Rethinking Poverty: The power of 40

Mission | November 10, 2015

What are the 40 positive assets in a young person’s life that can help them thrive? How can knowing and understanding these assets shape efforts to reach out to others, no matter their gender, age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or ability?

Researched and developed by the Search Institute, the official name for these 40 positive life circumstances is “Developmental Assets.”

The Power of 40 will be held on Monday, Nov 16, 6:30 p.m. in the Library Commons, a continuation of St. Paul’s Rethinking Poverty series. It is free and open to the public. Participants can attend one, a few, or all sessions.

“Community professionals will facilitate a discussion about poverty risk factors for children and adults by illustrating developmental assets and connecting them to trauma,” said Dana Welser, coordinator of St. Paul’s Neighborhood Schools Partnership. “​Identifying the needs that those in poverty struggle with allows us to create a plan of how ​to reach out and help others.”

In 1990, Search Institute released a framework of 40 Developmental Assets, which identifies a set of skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults. Data collected from Search Institute surveys of more than 4 million children and youth from all backgrounds and situations has consistently demonstrated that the more Developmental Assets young people acquire, the better their chances of succeeding in school and becoming happy, healthy, and contributing members of their communities and society.

The assets are:

    1. Family Support | Family life provides high levels of love and support.
    2. Positive Family Communication | Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.
    3. Other Adult Relationships | Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
    4. Caring Neighborhood | Young person experiences caring neighbors.
    5. Caring School Climate | School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
    6. Parent Involvement in Schooling | Parent(s) are actively involved in helping the child succeed in school.


    1. Community Values Youth | Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
    2. Youth as Resources | Young people are given useful roles in the community.
    3. Service to Others | Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
    4. Safety | Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.


    1. Family Boundaries | Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
    2. School Boundaries | School provides clear rules and consequences.
    3. Neighborhood Boundaries | Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
    4. Adult Role Models | Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
    5. Positive Peer Influence | Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
    6. High Expectations | Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.


  1. Creative Activities | Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
  2. Youth Programs | Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
  3. Religious Community | Young person spends one hour or more per week in activities in a religious institution.
  4. Time at Home | Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.


    1. Achievement Motivation | Young person is motivated to do well in school.
    2. School Engagement | Young person is actively engaged in learning.
    3. Homework | Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
    4. Bonding to School | Young person cares about her or his school.
    5. Reading for Pleasure | Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.


    1. Caring | Young Person places high value on helping other people.
    2. Equality and Social Justice | Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
    3. Integrity | Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
    4. Honesty | Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
    5. Responsibility | Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
    6. Restraint | Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.


    1. Planning and Decision Making | Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
    2. Interpersonal Competence | Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
    3. Cultural Competence | Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
    4. Resistance Skills | Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
    5. Peaceful Conflict Resolution | Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.


  1. Personal Power | Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
  2. Self-Esteem | Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  3. Sense of Purpose | Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
  4. Positive View of Personal Future | Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.



Coming in January and February: Experience first-hand a simulation of what it’s like to live in poverty.

One comment on “Rethinking Poverty: The power of 40”

  • Ben Cleaveland

    November 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I have a handout I will drop off that is from the Trauma-Informed Care Consortium that talks about the next step of Resilience. It goes hand in hand with the 40 assets.

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