Search Institute’s strength-based approach to adolescent development fits well in a prevention framework that emphasizes and seeks to promote protective factors in young people’s lives. If young people have a strong developmental foundation, including a strong web of relationships and opportunities as well as personal attitudes, skills, and perspectives (as articulated in the Developmental Assets framework), they are less likely to engage in a wide range of risk-compromising behaviors.


Search Institute’s Developmental Assets approach is one of the six identified processes recognized by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) as compatible with SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF). See available tools and resources from Search Institute aligned with the SPF strategies.

Below are selected research publications by Search Institute researchers that highlight the power of strengths-based and relationship-based approaches to prevention of substance use, early sexual activity, violence, and other risky behaviors.

Research Reports, Briefs, and Data Sheets


Developmental Assets and Sexual and Reproductive Health among 10 to 14-Year-Olds in Uganda. Peter C. Scales, Maura Shramko, and Kim Ashburn


A Fragile Foundation: The State of Developmental Assets among American Youth (2nd Ed.), Peter L. Benson, Peter C. Scales, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, and Nancy Leffert


Parenting Kids Who Don’t Smoke: Talk Together in Ways that Matter  (a resource for families)


Tapping the Power of Community: Building Assets to Strengthen Substance Abuse Prevention, Peter L. Benson, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, and Arturo Sesma Jr.

Download the complete brief

Download a one-page summary


The Troubled Journey: A Portrait of 6th- to 12th-Grade Youth, Peter L. Benson

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters

Pashak, T. J., Handal, P. J., & Scales, P. C. (2017). Protective factors for the college years: Establishing the appropriateness of the Developmental Assets Model for emerging adults. Current Psychology. doi:10.1007/s12144-016-9488-1.

Scales, P. C., Shramko, M., & Ashburn, K. (2016). Developmental assets and sexual and reproductive health among 10-to 14-year-olds in Northern Uganda. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 7(1), 45-64. doi: 10.18357/ijcyfs.71201615416

Acosta, J., Chinman, M., Ebener, P., Malone, P. S., Paddock, S., Phillips, A., Scales, P. C., & Slaughter, M.E. (2013). Intervening with practitioners to improve the quality of prevention: Findings from a two-year randomized trial of Assets-Getting To Outcomes. Implementation Science, 8, 87-105. doi: 10.1007/s10935-013-0302-7

Chinman, M., Acosta, J., Ebener, P., Burkhart, Q., Clifford, M., Corsello, M., Duffy, T., Hunter, S., Jones, M., Lahti, M., Malone, P. S., Paddock, S., Phillips, A., Savell, S., Scales, P., & Tellett-Royce, N. (2013). Intervening with practitioners to improve the quality of prevention: One year findings from a randomized controlled trial of the Assets-Getting To Outcomes intervention. Journal of Primary Prevention, 34, 173–191.

Syvertsen, A. K., Cleveland, M. J., Gayles, J. G., Tibbits, M. K., & Faulk, M. T. (2010). Profiles of protection from substance use among adolescents. Prevention Science, 11, 185-196. doi:10.1007/s11121-009-0154-9

Benson, P. L., & Scales, P. C. (2009). Positive youth development and the prevention of youth aggression and violence. European Journal of Developmental Science, 3, 218–234. doi: 10.3233/DEV-2009-3302

Sesma, A., Jr., Mannes, M., & Scales, P. C. (2006). Positive adaptation, resilience, and the Developmental Asset framework. In S. Goldstein & R. B. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (pp. 281–296). New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Syvertsen, A. K., & Scheve, J. A. (2006). Anti-tobacco youth movements. In L. Sherrod, C. A. Flanagan, R. Kassimir, & A. K. Syvertsen (Eds.), Youth activism: An international encyclopedia (pp. 77-81). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.

French, S. A., Leffert, N., Story, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Hannan, P., & Benson, P. L. (2001). Adolescent binge/purge and weight loss behaviors: Associations with developmental assets. Journal of Adolescent Health, 28, 211-221. doi: 10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00166-X

Scales, P. C. (1999). Reducing risks and building developmental assets: Essential actions for promoting adolescent health. Journal of School Health, 69(3), 113–119. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.1999.tb07219.x

Leffert, N., Benson, P. L, Scales, P. C., Sharma, A., Drake, D., & Blyth, D. A. (1998). Developmental assets: Measurement and prediction of risk behaviors among adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 2(4), 209–230. doi: 10.1207/s1532480xads0204_4