Developing Youth Competencies: The Impact of Program Quality


  • Tegan M. Smischney University of Minnesota
  • Matthew A. Roberts University of Minnesota
  • Kate Gliske University of Minnesota
  • Lynne M. Borden University of Minnesota
  • Daniel F. Perkins Pennsylvania State University



program quality, positive youth development, youth competencies


As youth programs have continued to evolve over the last 100 years, the field of program evaluation has advanced significantly in an effort to differentiate which youth program components are necessary to promote positive youth development (e.g., Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Lerner et al., 2013). The Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) initiative funds a variety of sustainable community projects (SCPs) that aim to support at-risk youth and families and help them become healthy, positive, and contributing members of society (U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d.). To ensure these programs are meeting CYFAR’s goals, a required collection of common measures began in 2011 (University of Minnesota, 2017b). This study used CYFAR evaluation data to explore how specific program quality components (e.g. physical and psychological safety and relationship building) influence change in youth competencies. It was hypothesized that higher program quality ratings would be significantly associated with higher pretest to posttest change in youth competencies. Results indicated differential associations between the qualities of youth programs, particularly positive social norms and skill building, and changes in youth competencies. Implications for positive youth development programs are discussed.


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