What are Developmental Assets?

When you think about the word “assets,” what comes to mind? For many people, their first thought is financial resources, the kind of “assets” the bank looks at when you apply for a loan. In our context here, assets means valuable resources of another kind.

The researchers at Search Institute, a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have named the valuable resources that young people need “Developmental Assets.” These assets are 40 values, experiences, relationships, and qualities that bring many benefits to the young people who have them.

Why do Assets Matter?

Studies have shown that when young people have more of those 40 assets, they are more likely to be leaders, to be careful of their health, and to do well in school. And when young people have more of those 40 assets, they are also less likely to use drugs, become involved in violence, or participate in underage drinking. In short, the more of the assets a young person has, the more likely he or she is to succeed in many aspects of life.

(The following information is based on surveys of almost 150,000 6th- to 12th-grade youth in 202 communities across the United States in calendar year 2003.1)

  0–10 Assets 11–20 Assets 21–30 Assets 31–40 Assets
Problem Alcohol Use 45% 26% 11% 3%
Violence (bullying and other) 62% 38% 18% 6%
Illicit Drug Use 38% 18% 6% 1%
Sexual Activity 34% 23% 11% 3%
  0–10 Assets 11–20 Assets 21–30 Assets 31–40 Assets
Exhibits Leadership 48% 66% 78% 87%
Maintains Good Health 27% 48% 69% 88%
Values Diversity 39% 60% 76% 89%
Succeeds in School 9% 19% 34% 54%

One analogy that is often used for the Developmental Assets is that they are like the building blocks of healthy youth development. Just as you need quite a few blocks stacked up to build a solid tower, you need quite a few of the assets to “build” a healthy, sturdy, stable young person. To carry the analogy further, when adults intentionally help young people gain more of the assets, we call that “asset building.”

The Developmental Assets form the basis for all of ParentFurther.com, the only parenting site founded on assets. By building assets with and for your children, you can ensure that they will have the skills, tools, and experiences they need to grow into successful adults who make good decisions for themselves and positively influence those around them. Assets have power for all young people, regardless of gender, economic status, and race or ethnicity.


1. Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2005), 2003 weighted aggregate dataset, unpublished report.