TitleIndicators of positive youth development can be maladaptive: The example case of caring.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGeldhof, GJ, Larsen, T, Urke, H, Holsen, I, Lewis, H, Tyler, CP
JournalJ Adolesc
Date Published02/2019

INTRODUCTION: Research on positive youth development typically takes a more-is-better approach in which higher scores on measures of positive youth development indicate better outcomes. We question the validity of this assumption and describe how an imbalance among the Five Cs of Positive Youth Development can lead to a situation where "more" is actually "less." We then provide an empirical illustration using crosssectional data.

METHODS: We examined conditional associations between indicators of thriving and the C of caring using survey data obtained from a sample of 2,386 students in Norway (mean age 16.60 years [SD = 1.98]; 44.8% girls). Multilevel models assessed whether associations between caring and the thriving indicators (here defined as greater mental well-being and lower anxiety and depressive symptoms) differed when versus when not controlling for overall positive youth development.

RESULTS: When positive youth development was not included as a covariate, caring was positively associated with mental well being and anxiety but not significantly associated with depressive symptoms. After adding positive youth development to the model, caring became less strongly associated with mental well-being, more strongly associated with anxiety, and significantly (positively) associated with depressive symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that, after controlling for a set level of positive youth development, caring does not predict adaptive outcomes in a monotonic more-is-better way. These findings illustrate an instance where developmental regulations benefit the context at the cost of the individual and therefore speak to a growing acknowledgement in the literature-young people may suffer if they "care too much."

Alternate JournalJ Adolesc
PubMed ID30583200