Positive youth development practices and better outcomes for high risk youth.


This paper reports on the findings from a New Zealand longitudinal study of outcomes for a group of high risk, service-using youth (13-21 years, n = 495). Consistent use of positive youth development practices (PYD) (rather than the total number of services used) predicted better outcomes. Patterns of risk and resilience endured over time. Individual risks undermined outcomes while resilience had a significant positive impact on outcomes. Contextual risks predicted increases in individual risks, but service delivery that adopted PYD practices contributed to reductions in levels of contextual risks over time. Youth with higher individual and contextual risks were less likely to report PYD service experiences. Individual risks were highest for indigenous youth (Maori) at entry to the study, levels which dropped significantly over time. White (Pakeha) youth had the lowest resilience and highest contextual risks over the course of the study. These differential patterns in risks and resilience indicate a need for services to adapt their responses to youth based on ethnicity and overall study findings confirm that when used consistently across service systems PYD-oriented service delivery produces better outcomes for high risk youth.