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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: the winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Arnett, J. J., & Tanner, J. L. (Eds.). (2006). Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the twenty-first century.
Benson, P. L. (1990). The troubled journey: a portrait of 6th - 12th grade youth. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2015). 2014 Annual Report (Publication No. STA 15–30).
Cochran, C. D., & Hale, W. D. (1985). College student norms on the brief symptom inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41(6), 777–779.
Crocker, L., & Algina, J. (2006). Introduction to classical and modern test theory. Belmont CA: Wadsworth.
Derogatis, L. R. (1975). Brief symptom inventory. Baltimore, MD: Clinical Psychometric Research.
Derogatis, L. R. (1993). BSI brief symptom inventory. Administration, scoring, and procedures manual (4th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: National Computer Systems.
Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: an introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13, 595–605.
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.
Douce, L. A., & Keeling, R. P. (2014). A strategic primer on college student mental health. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.
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.
Grant, J. E., & Potenza, M. N. (Eds.) (2010). Young adult mental health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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.
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 http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.
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.
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.
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).
Lerner, R. M. (2004). Liberty: thriving and civic engagement among America’s youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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.
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.
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.
Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172.
Reich, J. W., Zautra, A. J., & Hall, J. S. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of adult resilience.
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.
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.
Scales, P. C., & Leffert, N. (2004). Developmental assets: a synthesis of the scientific research on adolescent development (2nd ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Terriquez, V., & Gurantz, O. (2015). Financial challenges in emerging adulthood and students’ decisions to stop out of college. Emerging Adulthood, 3(3), 204–214.
Vander Ven, K. (2008). Promoting positive development in early childhood: building blocks for a successful start. NY: Springer.
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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Pashak, T.J., Handal, P.J. & Scales, P.C. Protective Factors for the College Years: Establishing the Appropriateness of the Developmental Assets Model for Emerging Adults. Curr Psychol 37, 45–57 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-016-9488-1
- Young adults
- Positive youth development
- College students
- Mental health