Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Positive youth development is an approach that seeks to enhance and promote young people's developmental progress. Although there has been a shift toward asset building in rehabilitation of delinquent youth, research on positive youth development has historically focused on children at risk of adverse outcomes, rather than those who are already engaged in criminal behavior. Without knowledge about the distribution of assets among delinquent youth and the relations of these assets to outcomes later in life, it is unclear if interventions based on research of developmental assets among at-risk youth are appropriate for justice-involved youth. The 40 Developmental Assets (Search Institute, 1997; 2007) provides a comprehensive list of protective factors that can be used to identify the presence of positive assets among youthful offenders. The current study uses arcHIVal data from the Pathways to Desistance Study (Mulvey, n.d.) to explore the presence of developmental assets among a population of 420 male serious juvenile offenders in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Structural equation modeling techniques were utilized to evaluate the impact of individual developmental assets on four critical outcomes: participation in high risk behaviors, future offending, employment and interpersonal relationships. Overall, findings suggest that developmental assets operate as both protective factors and risk factors among juvenile offenders, suggesting that previous work on protective factors and the initiation of delinquency should not be generalized to delinquent youth. Findings from the current study suggest that many developmental assets that demonstrated a protective effect on outcomes among other youth populations were also found to be protective for the current sample; however, certain developmental assets, namely family-related assets and school-

related assets, may actually serve as risk factors among serious juvenile offenders. Additional research is needed to identify the mechanisms that cause family and school-related assets to be positively related to negative outcomes among this population.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.