Current Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 45–57 | Cite as

Protective Factors for the College Years: Establishing the Appropriateness of the Developmental Assets Model for Emerging Adults

  • Travis J. PashakEmail author
  • Paul J. Handal
  • Peter C. Scales


In this article, we evaluate the appropriateness of the developmental assets model for college emerging adults and introduce the Young Adult Developmental Assets Survey (YADAS). Constructed as communication tools for adolescent resiliency, Search Institute’s developmental assets are reformulated here as 40 characteristics of university lifestyles promoting success and buffering risk for emerging adults. We investigated the YADAS’ reliability (via temporal consistency and internal consistency) and validity (via construct convergence and clinical criterions), and generally found evidence of strong psychometrics. The YADAS’ global assets score had a test-retest coefficient of r = .89 and a coefficient alpha of α = .90, and was also statistically significantly correlated to the majority of the thriving indicators (e.g., positive emotionality and spiritual wellbeing) and risk indicators (e.g., substance abuse and anti-social behavior) studied here. The global assets score also displayed meaningful links to mental health, with a coefficient of r = .50 with life satisfaction and r = −.35 with symptomatology. We conclude by discussing support for the use of the developmental assets model with this age range and life context, describing the YADAS’ strengths and limitations, and proposing strategies for utilizing the assets model in university contexts.


Young adults Positive youth development College students Resilience Mental health 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No grant funding was obtained or utilized for the completion of this study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: the winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Arnett, J. J., & Tanner, J. L. (Eds.). (2006). Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the twenty-first century. Google Scholar
  3. Benson, P. L. (1990). The troubled journey: a portrait of 6th - 12th grade youth. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.Google Scholar
  4. Benson, P. L. (2003). Developmental assets and asset–building community: conceptual and empirical foundations. In R. M. Lerner & P. L. Benson (Eds.), Developmental assets and asset-building communities: implications for research, policy, and practice (pp. 19–46). NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benson, P. L., & Scales, P. C. (2009). The definition and preliminary measurement of thriving in adolescence. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(1), 85–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benson, P. L., Leffert, N., Scales, P. C., & Blyth, D. A. (1998). Beyond the ‘village’ rhetoric: creating healthy communities for children and adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 2(3), 138–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Benson, P. L., Scales, P. C., Hamilton, S. F., & Sesma Jr., A. (2006). Positive youth development: theory, research, and application. In W. W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, volume 1, theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 894–941). New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Benson, P. L., Scales, P. C., & Syvertsen, A. K. (2011). The contribution of the developmental assets framework to positive youth development theory and practice. In R. M. Lerner, J. V. Lerner, & J. B. Benson (Eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior: Positive Youth Development Research and Applications for Promoting Thriving in Adolescence, (pp. 195–228). Elsevier.Google Scholar
  9. Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2015). 2014 Annual Report (Publication No. STA 15–30).Google Scholar
  10. Cochran, C. D., & Hale, W. D. (1985). College student norms on the brief symptom inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41(6), 777–779.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Crocker, L., & Algina, J. (2006). Introduction to classical and modern test theory. Belmont CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  12. Derogatis, L. R. (1975). Brief symptom inventory. Baltimore, MD: Clinical Psychometric Research.Google Scholar
  13. Derogatis, L. R. (1993). BSI brief symptom inventory. Administration, scoring, and procedures manual (4th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: National Computer Systems.Google Scholar
  14. Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: an introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13, 595–605.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Douce, L. A., & Keeling, R. P. (2014). A strategic primer on college student mental health. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.Google Scholar
  17. Eccles, J., & Gootman, J. A. (2002). Community programs to promote youth development. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, committee on community-level programs for youth. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  18. Grant, J. E., & Potenza, M. N. (Eds.) (2010). Young adult mental health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hayes, J. A. (1997). What does the brief symptom inventory measure in college and university counseling center clients? Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44(4), 360–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kena, G., Musu-Gillette, L., Robinson, J., Wang, X., Rathbun, A., Zhang, J., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Barmer, A., & Dunlop Velez, E. (2015). The condition of education 2015. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics Retrieved from Scholar
  21. Lambert, E. G., Hogan, N. C., & Barton, S. M. (2003). Collegiate academic dishonesty revisited: what have they done, how often have they done it, who does it, and why did they do it. Electronic Journal of Sociology, 7(4), 1–27.Google Scholar
  22. Leffert, N., Benson, P. L., Scales, P. C., Sharma, A. U., Drake, D. R., & Blyth, D. A. (1998). Developmental assets: measurement and prediction of risk behaviors among adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 2(4), 209–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Legler, K.M., & Temonoff, K.L. (2010). The 40 Developmental Assets framework and college students. Erie, PA: Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Unpublished undergraduate research paper (available from third author of current paper on request).Google Scholar
  24. Lerner, R. M. (2004). Liberty: thriving and civic engagement among America’s youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Littlefield, A. K., & Sher, K. J. (2010). Alcohol use disorders in young adulthood. In J. E. Grant & M. N. Potenza (Eds.), Young adult mental health (pp. 292–310). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Locke, B. D., Soet Buzolitz, J., Lei, P.-W., Boswell, J. F., McAleavey, A. A., Sevig, T. D., Dowis, J. D., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). Development of the counseling center assessment of psychological symptoms-62 (CCAPS-62). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(1), 97–109.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Pashak, T. J., Hagen, J. W., Allen, J. M., & Selley, R. S. (2014). Developmental assets: validating a model of successful adaptation for emerging adults. College Student Journal, 48(2), 243–248.Google Scholar
  28. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Reich, J. W., Zautra, A. J., & Hall, J. S. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of adult resilience. Google Scholar
  30. Roehlkepartain, E. C., Benson, P. L., & Sesma Jr., A. (2003). Signs of progress in putting children first: developmental assets among youth in St. In Louis Park, 1997–2001. Minneapolis: Search Institute.Google Scholar
  31. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Scales, P. C., & Leffert, N. (2004). Developmental assets: a synthesis of the scientific research on adolescent development (2nd ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.Google Scholar
  33. Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Leffert, N., & Blyth, D. A. (2000). Contribution of developmental assets to the prediction of thriving among adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 4(1), 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Scales, P. C., Sesma, A., & Bolstrom, B. (2004). Coming into their own: how developmental assets promote positive growth in middle childhood. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.Google Scholar
  35. Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Sesma, A., & van Dulmen, M. (2006). The role of developmental assets in predicting academic achievement: a longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 691–708.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2011). Adolescent thriving: the role of sparks, relationships, and empowerment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(3), 263–277.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Scales, P.C., Roehlkepartain, E.C., & Fraher, K. (2012). Do Developmental Assets make a difference in majority-world contexts? A preliminary study of the relationships between Developmental Assets and international development priorities. Minneapolis: Search Institute, Final Report to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Education Development Center (EDC).Google Scholar
  38. Settersten, R., & Ray, B. E. (2010). Not quite adults: why 20-somethings are choosing a slower path to adulthood, and why it’s good for everyone. New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  39. Small, S., & Memmo, M. (2004). Contemporary models of youth development and problem prevention: toward an integration of terms, concepts, and models. Family Relations, 53, 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Terriquez, V., & Gurantz, O. (2015). Financial challenges in emerging adulthood and students’ decisions to stop out of college. Emerging Adulthood, 3(3), 204–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vander Ven, K. (2008). Promoting positive development in early childhood: building blocks for a successful start. NY: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Travis J. Pashak
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul J. Handal
    • 2
  • Peter C. Scales
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaginaw Valley State UniversityUniversity CenterUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Search InstituteMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations