Michigan 4-H helps youth build Developmental Assets – Part 3: External assets

Let’s explore the external assets of the 40 Development 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 done by the Legacy Center of Midland, Michigan shows that 4-H does a great job of helping youth to develop assets and keep those assets over time. This article will explore the external assets and how 4-H members compared over a three-year period. First, let’s explore what the external assets consist of.

  • Support: support from parents, family and other adults; parent-adolescent communication; advice and help from parents; helpful neighbors; and caring school environment.
  • Empowerment: feeling safe at home, at school and in the neighborhood; feeling valued; and having useful jobs and roles.
  • Boundaries and expectations: having good role models; clear rules at home and school; encouragement from parents and teachers; and monitoring by family and neighbors.
  • Constructive use of time: participation in religious or spiritual activity; involvement in a sport, club or group; creative activities; and quality time at home.

One of the findings from the study is that the number of assets in 2013 is very high for the 4-H members. The study suggests that of the four categories, three of them decreased over the three years. While this isn’t ideal, the scores of these 4-H members are still in the excellent/good range. These findings suggest that 4-H members felt safe across many contexts, as well as felt valued and respected by others, surrounded themselves with good role models among friends, family and outside the family, as well as maintained clear rules at home and school.

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

External assets

Mean pre-test score

Mean post-test score







Boundaries and expectations



Constructive use of time



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.

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