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Iowa State University Extension


Positive youth development and 4-H get results

4-H'ers do community service projects

You may assume that adolescents are inherently “at risk” and try to “fix” their problems. Or you may take another perspective –- positive youth development – believing that youth have assets and can become constructive contributors to society. That’s the perspective of ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development. A new national study confirms that positive youth development and 4-H get better results.

The Tufts’ 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development has found that youth involved in high-quality, structured programs during out-of-school-time, such as those offered by ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development in every county in Iowa, are more likely to experience positive youth development.

“This study confirms that youth involved in 4-H are leaders, contribute to their communities and are civically engaged, which strengthens communities,” said Keli Tallman, an ISU Extension 4-H youth development state specialist.

The Tufts’ study is a first-of-its-kind, longitudinal study measuring the impact personal and social factors have on youth as they develop. Findings reveal that all youth have the capacity to thrive, regardless of where they live, their family situations, their socioeconomic status, races and genders.

Study findings also show that quality and quantity matter when it comes to youth involvement in structured, out-of-school-time programs, Tallman said. The more often youth are involved in high-quality youth development programs, the more they and their communities benefit.

“We’re excited about this research and will be applying what we learn to Iowa 4-H,” said Chuck Morris, director of ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development. “We want to ensure that our 4-H program continues to provide opportunities that will help our youth become successful, contributing members of their communities.”

The Tufts’ study further shows that, in order for youth to experience success, communities, families and schools need to provide access to programs such as 4-H as well as provide sustained adult interaction and mentoring.

The 4-H study, conducted by Tufts University and sponsored by the National 4-H Council, involved more than 4,000 youth and 2,000 parents from 25 states to measure the impact personal and social factors have on a young person’s development.

This article appeared in June 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter