Positive Youth Development Theory in Practice: An Update on the 4-H Thriving Model


  • Mary Elizabeth Arnold National 4-H Council
  • Ryan J. Gagnon Clemson University




4-H Thriving Model, youth development, program theory, program evaluation, professional development


The 4-H Thriving Model predicts that participation in high-quality 4-H programs helps youth thrive and that thriving youth achieve key developmental outcomes, thus illuminating the process of positive youth development in 4-H. This paper provides an update on the 4-H Thriving Model, with particular attention to model modifications based on additional research. The paper then describes the formation of the Advancing the 4-H Model Task Force, a 3-year project chartered by the national 4-H Program Leaders Working Group (PLWG). The paper describes how the work of the task force will support efforts related to the professional development of 4-H youth development professionals and volunteers, replication of and further research on the 4-H Thriving model, and organizational alignment across the national 4-H system.

Author Biographies

Mary Elizabeth Arnold, National 4-H Council

Professor I 4-H Youth Development Specialist
Program Research and Evaluation
School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences
College of Public Health and Human Sciences
Oregon State University

Ryan J. Gagnon, Clemson University

Assistant Professor
Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences


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