40 Developmental Assets

The Search Institute (www.search-institute.org), an organization in the U.S., wanted to find out why some kids grow up with relative ease while others struggle. They first focused their research trying to understand if there were common denominators among at-risk youth; they couldn’t find any. The organization then switched their focus to  study youth who were successful and concluded that there were 40 qualities, skills, relationships, and behaviours that supported young people to thrive.


Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, studies of more than 4 million young people in the U.S. and Canada have shown the importance of the development asset framework when it comes to positive youth development.

Regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, and location, the research consistently showed that the more assets a young person had, the more likely there were to make positive life choices and less likely to engage in high risk behaviour as seen in the graphs below. The average young person experiences 21.1 assets however in order for youth to reach their maximum potential, they need to be experiencing 31 or more assets.



The 40 assets are divided into two categories: internal and external.

External Assets are a set of relationships and opportunities that young people experience in their families, schools, and neighbourhoods.

Internal Assets are the skills and values that youth develop within themselves to guide behaviours and choices. Each category has 4 subcategories that each have 4 – 6 assets as seen below.

20-developmental-assets-external3 development-assets-internal

In short, developmental assets are about believing in young people and their potential to be change makers in our community, cities, and world, just like Kid President below.

father-and-son-workingSMALLThe six key principles for building assets are:

1. All young people need assets.

2. Everyone can build assets.

3. Relationships are key.

4. Asset building is an ongoing process.

5. Consistent messages are crucial.

6. Repetition is important.

To learn more about how you can build assets, click here.