Health Realization: A Principle-Based Positive Psychology of Youth Development

Thomas M. Kelley, Wayne State University

While we have numerous research-based programs for youth aimed at curbing drug-use, violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, and other problem behaviors, we lack a rigorous principle-based applied psychology of positive youth development. Instead of focusing on fixing what is assumed to be missing or broken in at-risk youth, we need theoretical models that reveal pathways whereby children and adolescents become motivated, directed, socially competent, compassionate, and psychologically vigorous adults. While the emerging field of positive psychology is attempting to shift the field's emphasis from understanding and treating dysfundtion to facilitating well-being and resiliency, it appears to lack a principle based foundation and thus, continues to emphasize external causes of positive affect and behavior. This paper offers, for the field's consideration, a principle-based positive psychology commonly referred to in the literature as health realization (HR). The underlying principles of HR are delineated, contemporary research evidence in support of its major assumptions cited, and results of applied HR research with at-risk youth in clinical, educational, and community empowerment settings described.

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Updated 05/20/2006