Children Need Rich Developmental Experiences to Succeed, Study Finds

Children require consistent, supportive relationships and positive developmental experiences in and out of school to develop the critical skills, attitudes, and behaviors they need to succeed as adults, a report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research finds.

According to the report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework (106 pages, PDF), children, in order to succeed in college and a career, form healthy relationships, make wise choices, and become engaged citizens, need to develop a sense of agency, an integrated identity, and the ability to be productive, effective, and adaptable. Underlying these qualities are four foundational components — "self-regulation," or awareness of and ability to manage one's attention, emotions, and behaviors to achieve goals; "knowledge and skills," or an understanding about oneself and the world and the learned ability to carry out tasks; positive "mindsets" through which everyday experiences are processed; and "values," in the sense of both a moral code of conduct and beliefs about long-term outcomes important in life.

Funded by the Wallace Foundation, the study found that developmental experiences involving both action and reflection help children and youth build their foundational components and develop agency, an integrated identity, and key competencies. Critical to this process are strong, supportive, and sustained relationships with adults and peers who can help young people interpret experiences in ways that expand their sense of themselves and their horizons. The report also examines how, where, and when the factors to success develop and offers educators, youth practitioners, parents, and families suggestions as to the most promising window for positive intervention.

"A critical contribution of this report is to identify factors that are not fixed, opening the door for policies and practices that can promote their development in young people," said Hilary Rhodes, senior research and evaluation officer at the Wallace Foundation. "We hope the report builds understanding of children's developmental needs at each stage, and lays the groundwork for strengthening knowledge about how these needs can be better met."

"New Report Offers Comprehensive Look at What Kids Need to Succeed As Adults." Wallace Foundation Press Release 06/23/2015.