Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Adolescence

pp 2963-2976


Thriving and Sparks

  • Peter L. BensonAffiliated withSearch Institute Email author 
  • , Peter C. ScalesAffiliated withSearch Institute


For adolescents, the predominant criterion for judging developmental success, for most of the history of the psychology of adolescence, has been, until quite recently, whether young people avoid mortality and morbidity in the form of a litany of specific risk behaviors, ranging from avoidance of school failure, to avoidance of substance abuse, antisocial behavior and violence, and irresponsible sexual behavior. Only in the last 20 years or so has the growing movement called Positive Youth Development (PYD), with its focus on promoting desirable attitudes and behaviors and not only preventing undesirable ones, gained such sufficient traction that PYD can now be said to be a principal theoretical and applied framework for understanding and working with adolescents. In this essay, the authors describe the development of a comprehensive theory and measurement of a new element of PYD, adolescent thriving, as most recently advanced by Benson and Scales (2009), including the c ...

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