40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents


Search Institute has identified the following building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.

This particular list is intended for adolescents (age 12-18). If you’d like to see the lists for other age groups, you can find them on the Developmental Assets Lists page.

For more information on the assets and the research behind them, see the Developmental Assets research page.


  1. Family Support| Family life provides high levels of love and support.
  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.
  3. Other Adult Relationships| Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
  4. Caring Neighborhood| Young person experiences caring neighbors.
  5. Caring School Climate| School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
  6. Parent Involvement in Schooling| Parent(s) are actively involved in helping the child succeed in school.


  1. Community Values Youth| Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  2. Youth as Resources| Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  3. Service to Others| Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
  4. Safety| Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.


  1. Family Boundaries| Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
  2. School Boundaries| School provides clear rules and consequences.
  3. Neighborhood Boundaries| Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
  4. Adult Role Models| Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
  5. Positive Peer Influence| Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
  6. High Expectations| Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.


  1. Creative Activities| Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
  2. Youth Programs| Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
  3. Religious Community| Young person spends one hour or more per week in activities in a religious institution.
  4. Time at Home| Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.


  1. Achievement Motivation| Young person is motivated to do well in school.
  2. School Engagement | Young person is actively engaged in learning.
  3. Homework| Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
  4. Bonding to School| Young person cares about her or his school.
  5. Reading for Pleasure| Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.


  1. Caring | Young Person places high value on helping other people.
  2. Equality and Social Justice| Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
  3. Integrity| Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
  4. Honesty| Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
  5. Responsibility| Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
  6. Restraint| Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.


  1. Planning and Decision Making| Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
  2. Interpersonal Competence| Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
  3. Cultural Competence| Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  4. Resistance Skills| Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
  5. Peaceful Conflict Resolution | Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.


  1. Personal Power| Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
  2. Self-Esteem| Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  3. Sense of Purpose| Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
  4. Positive View of Personal Future| Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.


This list is an educational tool. It is not intended to be nor is it appropriate as a scientific measure of the developmental assets of individuals.

Copyright © 1997, 2007 by Search Institute. All rights reserved. This chart may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial use only (with this copyright line). No other use is permitted without prior permission from Search Institute, 615 First Avenue N.E., Suite 125, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. See Search Institute’s Permissions Guidelines and Request Form. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute®, Developmental Assets® and Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth®.


Will talking about my own life or beliefs help my mentee open up to me? If so, how much should I share?

The Mentor’s Field Guide;  Question 25


The answer to this question depends on the stage of your mentoring relationship and whether your mentee has expressed an interest in knowing more about you. In general, if you believe sharing certain information about yourself will strengthen the relationship, then it is probably appropriate to do so. Keep in mind, however, that the mentor should be more listener than talker.

Talking about yourself just to get your mentee to open up may have the opposite effect; you are filling the silent spaces so she doesn’t need to try. In general, wait for your mentee to initiate conversations in which you talk about yourself.

If your mentee initiates a conversation about your life or beliefs, a good first response is to ask her why she is interested. Try to see whether the question is simply a way for your mentee to bring up a topic about her own life or beliefs. Remember, you want to keep the relationship focused on your mentee, so continue to encourage her to talk about her perspectives.

Each Mentor must decide how open he or she wants to be in sharing information with a mentee. You have as much of a right to privacy as your mentee, so you should not feel obligated to talk about any personal issues if it is not your style or makes you uncomfortable.

It is also particularly important to avoid sharing details that might unintentionally have a negative influence on your mentee, such as your former drug use or illegal activities. While it may seem at first that sharing such information can be an opening to warn your mentee away from such behaviors, in reality the mentee can walk away with the sense that his mentor did it and is fine, so what can be so bad about it?

The mentee’s family also might not be comfortable with you sharing such information. If asked, try to redirect the conversation back to the mentee by saying, for example, why are you interested in knowing this? Or, what would you think of me if I did, or didn’t?

One thing mentees always enjoy hearing is stories, especially funny stories, about your childhood. They can be a gateway to talking about embarrassments and challenges you faced and how you handled them.

Keep it light and humorous to avoid sounding like you are preaching. At least until you are well into a relationship, stay away from sensitive topics such as your religious or political beliefs. But if you have a mentee in his late teens, he may raise these topics, especially in the context of current events. If your mentee brings up such issues, encourage him to explore what he thinks, and wait for him to ask what you think.

Remember once again, your role is to help the mentee develop critical-thinking skills, which will happen most effectively by exploring his beliefs, not yours.

You also should be aware of and sensitive to the culture, religion, or political views of the mentee’s family if you enter into these discussions. Asking your mentee about his family’s beliefs may also lead him to discuss whether he agrees or disagrees and help him to examine how he feels about any differences that may exist.


Reprinted with permission from The Mentor’s Field guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick; Questions about the Mentoring Relationship, Question 25. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; http://www.search-institute.org. All rights reserved.

I need to end my mentoring relationship. Is there a “good way” to do that?

The Mentor’s Field Guide; Question 36


We hope you are not thinking of ending your relationship in its early stages unless it is absolutely necessary. As we have noted, this can have unintended but none the less harmful consequences for your mentee.

If you are feeling challenged or discouraged, there may be ways to address the issues that make you think you need to terminate the relationship. Your program coordinator can help.

There are many reasons why mentoring relationships end, but in the final analysis, the reason is less important than how the ending is handled.

Like most mentors, you take your relationship seriously and want to conclude it in a way that does not harm your mentee.

Sometimes, because a mentor feels guilty or sad, she puts off telling her program coordinator and/or mentee.

Instead, allow as much time as possible for planning and managing the transition. If you handle the termination well, it can be a learning experience for your mentee.

If it comes as a last minute surprise with little or no explanation, your mentee may well conclude that there is something wrong with him. Further, it may impair his ability to trust adults in the future.

One exception is mentoring a relationship that is set up from the start to be time-limited, with an expectation on both sides that it will stop at a designated point. Examples include a career mentoring program or some school-based programs.

Care still should be taken in these situations, and there will still be feelings of loss. But if it is anticipated, the end of the relationship is less likely to have harmful effects.

Although your mentee will undoubtedly be disappointed, there are ways to help her through the process such that she develops further life skills and does not lose trust in other adults.

Adolescents may have a harder time letting go of mentoring relationships than younger children and the longer you have been together, the stronger the feelings of loss will be. Don’t be offended if your mentee seems angry or acts in ways that show she is rejecting you.

These may be defense mechanisms to help her cope, especially if she has had prior disappointments with important adults or if she has vulnerabilities that the termination triggers. If this happens, tell your mentee what you are observing and encourage her to talk about how she is feeling. Tell her how much you care for her and how disappointed you feel too.

Allow time, if at all possible, for a transition phase to prepare your mentee for the end of the relationship. During this phase you can take the following actions:


  • Share your own feelings of loss and disappointment, telling your mentee how important she has been in your life.
  • Encourage your mentee to talk about how she feels, letting her know that all her feelings are normal and okay.
  • Reminisce about the things you have done together and ask your mentee what she liked about and learned from these experiences.
  • Tell your mentee how much you like her and reiterate your belief in her and your confidence in her strengths and capabilities; express positive aspirations for her future.
  • Be concrete in setting a last get-together date, and plan a special last activity together that your mentee chooses.
  • Do a project to help you remember each other, such as creating a photo album or memory book.


Reprinted with permission from The Mentor’s Field guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick; Questions about the Mentoring Relationship, Question 36. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; http://www.search-institute.org. All rights reserved.

Release; by Julie Bayer Salzmann

Published on Aug 23, 2016

“Release” is the 2nd in our series of Mindful Shorts, and it focuses on stress and anxiety as experienced by middle school kids. 70% of middle school students today report feeling “stressed out” — an alarming figure, and a sign that something must be done to help kids manage the sense of overwhelm and frustration they experience so that they can blossom into young adults who are equipped to navigate their way through life’s challenges in a positive, productive way. We hope this film in some small way helps not just kids, but everyone who suffers from the toxic effects of stress and anxiety.

A very different approach than its predecessor “Just Breathe” (which focused on Anger in elementary school kids), “Release” was designed to be more visceral/experiential. We wanted to visually communicate the differences between calm and anxious states of mind/body, so that viewers could truly relate to those experiences while simultaneously benefiting from a basic lesson in Mindful Meditation.

Our intention is to continue this series of short films, climbing up through the ages and the corresponding mental/habitual states of mind that commonly arise in each stage of life (i.e. Depression in High School, Trauma in College, Addiction in Mid-Life, Grief in Later Years), with each film probing deeper and deeper into Mindfulness. 

If you share our passion, please share this film. And please also consider donating to the film series, as we cannot continue to make these films without financial support. Please visit our website for more information – wavecrestfilms.com – or email Julie directly at julie@wavecrestfilms.com.

Many thanks for reading and watching, and above all, for your support!


Social media and body issues in youth: Why mentors are well-suited to intervene

Girl on the Roof.

Written by Allison Hydzik


Young adults who log onto social media sites frequently throughout the week or spend hours trawling various social feeds during the day may be at greater risk of eating and body image concerns, according to a new study.

Gender, specific age, race, and income did not influence the association—all demographic groups were equally affected—indicating that preventative messages should target a broad population.

“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,” says Jaime E. Sidani, assistant director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns.”

Over twice the risk

For the study, researchers sampled 1,765 US adults ages 19 through 32 in 2014, using questionnaires to determine social media use. The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn.

They cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk.

Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating. These issues disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults.

However, more general disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and negative or altered body image likely affect a broader group of individuals.

The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media.

And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.

The analysis could not determine whether social media use was contributing to eating and body image concerns or vice versa—or both, says senior author Brian A. Primack, assistant vice chancellor for health and society.

“It could be that young adults who use more social media are exposed to more images and messages that encourage development of disordered eating,” he says.

Online communities, for better or worse

Previous research has shown that people tend to post images online that present themselves positively. For example, users are likely to select the scant few that may make them appear thinner from hundreds of more “accurate” photographs of themselves, resulting in others being exposed to unrealistic expectations for their appearance.

“Conversely, people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns,” Primack says.

“However, connecting with these groups for social support could inhibit recovery because of the desire to continue being a part of the shared identity such social media groups foster.”

In an effort to battle social media-fueled eating disorders, Instagram banned the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ but users easily circumvented those barriers by spelling the words slightly differently. YouTube videos about anorexia nervosa that could be classified as “pro-anorexia” received higher viewer ratings than informative videos highlighting the health consequences of the eating disorder.

“More research is needed in order to develop effective interventions to counter social media content that either intentionally or unintentionally increases the risk of eating disorders in users,” Sidani says.

“We suggest studies that follow users over time and seek to answer the cause-and-effect questions surrounding social media use and risk for eating and body image concerns.”

The National Cancer Institute funded the research.


Implications for Mentors

Given their position of trust, mentors are well-positioned in a youth’s life to discuss the realities of unrealistic media representations. Social media, while it has a lot of positives to offer, can also blur the lines between realistic and unrealistic messaging.

Children and teens can be particularly susceptible to this messaging, so guidance provided by a trusted adult in learning how to interpret ads, images, and stories found online in a healthy, positive manner can help to serve as a buffer against the negative effects described in this research.


Posted on the Chronicle for Evidence Based Mentoring; By Justin Preston, September 6, 2016

“Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)



The inspiration for “Just Breathe” first came about a little over a year ago when I overheard my then 5-year-old son talking with his friend about how emotions affect different regions of the brain, and how to calm down by taking deep breaths — all things they were beginning to learn in Kindergarten at their new school, Citizens of the World Charter School, in Mar Vista, CA.

I was surprised and overjoyed to witness first-hand just how significant social-emotional learning in an elementary school curriculum was on these young minds.

The following year, I decided to take a 6-week online course on Mindfulness through Mindful Schools (http://www.mindfulschools.org/), figuring that if my son was learning about this, it only made sense that I should learn too. Within the first week, I felt the positive effects of this practice take root not only on my own being but in my relationships with others.

As a filmmaker, I am always interested in finding a subject worthy of filming, and I felt strongly that Mindfulness was a necessary concept to communicate visually.

Thankfully my husband, who happens to be my filmmaking partner, agreed. We made “Just Breathe” with our son, his classmates and their family members one Saturday afternoon.

The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation. They, in turn, are teaching us all …

Other people’s children: The new reality show


by Jean E. Rhodes

Imagine a reality television show in which privileged empty nesters competed to help less fortunate high school students gain entry into the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities.

The many parents who had successfully shepherded their children through the admissions process from the comfort of their homes from Greenwich to Palo Alto would be randomly to assigned rising seniors from nearby low-income, resource-bereft communities.

They wouldn’t have to travel far, as isolated pockets of privilege and poverty often sit in close proximity to one another. Once paired, the empty nesters would marshal the considerable wisdom and expertise that they gained as they worked the admissions system in favor of their own children over the years.

Parents would build on their students’ strengths and talents, and then visit colleges and help their students complete applications while deploying every imaginable resource (private SAT tutors, writing consultants) and angle (service stints, meetings with athletic coaches, charitable donations) to secure acceptance.

If the show was renewed, we could track the students as they navigate their way through the elite colleges, perhaps even incorporating a second competition in which the parents opened their rolodexes to help secure internships and entry level jobs.

Unfortunately, the treasure trove of expertise and connections is rarely shared. And, compounding family inequality is the fact that low-income students have fewer outside mentors to help them navigate. In a recent study of over 15,000 nationally representative students, we found that those in the lowest income strata were significantly less likely to have natural mentors.

What’s more, the nature of mentoring differed across social class. Poor students were less likely to nominate teachers and other non-family adults who could connect them to opportunities, and the advice that they received was more concrete and practical.

By contrast, the highest income youth had a wider array of mentors and were significantly more likely to view these adults as role models. In essence, mentoring seemed to reproduce inequality .

The implications of these disparities are profound.  Caring adults are vitally important, helping youth navigate their identities, and opening doors to educational and career paths.

Indeed, a recent Gallup survey of over 60,000 college graduates revealed that students who could identify one teacher who cared about them, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams were more likely to graduate, and nearly twice as likely to be thriving emotionally and meaningfully engaged in work post-college.

Yet, as budgets for teachers and extracurricular activities shrink, it is the youth in the bottom income sectors that suffer the most.  No one institution—whether families, schools, or positive youth development programs—can completely compensate for the social isolation that disenfranchised students are increasingly experiencing, and each institution is stretched by the limitations of the others.

Wealthier communities can supplement their diminishing availability with private sources of support, but not so for those who need them most. Few adults feel the imperative to serve as helpful guides to children outside their families or communities and poor students rarely develop the skills and sense of entitlement to approach them.

Short of a reality show or, better yet, less income inequality, we need a campaign to mobilize adults to seek out opportunities to champion other people’s children.

Although networks are unlikely to provide high stakes for this pursuit, the true prize is the sense of pride and the joy that comes from basking in the glow of a young person’s success. In the face of seemingly intractable moral, social, and economic issues, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

But through the simple act of forging a kind, helpful connection outside our limited spheres, all of us have the capacity to fundamentally improve the prospects of the next generation.


Posted in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring; by Jean Rhodes, August 24, 2016