Youth Development


The purpose of the Youth Development SPRIG is to bring together faculty and students interested in exploring research, teaching and services activities relating to the youth.


Youth development is the process of growing up and developing one’s capacities through positive and asset-building processes (Whitlock & Hamilton, 2001; Walker & Dunham, 1994)). Problem prevention (drug, delinquency, & violence prevention programs) and resilience (programs for youth in stressful environments that promote successful outcomes) approaches also contribute to our understanding of youth development (Small & Memmo, 2004). Youth do not develop in a vacuum, but in family, peer, school and other surroundings.  Activities of importance to the youth include after-school programs, summer camps,  and 4-H clubs, often accompanied by art, music, drama, sport and recreation, or community services (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2002; Larson & Hansen, 2006). Family, school, community, and youth programs matter and make a difference in children and adolescents. As a result, youth are best understood in an ecological perspective, which recognizes the role of various systems, such as family, school, peer, community, and culture on youth development (Bronfenbrenner, 1998).

Youth development is a key area of attention in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES); a major activity of the Ohio Sate University Extension; and a critical area of research, teaching and service of faculty in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education and Leadership (ACEL), which also offers a Youth Development minor.  

Objectives and Performance Measures

  • Promote research on youth development in the United States and across the world.
  • Foster collaboration among members of the CFAES providing services to the youth.
  • Expand graduate and undergraduate students interest in youth development research.
  • Secure grants for youth development research.
  • Publish peer-reviewed articles in youth development.

Areas of Opportunity

  • Advance life skills for youth to promote physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.   
  • Communication for development in international settings to foster positive youth development.
  • Increase STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills including bioenergy education for youth through experiential learning.

Summary of Accomplishments

  • Establishment of a Youth Development minor, which is approved for students throughout OSU.
  • Support for graduate and undergraduate students interested in youth development.
  • Published over 10 peer-reviewed articles in various publications including journals indexed in the Institute for Scientific Information.  Journals include Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Service, Journal of Social Service Research, Journal of Child and Family Studies, Journal of Youth Development, and Journal of Extension.
  • Secured competitive grants in the areas of bioenergy education for youth, college awareness, and international youth development for grants under review.