Peter C. Scales, Ph.D. - Senior Fellow

Peter Scales, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist, researcher, author, and speaker who is an internationally recognized authority on the positive development of children and youth. With the late Dr. Peter L. Benson, he became the world’s leading researcher on the role of Developmental Assets in the lives of children and youth. His expertise is child and adolescent development, and the development of healthy families, schools, and communities where children and youth can thrive.


Dr. Scales has led or been a senior researcher on all of Search Institute’s major U.S. and international research studies since joining Search Institute as a Senior Fellow in 1995. He has created or helped develop all the Institute’s major surveys on Developmental Assets, spiritual development, adolescent thriving and sparks, positive school climate, and service-learning. He leads national and international research studies; provides consultation on youth development to schools, youth-serving organizations, foundations, and governmental agencies, among others; publishes widely on child and youth development; and represents Search Institute to the media.

Dr. Scales has also been a consultant and keynote speech-maker for more than 250 organizations and agencies, including: the U.S. Office of Safe & Drug-Free Schools, the National Governors' Association, the Association for Middle Level Education (formerly the National Middle School Association), American School Health Association, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Association of Child Advocates, Public/Private Ventures, Children's Television Workshop, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Council on Family Relations, National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting, Ounce of Prevention Fund, American Camping Association, U. S. Catholic Conference, YMCA of the USA, and the Carter Presidential Center.

Selected Recent Publications

Dr. Scales is the author of 10 books, more than 75 peer-reviewed articles, and more than 200 other publications, including more than 30 peer-reviewed chapters, including the first-ever chapter on positive youth development in the prestigious Handbook of Child Psychology (2006, 6th ed). Other selected recent publications include:

Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., Dershem, L., Fraher, K., Makonnen, R., Nazneen, S., Syvertsen, A.K., & Titus, S. (2013). Building developmental assets to empower adolescent girls in rural Bangladesh: Evaluation of project ‘Kishoree Kontha.’ Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23, 171-184.Special Issue on Adolescents in the Majority World.

Benson, P.L., Scales, P.C., Syvertsen,A.K., & Roehlkepartain, E.C. (2012). Is youth spiritual development a universal developmental process? An international exploration. Journal of Positive Psychology, 7, 453-470.

Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., & Roehlkepartain, E.C. (20011). Adolescent thriving: The role of sparks, relationships, and empowerment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 263- 277.

Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., Moore, K.A., Lippman, L., Brown, B., & Zaff, J.F. (2008). Promoting equal developmental opportunity and outcomes among America’s children and youth:  Results from the National Promises Study. Journal of Primary Prevention, 29, 121-144.

Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Sesma, A., & van Dulmen, M. (2006). The role of developmental assets in predicting academic achievement:  A longitudinal Study.  Journal of Adolescence, 29, 691-708.


  • Ph.D. and M.S. in child development and family relations, Syracuse University
  • A.B., honors, in psychology, Syracuse University


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