The Search Institute and the Developmental Asset Approach

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Did you Know?

Many of us have heard about the ACEs study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how adverse experiences in childhood can lead to negative and unhealthy outcomes as youth grow into adulthood, but have you heard of the Search Institute and the Developmental Asset approach? Where ACEs have negative outcomes, developmental assets create positive ones. When assets are present, even the effect of ACEs can be mitigated. The Developmental Asset approach is the life work and legacy of Dr. Merton Strommen. He started this journey in 1958 as a young youth leader, addressing needs of adolescence in his doctoral thesis. In 1977, after 19 years of research, the Search Institute was established. The Search Institute embarked on a generational study, the largest of its kind, and in 1990 they released their findings; with this the Developmental Asset approach was born. Forty developmental assets were identified in 8 separate areas encompassing family, school, and community. Developmental assets create a protective factor for youth that greatly reduces the likelihood of “risk behaviors” and positively promotes healthy outcomes for their future. Thirty or more of these assets makes successful outcomes extremely likely. Even when a youth has only a few of the assets, those assets can be the lifeline that changes the direction of their life’s journey. 

  To date, over 6 million kids worldwide have taken part in this ever-evolving study. The cornerstone for the approach remains the power of individual communities to affect change and build assets for all their children. When communities support and strengthen families, schools, places of worship, and community-based programs, Developmental Asset banks begin to pay big dividends. One of the earliest and largest groups used in the Search Institute’s study was 4-H. 4-H has established itself as a leader in community-based programs with strong ties to schools and education. 4-H and a whole range of Cooperative Extension programs for kids offer an abundance of developmental assets. A few of the programs Extension has offered in the past are 4-H Clubs, doing everything from farming to robotics, health and nutrition classes, school garden programs, junior master gardeners camp, kids as chefs camp, a wide range of school-based programming, 4-H regional state and national competitions with opportunities for organizational leadership, parenting classes, whole family classes, “At Risk Youth” programming, and so much more! Across the board, Extension programs offer extensive support in all eight areas of the developmental asset approach and help not only as community-based programming, but as a partner strengthening our schools and our families. Get your kids and grandkids involved today and why not reach out to a friend? Did you know you can also become a 4-H or Extension volunteer? Volunteers are the heart and soul of Extension programs. They epitomize selfless service and truly transform their communities through their dedication, time, and talents. They really are developmental assets! 

Developmental Assets

ACE’s Study