Senior Fellow

Peter C. 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, who has been with Search Institute since 1995. 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 all children and youth can equitably thrive. A U.S. Professional Tennis Association-certified tennis teaching pro, he works directly with young people as a high school tennis coach for boys and girls, and a mental strength consultant for men’s and women’s college tennis teams. He has a special focus on the preparation of youth sports coaches to promote positive youth development through sports.


  • Ph.D. (1976) and M.S. (1973) in child development and family relations, Syracuse University
  • A.B., honors, in psychology, Syracuse University (1971)


Dr. Scales has led or been a senior researcher on most 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, Developmental Relationships, spiritual development, adolescent thriving and sparks, positive school climate, social capital, 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. Among his honors, Dr. Scales in 1988 was awarded the U. S. Administration for Children, Youth and Families Commissioner Award honoring “exceptional efforts to prevent child abuse, and a spirit which is an inspiration to others,” the Educational Press Association of America Award for Excellence in Educational Journalism (1989), and the American Camp Association’s Hedley S. Dimock Award (1998), presented for making outstanding contributions to youth development.

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 Camp Association, U. S. Catholic Conference, YMCA of the USA, and the Carter Presidential Center.

Selected Publications

Dr. Scales is the author of 10 books, more than 85 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.). His most recent book is Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete-Learn-Honor (2019, Coaches Choice) which won the 2020 Finalist Award in Sports, in the Best Book Awards competition sponsored by Other selected publications include:

  • Sethi, J., & Scales, P.C. (2020). Developmental relationships and school success: How teachers, parents, and friends affect educational outcomes and what actions students say matter most. Contemporary Educational Psychology,
  • Chamberlain, R., Scales, P. C., & Sethi, J. (2020). Competing discourses of power in teachers’ stories of challenging relationships with students. Power and Education. (2020). DOI: 10.1177/1757743820931118
  • Scales, P. C., Van Boekel, M., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2020). Effects of student-teacher developmental relationships on middle school students’ motivation and performance. Psychology in the Schools, 57(3), 646-677.
  • Scales, P. C., Pekel, K., Sethi, J., Chamberlain, R., & van Boekel, M. (2019). Academic year changes in student-teacher developmental relationships and their linkage to changes in middle and high school students’ motivation. Journal of Early Adolescence, 40(4), 499–536. DOI: 10.1177/0272431619858414
  • Scales, P.C. (2019). Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete-Learn-Honor. Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.
  • Syvertsen, A. K., Scales, P. C., & Toomey, R. B. (2019). The Developmental Assets Framework Revisited: Confirmatory analysis and invariance testing to create a new generation of assets measures for applied research. Applied Developmental Science.
  • Pekel, K., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Syvertsen, A. K., Scales, P. C., Sullivan, T. K., & Sethi, J. (2018). Finding the fluoride: Examining how and why developmental relationships are the active ingredient in interventions that work. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 88(5), 493-502. doi:10.1037/ort0000333
  • Schwartz, K.D., Theron, L., & Scales, P.C. (2017). Seeking and finding positive youth development among Zulu youth in South African townships. Child Development, 88(4), 1079-1086. doi:10.1111/cdev.12869
  • Scales, P.C. (2016). The crucial coaching relationship. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(8), 19-23. (Part of special Sports in School section).
  • Scales, P.C., Roehlkepartain, E.C., & Shramko, M. (2017). Aligning youth development theory, measurement, and practice across cultures and contexts: Lessons from use of the Developmental Assets Profile. Child Indicators Research, 10(4), 1145-1178. DOI 10.1007/s12187-016-9395-x
  • Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L. (deceased), Oesterle, S., Hill, K., Hawkins, J.D., & Pashak, T. (2016).The dimensions of successful young adult development: A conceptual and measurement framework. Applied Developmental Science, 20(3), 150-174. DOI:10.1080/10888691.2015.1082429. Invited submission for special issue on Positive Youth Development and Intervention.
  • Scales, P.C., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Wallace, T., Inselman, A., Stephenson, P., & Rodriguez, M.C. (2015). Brief report: Assessing youth well-being in global emergency settings: Early results from the Emergency Developmental Assets Profile. Journal of Adolescence, 45, 98-102.
  • Schwartz, S.S.O., Chan, C.S., Rhodes, J.E., & Scales, P.C. (2014). Community developmental assets and positive youth development: The role of natural mentors. Research in Human Development, 10(2), 141-162. Special issue on Familial and Non-Familial Relationships as Ecological Sources of Health and Positive Development Across the Life Span—A View of the Issues (ed. Richard M. Lerner & Edmond P. Bowers).
  • 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.