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).
About half of the 97 programs were delivered in schools and most of the remaining were delivered through community organizations. 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.
There is promising evidence that PYD programs can be effective in LMICs. Of the programs with rigorous evaluations, the programs which intentionally targeted several related positive youth outcomes are the most promising for larger-scale implementations; 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.