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Positive youth development

Supporting youth development: developmental maps

About the youth developmental maps

An easy to use reference
In order to present the complexities of youth development in a clear and compact form, and provide you with a practical and convenient working tool, the developmental events described earlier in this section are summarized in the youth development “maps” below.

Maps are provided to describe predictable development events for youth who are in:

Maps are organized across four developmental domains
The developmental maps are organized by developmental domain, and present:

As noted earlier in this section, it is important to recognize that these domains are interconnected, and that maturation always takes place as part of the whole.

Events are “stage” rather than “age” dependent
While developmental events are also categorized into the age ranges in which they generally occur, it is important to recognize that the maps represent a sequence of developmental events more than the specific ages at which they occur. Many aspects of youth development are independent of age because they depend on exposure to opportunities and experiences. As a result, there are large individual differences in the ages at which developmental events in adolescence and early adulthood occur.

Build on these ideas
The examples presented in the developmental maps are suggestions—there are a variety of ways to support youth through these developmental stages. You know the youth you support best, so personalize the opportunities you provide for youth to meet their needs by building on these examples. Engage the youth you support to see if these ideas will work for them and come to new suggestions together.

Think creatively about how to incorporate this into your work
Information on how to best support positive youth development came from youth. As a result, youth focused on their daily interactions (for example, parents/caregivers, teachers, coaches). How often, and in what context, adult allies interact with youth differs, so regardless of the nature of your involvement in supporting youth—daily, periodically or directly—think about ways to take this advice from young people and include it in your work with youth. For those who support youth less frequently or indirectly (for example, governments, community planning tables), think about how these supports can be incorporated into the work that you do to support youth.

How the maps are organized

The maps are consistently organized across three columns, and are designed to answer three corresponding key questions you may have about key developmental events:

A diagram that describes the information in the three columns of the maps. Column 1 provides information on ‘What is happening.’ This section gives a description of physical, cognitive, emotional or social developmental events that may be taking place in early adolescence, adolescence, or early adulthood. Column 2 provides information on ‘How can I tell?’ This section details indicators you can look for in order to determine whether or not the developmental event has taken place, or is taking place. Column 3 provides information on ‘How can I help?’ This section suggests ways you can positively support youth at this stage of development. The information from column 1 (What is happening?) and column 2 (How can I tell?) is taken from leading edge research on youth development. The information from column 3 (How can I help?) came from conversations with Ontario’s youth, supported by research.


What youth want you to know: five key themes

  1. Be supportive. Guide, don’t dictate. Youth want information so they can make their own decisions
  2. Be patient and available. Don’t be discouraged if your first offer of support is turned down as youth will often come around when they feel up to it and the time is right
  3. Be open. When they come to you, listen, listen, listen!
  4. Be understanding. Youth learn and grow through failure and mistakes—the important issue is how youth and their support systems respond to setbacks
  5. Be empathetic. Don’t belittle the feelings of youth or be patronizing—“my feelings are real and important, even if whatever I’m going through doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it is to me right now”

In your involvement with youth—direct or indirect—be deliberate and purposeful in your actions. Every interaction with youth provides an opportunity to support their development. Supporting positive development doesn’t necessarily require it’s own program or agenda. It’s about what we do everyday—make every interaction matter.