Developmental Assets

About the Project
The Fort Myers developmental assets project was initiated in 2009 to encourage commitment and integrate this philosophy throughout the community. Developmental assets are a framework of 40 building blocks that are the foundation for enhancing the health and well-being of children and youth. They are the experiences and opportunities that all young people need to grow into healthy, responsible adults.

These assets have been researched and developed by the Search Institute, an independent research and educational organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since 1989, Search Institute has measured developmental assets in more than 2 million youth in hundreds of communities throughout the United States. Their research has shown that when these assets are present, they help prevent negative behaviors, risk-taking, and help increase positive, thriving behaviors.

Increasing the Number of Assets
Assets are cumulative: the more youth have, the better. As the number of assets increases, so does a child's well-being. As a total framework for healthy growth and well being, assets give communities a set of benchmarks to measure the positive development of their children and youth - regardless of community size, geographic region, gender, family economics, race or ethnicity.

A New Way of Defining Success
Prior to the research of Search Institute, social scientists had begun looking at youth research in a new way. They looked at those children and adolescents who were thriving and successful rather than solely studying those who were stumbling or had become causalities in the difficult process of growing up. They realized that looking at strengths could teach important lessons regarding what helps young people navigate their way successfully through adolescence. Organizations such as Search Institute began asking, "What do all young people need to be competent, caring, responsible and resilient?" Thus started the process of defining success for young people as something more than the absence of problems.

As they continued, Search Institute researched existing studies on children and youth and what began to emerge was a picture of commonalities among young people who had moved through the developmental process with a minimum of risk-taking behaviors and a maximum of thriving behaviors, indicating success, health and well-being as they moved into adulthood. From these many years of research, came the strength-based model of youth development that we know now as developmental assets.

Benefits of Developmental Assets
Developmental assets powerfully affect young people in 3 ways.

Prevents Negative Behaviors
The more assets young people have, the more likely they will grow up to be caring, competent, responsible young people. Young people with more assets are less likely to engage in negative behaviors such as abusing alcohol, threatening physical harm, hitting someone, using marijuana, and shoplifting. Youth with 0-10 assets engage in more risky behaviors such as shoplifting or using drugs when compared with youth with 31-40 assets.

Promotes Positive Behaviors
Simply put, the more assets a young person has the more positive behaviors they exhibit. Search Institute identified 8 thriving behaviors which include:
  • Delaying gratification
  • Exhibiting leadership
  • Helping others
  • Maintaining good health
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Succeeding in school
The research showed that the more assets a young person had, the more they acted in these positive ways.

Bouncing Back from Adversity
Lastly, building on findings from the field of resiliency, Search Institute found that the number of assets a young person has affects how they respond to and maneuver through difficult situations. The fewer assets a youth has the more likely they are to participate in negative behavior to cope with difficult times.