivation
    – Young person is motivated to do well in school.
  • Asset #22: School Engagement
    – Young person is actively engaged in learning.
  • Asset #23: Homework
    – Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
  • Asset #24: Bonding to school
    – Young person cares about her or his school.
  • Asset #25: Reading for Pleasure
    – Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.

Positive Values

  • Asset #26: Caring
    – Young person places high value on helping other people.
  • Asset #27: Equality and social justice
    – Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
  • Asset #28: Integrity
    – Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
  • Asset #29: Honesty
    – Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy”.
  • Asset #30: Responsibility
    – Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
  • Asset #31: Restraint
    – Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.

Social Competencies

  • Asset #32: Planning and decision making
    – Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
  • Asset #33: Interpersonal Competence
    – Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
  • Asset #34: Cultural Competence
    – Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  • Asset #35: Resistance skills
    – Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
  • Asset #36: Peaceful conflict resolution
    – Young person seeks to resolve conflict non-violently.

Positive Identity

  • Asset #37: Personal power
    – Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me”.
  • Asset #38: Self-esteem
    – Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  • Asset #39: Sense of purpose
    – Young person reports that “my life has a purpose”.
  • Asset #40: Positive view of personal future
    – Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

Why Are Developmental Assets Important? 

Research on developmental assets shows that they serve as an insulating factor for young people; that is, the more assets a person has, the less likely he/she is to engage in risky or damaging practices and behaviour, and the more likely he/she is to be involved in positive activities that allow him/her to thrive.

In particular, developmental assets have been shown to:

  • support success at school
  • prevent involvement in risky behaviours and increase community involvement; and
  • assist young people in making wise safe life choices

While the presence of developmental assets has a positive effect on young people, research shows that only 8% of young people report experiencing between 31-40 assets while 17% report experiencing less than 10 assets. 32% report 21-30 assets while the largest group, 42%, report having only 11-20 assets. The significance of this research can be illustrated by the following tables which outline how powerful developmental assets are in preventing risky behaviours and promoting positive behaviours.


0-10 Assets 11-20 Assets 21-30 Assets 31-40 Assets
Problem Alcohol Use 45 26 11 3
Violence 62 38 18 6
Illicit Drug Use 38 18 6 1
Sexual Activity 34 23 11 3
School Problems 44 23 10 4
Anti-Social Behaviour 47 22 7 1
Gambling 27 18 10 3

Table 1: Percentage (%) of young people (6th- 12th grade) who report that they have been engaged in 4-types of high-risk behaviours by the number of developmental assets they report having.


0-10 Assets 11-12 Assets 21-30 Assets 31-40 Assets
Exhibits Leadership 48 66 78 87
Maintains Good Health 27 48 69 88
Values Diversity 39 60 76 89
School success 9 19 34 54
Delays gratification 9 19 31 44
Overcomes adversity 56 67 78 86

Table 2 – Percentage (%) of young people (6th- 12th grade) who report positive behaviours and attitudes by the number of developmental assets they report having.

As shown in these tables, youth with more developmental assets report engaging in less risky behaviour and more pro-social and positive activities. This research shows that there is little difference between the number of assets reported based on gender (males report an average of 17 assets while females report an average of 20). In addition, young people report a dropping off of assets as they progress from grade 6 (an average of 23 assets) to grade 12 (an average of 18 assets).