2006 Templeton Foundation BOOK OF DISTINCTION Winner
In this unique and groundbreaking work, Richard M. Lerner brings his formidable knowledge of developmental systems theory and facts on youth development to analyze the meaning of a thriving civil society and its relationship to the potential of youth for self-actualization and positive development. In the process, he vividly captures the relationship of positive and successful human development to the viability of democratic institutions at a key transition point in U.S. history in the wake of 9/11. Lerner posits that optimal individual development is enabled by a civil society that supports the rights of the individual to develop his or her abilities as best he or she can, and in ways valued by the person, and that in human life, integrated moral and civic identity may emerge prototypically in adolescence, when the person's self-definition is undergoing significant and singular changes. He explores several key characteristics of positive development (competence, character, confidence, social connections, and compassion) that coalesce to create a young person who is developing successfully towards an "ideal" adulthood, one marked by contributions to self, family, community, and the institutions of civil society. He closes by exploring implications for policies and programs involving the promotion of positive youth and family development that will support the institutions of liberty, social justice, and democracy.