Michigan 4-H helps youth build Developmental Assets – Part 2: Internal assets

Let’s explore the internal assets of the 40 Developmental Assets and how 4-H members compared over a three-year period.

Created in the 1990s, the 40 Developmental Assets are a compilation of positive experiences and qualities that influence a young person’s development and help them to become successful adults. The 40 Developmental Assets were developed by the Search Institute, with framework for the program grounded in research on child and adolescent development, risk prevention and resiliency. Research from the Search Institute shows that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.

Results from a recent study by the Legacy Center of Midland, Michigan, show that 4-H does a great job of helping youth to develop assets and keep those assets over time. This article will explore the internal assets and how 4-H members compared over a three-year period. First, let’s explore what the internal assets consist of.

  • Commitment to learning: enjoys reading and learning; caring about school; doing homework; and being encouraged to try new things.
  • Positive values: standing up for one’s beliefs; taking responsibility; avoiding alcohol, tobacco and drugs; valuing honesty; healthy behaviors; being encouraged to help others and respecting and serving others.
  • Social competencies: building friendships; properly expressing feelings; planning ahead; resisting negative peer pressure; being sensitive to and accepting others; and resolving conflicts peacefully.
  • Positive identity: optimism; personal power; sense of purpose and self-esteem.

One of the main findings from the study is there were increases in all four of the internal assets scores. This suggests the students are more likely to help others; build friendships; continue to learn new things; demonstrate positive character traits; avoid bad choices such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs; have a higher self-esteem; and develop a more positive view of their future after participating in the 4-H program.

Average pre- and post-survey test scores of internal assets

Internal assets

Mean pre-test score

Mean post-test score

Commitment to Learning



Positive Values



Social Competency



Positive Identity



Overall, the study reflects that through the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, youth are building assets through positive relationships with leaders, empowering youth to be creators of their own development and helping others through service. As parents and youth in our communities, the Michigan 4-H program can be a helpful tool as we strive to develop the positive assets that will help our youth be successful in life.

The next article in this series will explore more in depth the external asset results of the study. 

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