Positive Youth Development Down on the Farm

Farm families knew what it took to raise emotionally healthy children way before the field of developmental psychology confirmed it.

Youth raised in agricultural communities have long reaped the benefits of being taught how to do chores, being held accountable, and getting recognition for a job well done.

No matter where young people live—in cities, suburbs, or on farms—they want to be successful. They desire guidance and value attention. And they will seek it, one way or another.  

Social Development Strategy is based on extensive research into positive youth development, and ways to protect youth from behavior difficulties.

The Social Development Strategy finds young people need three things: opportunities, skills, and recognition. Farm families have been meeting these needs very well for centuries.

What are these three elements that are so crucial to positive outcomes for youth?

  • Opportunities – Participation in age-appropriate activities that are positive and meaningful and that build skills and confidence.
  •  Skills – Developing abilities and attitudes necessary for successful participation and task completion.
  • Recognition – Acknowledgement of efforts and accomplishments.

When youth feel valued by their family, community, and school, it leads to bonding. Bonding is attachment and commitment to the source of the recognition. Children who are given accurate feedback from parents and adults want to be around, and please, those adults. This in turn leads to healthy choices.

Young people want to live up to the standards set by the person or group with whom they bond. They make decisions that reinforce the bonds. In the absence of caring adults, however, young people look for ways to meet these needs that may be dangerous—such as with gangs or negative peer groups.

How do skills, opportunities, and recognition play out in real life?

Social Development Strategy in a family setting might mean that parents assign chores, teach the child how to do the task, then give constructive feedback as needed. Finally, recognition is given to the child for his/her efforts.

In the school setting, a teacher could ask a student to lead a class activity. In the community setting, youth might become engaged in the planning and carrying out of an event.

Social Development Strategy is not difficult or expensive to implement; actually it is quite simple.

  • It needs to be intentional, and adults have to be willing to invest time in teaching young people a skill or the steps to task completion.
  • Patience is a virtue during teaching and completion. Set the bar at a reasonable level to allow the young person to feel successful.
  • Recognition of efforts rather than the product or task itself is critical.

Research says that when youth are given opportunities, skills, and recognition, they are more likely to adopt the values and behaviors of the group that provided the skills. No place is this more a part of everyday life than down on the farm!


Contact Information

Denise Continenza
  • Extension Educator, Food, Families & Health
Phone: 610-391-9840