Portrait of a Thriving Youth
What We Do
The Portrait of a Thriving Youth describes what optimal development looks like during this important period of development.
What is the Portrait of a Thriving Youth?
Drawing on 40 years of interdisciplinary research about the science of adolescence, the Portrait of a Thriving Youth describes what optimal development looks like during this important period of development. As such it aims to build a collective and broadly understood vision of what a thriving youth might be and do, as individuals and as part of their communities. It depicts what optimal youth development looks like during the period of adolescence when the supports, structures and systems are in place to promote thriving.
Why Do We Need a Portrait of a Thriving Youth?
Adolescence is a time of enormous growth, as our brains and bodies mature from childhood to adulthood. In fact, many characterize the period of development from ages 10-25 as the second window of opportunity, behind ages zero to three, when there is rapid learning and brain development during a period of vulnerability and potential opportunity. Many communities have created a Portrait of a Graduate to depict the specific skills, competencies, and mindsets that educators need to help students master to graduate from high school. The Portrait of a Thriving Youth expands to depict the full range of skills and competencies that contribute to a thriving adolescent over the course of their development .
How Can You Use the Portrait?
The Portrait provides a common framework that can be used by both adults and youth themselves to advocate for what every young person has a right to access and experience.
- Adult practitioners, including educators and youth workers, can use the Portrait to reflect on how their organizational and developmental practices are supporting, or inhibiting, thriving.
- Policymakers can use the Portrait to inform decisions they make that affect adolescents.
- Caregivers and youth can use the Portrait to advocate for the supports, services, and settings that research tells us supports thriving.
Portrait & Resources
The full Portrait provides an overview of adolescent development and describes the six key domains of adolescent development.
This self-assessment can help you reflect on how well your program, setting, or system is supporting thriving in each of the six domains described in the Portrait of a Thriving Youth.
This overview offers a starter list of the knowledge, skills, and competencies that adolescents develop over time.
Portrait of a Thriving Youth Informational Session
This informational session provides an introduction to the Portrait. Download the report and all the youth-serving professional resources above.
Design Team Members
The following individuals, listed in alphabetical order, contributed to the development of the Portrait:
- Dr. Nancy L. Deutsch, Director, Youth-Nex; Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, University of Virginia
- Dr. Shereen El Mallah, Research Assistant Professor, Youth-Nex and CASTL
- Dr. Adriana Galván, Dean of Undergraduate Education, Co-Executive Director of the Center for the Developing Adolescent, UCLA
- Dr. Katie Johnson-Goodstar, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)
- Robert Jagers, Vice President of Research, CASEL
- Chidi Jenkins, Senior Advisor, Youth-Nex
- Dr. Christopher Jones, Executive Director, Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
- Stephanie Krauss, Founder and Principal Consultant, First Quarter Strategies
- Priscilla M. D. Little, Senior Advisor, Youth-Nex, Co-Chair for the Portrait Design Team, Lead Writer
- Dr. Marisa Gerstein Pineau, Director of Research Application, FrameWorks Institute
- Dr. Winsome Waite, Senior Program Director, The Opportunity Institute, Co-Chair for the Portrait Design Team
- Dr. Joanna Williams, Associate Professor, Rutgers University; Co-Director, National Scientific Council on Adolescence
- Leslie Booren, Associate Director for Communications & Operations, Youth-Nex
- Brooke Carneal, Graduate Intern, Youth-Nex
- Abby Gillespie, Director of Strategy & Engagement, Youth-Nex
- Emma Otremba, Graduate Intern, Youth-Nex
- Mairead Young, Graduate Intern, Youth-Nex
A special thank you to the Commonwealth Alliance for Thriving Youth (in Virginia) and the Youth-Nex Youth Advisory Council for their thoughtful input on this project.
The Portrait of a Thriving Youth was illustrated by Maia Smith
EHD Project Team
Designed as a guiding light for those supporting adolescents, Portrait of a Thriving Youth is a dynamic picture of what youth need to flourish.