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October 2018: Taking a Positive Youth Development Approach to Bullying Prevention

Many promising approaches to bullying prevention and intervention address the environments where bullying occurs and the needs of youth who bully and those who are bullied. Positive youth development (PYD) is an approach that can address both environment and specific needs of youth because it emphasizes positive experiences, positive relationships, and positive environments for youth to thrive. For National Bullying Prevention Month, learn more about PYD, what it has in common with bullying prevention approaches, and how to implement it successfully.

The Approach

PYD focuses on adolescents’ potential and emphasizes strategies that enhance their positive qualities and build on their strengths. Youth who participate in programs that take a PYD approach can experience positive outcomes in academic achievement, reproductive health, and family relationships, as well as reductions in problematic behaviors like bullying and violence. PYD approaches also acknowledge that adults can positively influence the lives of young people. Youth-adult partnerships can help strengthen efforts to prevent bullying.

Implementing PYD

Fostering supportive, caring relationships between adults and adolescents is a key element for incorporating PYD into programs. In total, there are eight key practices of PYD:

  1. Physical and psychological safety to increase safe peer group interaction and reduce conflicts.
  2. Appropriate structure with clear rules and age-appropriate monitoring.
  3. Supportive relationships with adults and peers that include positive communication and guidance.
  4. Opportunities to belong so that all youth are included in activities and cultural competence is supported.
  5. Positive social norms that encourage respect and clear expectations.
  6. Support for efficacy and mentoring for youth to lead and achieve change in their communities.
  7. Opportunities for skill-building that prepare youth to make positive and informed decisions.
  8. Integration of family, school, and community efforts to engage everyone in activities.

Each of these key practices contribute to positive climates that can prevent bullying. Furthermore, programs that empower youth with skills and leadership opportunities may also open the door for youth to make a difference. In school, students are more likely to be aware of bullying than staff and should have a role in developing rules to encourage respect and responsibility. Other essentials of bullying prevention, such as encouraging youth to do the things they love and engaging parents, also align with PYD key practices.

What You Can Do

Youth engagement strategies get teens involved in their communities and are a great way to implement PYD in youth-serving programs. Provide opportunities for teens to work with schools to organize bullying prevention efforts. For example, Sources of Strength is a program that takes a strengths-based approach and emphasizes peer leadership to prevent bullying, suicide, and other negative health outcomes. To learn more about engaging youth in their health and development, read OAH’s Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® Playbook.

Spread the Word with These Posts


  • Youth thrive in supportive environments and with positive relationships. Positive youth development (PYD) is an approach that youth-serving programs can use to build on young people’s strengths. The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has information about PYD, including its connection to health and key practices for successfully implementing a PYD approach. https://bit.ly/2QFQBgP
  • Bullying is one risk that people commonly associate with the teen years. Programs that take a positive youth development (PYD) approach can support positive peer relationships. Learn how to implement PYD with new info from the HHS Office of Adolescent Health. https://bit.ly/2QFQBgP


  • Research suggests that effective #bullying prevention strategies address the environments where bullying occurs and the unique needs of youth. @TeenHealthGov explains how to engage youth in positive environments & positive relationships: https://bit.ly/2tyW51I
  • Adolescence can be a time of setting and achieving goals in school, work, and relationships. Positive #youthdevelopment helps programs unlock adolescents’ potential so they can thrive. https://bit.ly/2QFQBgP via @TeenHealthGov
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on December 14, 2018