Purpose: Positive youth development (PYD) has served as a framework for youth programs in high-income countries since the 1990s and has demonstrated broad behavioral health and developmental benefits. PYD programs build skills, assets, and competencies; foster youth agency; build healthy relationships; strengthen the environment; and transform systems to prepare youth for successful adulthood. The goal of this article was to systematically review the impact of PYD programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Methods: Targeted searches of knowledge repository Web sites and keyword searches of Scopus and PubMed identified over 21,500 articles and over 3,700 evaluation reports published between 1990 and mid-2016. Ninety-four PYD programs with evaluations in LMICs were identified, of which 35 had at least one experimental or rigorous quasi-experimental evaluation.
Results: Sixty percent of the 35 programs with rigorous evaluations demonstrated positive effects on behaviors, including substance use and risky sexual activity, and/or more distal developmental outcomes, such as employment and health indicators.
Conclusions: There is promising evidence that PYD programs can be effective in LMICs; however, more rigorous examination with long-term follow-up is required to establish if these programs offer benefits similar to those seen in higher income countries.
Keywords: Intervention efficacy; Low- and middle-income countries; Positive youth development.
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