Adolescent Health Home

Building Adolescents' Assets and Strengths


What are adolescents' assets and strengths?

It is important to examine the strengths or assets that adolescents have to help them accomplish the developmental tasks of adolescence successfully and help them stay healthy. The World Health Organization's definition of health reminds us that building assets and promoting protective factors are important.

"Health involves much more than simply the absence of disease; health involves optimal physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning and well-being." (WHO)

Why is it important to focus on youth's assets?

Research has demonstrated a compelling association between the presence of strengths or protective factors in a youth's life with fewer risk taking behaviors in many areas, including sexuality. This work also shows that adolescents do not need to have all assets in order to have a healthier lifestyle; one or two assets can make a difference.

A strength-based approach and positive youth development are similar terms for building the assets and strengths of an adolescent instead of focusing on their weaknesses and risky behaviors. When working with adolescents, positive youth development approaches have been able to target multiple risk factors for risky behaviors.

How can you build adolescents' assets?

The Web cast, "Communicating with Adolescents: Building Strengths While Addressing Risks," provides an opportunity to review strategies and examples of ways to incorporate strengths into caring for adolescent patients.

In addition, there are a number of print resources available:

AAP Resources

Health Care Provider Resources

Positive Assets: Strength-based care approach opens door to gaining adolescents' trust
by: Deborah Johnson
AAP News, November 2008

AAP Members can access back issues from the last four years of the Adolescent Health Update. The AAP Section on Adolescent Health publishes Adolescent Health Update. Go to the SOAH Benefits to learn more about the section and the member benefits.

Inspiring Healthy Adolescent Choices: A Rationale for and Guide to Strength Promotion in Primary Care
Paula M. Duncan, Ana C. Garcia, Barbara L. Frankowski, Peggy A. Carey, Emily A. Kallock, Rebecca D. Dixon, Judith S. Shaw
Journal of Adolescent Health, 41 (2007), pages 525-535.

Provider and Parent Resources

New Second Ediition! A Parent's Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings
by: Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP
This book may be purchased through the AAP Bookstore.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Web page devoted to helping children and teens respond to stress by creating their own stress management plan. Visit the "Reducing Stress" site to find resources for both parents and teens.

Connected Kids is an injury prevention project developed through the AAP. Materials can be purchased through the AAP Bookstore and the following Connected Kids Web page provides further information about the project.

Bright Futures Guidelines, 3rd Edition has information about adolescent health and preventive care. For more information about Bright Futures, go to

Other Important Resources

The Building Partnerships for Youth: Capacity Building to Promote Youth Development project (a collaborative project between the National 4-H Council and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension) provides a wealth of information about positive youth development, including the 21 elements of youth development and other factsheets and resources via their home page. The National 4-H Headquarters has compiled a list of research and resources around youth development, including links to 4-H research centers and evaluation and assessment tools.

The Search Institute has done some of the forefront research in the area of development assets and the protective factors, including a description of the 40 developmental assets and the Institutes' key research findings on how assets influence adolescents' behavior.

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