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. 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.


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


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, 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 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). Other selected publications include:

  • Scales, P. C., Van Boekel, M., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (in press). Effects of student-teacher developmental relationships on middle school students’ motivation and performance. Psychology in the Schools.
  • Scales, P.C. (2019). Mental and Emotional Training for Tennis: Compete-Learn-Honor. Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.
  • 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. DOI: 10.1177/0272431619858414
  • 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
  • Seeking and finding positive youth development among Zulu youth in South African townships. Child Development, 2017, 88(4), 1079-1086. (Kelly D. Schwartz, Linda Theron, & Scales).doi:10.1111/cdev.12869
  • Scales, P.C. (2016). The crucial coaching relationship. Phi Delta Kappan. May 2016, 97(8), 19-23. (Part of special Sports in School section).
  • Scales, P.C., Roehlkepartain, E.C., & Shramko, M. (2016). Aligning youth development theory, measurement, and practice across cultures and contexts: Lessons from use of the Developmental Assets Profile. Child Indicators Research. 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, 2016, 20 (3), 150-174. DOI:10.1080/10888691.2015.1082429. Invited submission for a 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, 2015, 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, 2014, 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.