The 40 Developmental Assets: Concrete Parenting Help that is Proven

Children do not come with instructions. Thank goodness Search Institute offers some. For parents, life can be complicated. The job of being a parent can be exhausting, frustrating and confusing. So when someone gives you a road map to help you along your journey, you ought to take it and use it, right?

This is what the Search Institute has done! The Search Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy children.They seek to provide teachers, parents, counselors and all adults responsible for kids with the tools and resources to change their lives for the better. In furtherance of this, Search, backed by over 20 years of research and experience, offer concrete instruction on how to be a positive and proactive advocate for children. I said they give you a road map. But they actually do one better. They give you a checklist. And what busy parent does not appreciate the efficiency of a checklist– especially a checklist that works!!

The 40 Developmental Assets, or the Assets, as those-in-the-know call them, is a list of “positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring and responsible.” The list describes all of the tools necessary for children to grow up healthy and happy and whole.

Isn’t this all that we want for our children? Well, it gets even better because the research on which this list is based shows that the more Asset a child has, the less likely he is to engage in risky behavior, and the more likely he will be academically successful, engaged in his community, making positive life choices, and exhibiting a whole slew of positive behaviors and outcomes.

Now, having said all of that, let me also say that when I first looked at the list of 40 Developmental Assets, I was a bit overwhelmed. Forty is no small number and not all of the Assets are easy to achieve. But as I really started to focus on the developmental areas as they are broken down, I found that they are all so doable for a committed parent. You will likely find that you are doing so much of the list already. Most of these assets are common sense.

The Institute has separate lists of assets for children at different developmental stages. But they are all thematically similar. The list for the Middle Childhood is as follows.


1. Family support—Family life provides high levels of love and support.
2. Positive family communication—Parent(s) and child communicate positively. Child feels comfortable seeking advice and counsel from parent(s).
3. Other adult relationships—Child receives support from adults other than her or his parent(s).
4. Caring neighborhood—Child experiences caring neighbors.
5. Caring school climate—Relationships with teachers and peers provide a caring, encouraging environment.
6. Parent involvement in schooling—Parent(s) are actively involved in helping the child succeed in school.


7. Community values children—Child feels valued and appreciated by adults in the community.
8. Children as resources—Child is included in decisions at home and in the community.
9. Service to others—Child has opportunities to help others in the community.
10. Safety—Child feels safe at home, at school, and in his or her neighborhood.
Boundaries & Expectations

11. Family boundaries—Family has clear and consistent rules and consequences and monitors the child’s whereabouts.
12. School Boundaries—School provides clear rules and consequences.
13. Neighborhood boundaries—Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring the child’s behavior.
14. Adult role models—Parent(s) and other adults in the child’s family, as well as non-family adults, model positive, responsible behavior.
15. Positive peer influence—Child’s closest friends model positive, responsible behavior.
16. High expectations—Parent(s) and teachers expect the child to do her or his best at school and in other activities.

Constructive Use of Time

17. Creative activities—Child participates in music, art, drama, or creative writing two or more times per week.
18. Child programs—Child participates two or more times per week in co-curricular school activities or structured community programs for children..
19. Religious community—Child attends religious programs or services one or more times per week.
20. Time at home—Child spends some time most days both in high-quality interaction with parents and doing things at home other than watching TV or playing video games.

Commitment to Learning

21. Achievement Motivation—Child is motivated and strives to do well in school.
22. Learning Engagement—Child is responsive, attentive, and actively engaged in learning at school and enjoys participating in learning activities outside of school.
23. Homework—Child usually hands in homework on time.
24. Bonding to school—Child cares about teachers and other adults at school.
25. Reading for Pleasure—Child enjoys and engages in reading for fun most days of the week.

Positive Values

26. Caring—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to help other people.
27. Equality and social justice—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to speak up for equal rights for all people.
28. Integrity—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to stand up for one’s beliefs.
29. Honesty—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to tell the truth.
30. Responsibility—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to accept personal responsibility for behavior.
31. Healthy Lifestyle—Parent(s) tell the child it is important to have good health habits and an understanding of healthy sexuality.

Social Competencies

32. Planning and decision making—Child thinks about decisions and is usually happy with results of her or his decisions.
33. Interpersonal Competence—Child cares about and is affected by other people’s feelings, enjoys making friends, and, when frustrated or angry, tries to calm her- or himself.
34. Cultural Competence—Child knows and is comfortable with people of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and with her or his own cultural identity.
35. Resistance skills—Child can stay away from people who are likely to get her or him in trouble and is able to say no to doing wrong or dangerous things.
36. Peaceful conflict resolution—Child seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Positive Identity

37. Personal power—Child feels he or she has some influence over things that happen in her or his life.
38. Self-esteem—Child likes and is proud to be the person that he or she is.
39. Sense of purpose—Child sometimes thinks about what life means and whether there is a purpose for her or his life.
40. Positive view of personal future—Child is optimistic about her or his personal future.

(Quoted from The Search Institute website,
Go to this site for the other age appropriate lists.

We parents should look at this list as a “best case scenario” list recognizing that you don’t have to achieve them all to make a significant difference..

The folks at Search suggest that parents start by taking an inventory. We can ask the question—does this asset exist for my child? And where the answer is no—that’s where our goal-setting should take place. The list may be a source of comfort as you recognize the things that you already do, whether consciously or not.

Addressing this list is not easy. It requires some committed parenting, which must include good communication and modeling of positive behaviors. I know I can talk a good game, but can I model it?? That’s the bigger challenge!

I love the Assets list because it is concrete. It is road tested. And no matter what effort you put towards it, only good will come.

(Original Post 09/09/08)



  1. Thanks for following my blog. Glad I was able to find you. Great blog and wonderful articles!

  2. Thanks for the follow. I’m now following your awesome blog.

  3. Great blog. Stopping by from the MBC to follow and say hi!

  4. Checklist that actually works? HHmmm…
    Wonderful post..Thanks for the MBC follow.
    Have a great week!

  5. This is a wonderful site. Very informative and helpful to parents. I am following you.

  6. Great site!

    Thanks for the follow…I’m following you too!


  7. Thank you for the follow and I'm now following you too! Your blog has a lot of great information and articles! Looking forward to reading more!

  8. I was so hopping they came with the instructions, but nope:)
    Following from MBC.
    Following on Twitter also.

  9. This is really informative and useful.

    Thanks! (from MBC)

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