Positive Youth Development Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Conceptual Framework and Systematic Review of Efficacy



      Positive youth development (PYD) has served as a framework for youth programs in high-income countries since the 1990s and has demonstrated broad behavioral health and developmental benefits. PYD programs build skills, assets, and competencies; foster youth agency; build healthy relationships; strengthen the environment; and transform systems to prepare youth for successful adulthood. The goal of this article was to systematically review the impact of PYD programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).


      Targeted searches of knowledge repository Web sites and keyword searches of Scopus and PubMed identified over 21,500 articles and over 3,700 evaluation reports published between 1990 and mid-2016. Ninety-four PYD programs with evaluations in LMICs were identified, of which 35 had at least one experimental or rigorous quasi-experimental evaluation.


      Sixty percent of the 35 programs with rigorous evaluations demonstrated positive effects on behaviors, including substance use and risky sexual activity, and/or more distal developmental outcomes, such as employment and health indicators.


      There is promising evidence that PYD programs can be effective in LMICs; however, more rigorous examination with long-term follow-up is required to establish if these programs offer benefits similar to those seen in higher income countries.


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