Long-Term Association Between Developmental Assets and Health Behaviors: An Exploratory Study

Health Educ Behav. 2016 Oct;43(5):543-51. doi: 10.1177/1090198115606915. Epub 2015 Oct 13.


Introduction Based on internal and external assets, the positive youth development approach aims to increase the capacity among adolescents to overcome challenges as they transition to adulthood. Developmental assets have been found to be positively associated with academic achievement, a variety of health promoting behaviors, and improved physical and mental health. The purpose of this exploratory study was to assess the long-term association between positive youth developmental assets with health risk and promoting behaviors. Method A continuous scale of developmental assets was created using 30 items from Wave I of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, when participants were in 7th to 12th grades. Health behavior outcomes including cigarette use, substance use, fast food consumption, and physical activity were measured at both Wave III (age 18-26) and Wave IV (age 24-32). Path analysis was employed to assess the relationship between these observed measures. Results The well-fitted path model revealed associations between developmental assets with each health behavior at Wave III. Developmental assets indirectly influenced each health behavior and direct associations were observed between assets with substance use and physical activity at Wave IV. Conclusion Findings provide additional support for the developmental assets approach to adolescent health. Implications include Healthy People 2020 objectives related to tobacco and alcohol use and nutrition and physical activity.

Keywords: adolescent health; alcohol and substance abuse; community health; diet; health behavior; health promotion; nutrition; obesity; outcome evaluation; smoking and tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Adolescent Development* / physiology
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Behavior* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult