A developmental asset survey (DAS) measures the developmental adjustment of children and adolscence. The DAS is based on a view of human development that includes internal physiological and psychological process interconnected with social influence. The DAS assesses 40 external and internal assets from the perspective of the child or adolescent. External assets are divided into four categories of assets labeled “Support,” “Empowerment,” “Boundaries and Expectations,” and “Constructive use of Time”) and each category contains survey items such as “Adult Role Models” and “Family Support.” The categories for internal assets include “Commitment to Learning,” “Positive Values,” “Social Competencies,” and “Positive Identity.” A sample of survey items includes “Self-Esteem” and “Integrity.”
The DAS is linked with theoretical initiative known as Positive Your Development (PYD). Benson, Scales, Hamilton, and Sesma (2006) describe PYD as a “strength-based approach to defining and understanding how children influence and are influenced by their contexts over time; it holds up the centrality of community as an incubator of positive development as well as a multifaceted setting in which young people can exercise agency and inform the settings, places, people, and policies that in turn affect their development” (p. 1). PYD breaks with some developmental theories in its acceptance and promotion of values, morals, and religious worldviews as a necessary component to consider in understanding human development.
The basic underlying premise of PYD is that human development “takes a village.” The key to enhancing human development is found in the introduction of developmental “nutrients” across the settings of a child’s life. Developmental “nutrients” include: promoting bonding; fostering resilience; promoting competence (social, cognitive, moral, and emotional); fostering self-determination or self-management; fostering spirituality; nurturing self-efficacy; encouraging identity formation; inspiring hope for the future; recognizing positive behavior and progress; and providing opportunities to develop social skills and reinforce social norms.
PYD operates on seven hypotheses or assumptions:
Changes in a young person’s environment causes change in development When youth take the initiative to change their environments they benefit from growth-oriented activity The inner world and outer world are connected and changes in one produce changes in the other An increase in developmental “nutrients” across settings matters more than simply improving a single situation The benefit of increased developmental “nutrients” seems to persist over the lifespan Community-wide attention to increasing the developmental “nutrients” for children is as important as efforts in the family, schools, and the individual levels. Community-wide efforts to offer opportunities and support for increasing developmental “nutrients” tend to generalize to the entire population of youth.
Mentoring involves seeking to provide guidance and direction to another within the context of a relationship. Mentoring relationships are characterized by bonding and trust. Mentors can assess the developmental assets of mentees through formal methods like a DAS or informally through interactions. The risk with informal assessments is the possibility of error increases due to the subjective “evidence” used to reach the conclusion. No determinations of developmental assets should be made until the mentor has sufficient training to arrive at a likely valid conclusion.
Benson, P.L., Scales, P.C., Hamilton, S.F., & Sesma, A. (2006). Positive Youth Development so far: Core hypotheses and their implications form policy and practice. Search Institute, 3(1), 1-13.