Patrick H. Tolan, P.h.D. is Director of the pan-university Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development and Professor of Education and Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is also Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois. For the past 30 years he has conducted longitudinal research studies, many of which are randomized control trials, utilizing an ecological-developmental approach to youth functioning. Much of that work focused on high-risk communities and more recently on improving conceptual clarity about positive youth development and evaluation innovations that such an approach requires. He also focuses on promoting use of empirically tested approaches to promote child and adolescent mental health. These studies have been the basis for his 125+ publications. He is a fellow of five divisions of American Psychological Association, of the Society for Research in Aggression and of the Society for Experimental Criminology. In 2007 he was awarded the Star of Science award from the Children’s Brain Research Foundation and in 2008 received a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for his work.
A common approach to understanding youth growing up in poverty is to focus on the disadvantages they encounter and the limited opportunities hindering healthy and successful development. While these are important to recognize, this focus may have important limitations for understanding the contributors to resilience and health and for most effective interventions. This symposium takes an alternative frame, positive youth development, to identify longitudinal predictors of healthy and successful development among youth in poverty and to then relate those to intervention implications. Each presentation traces predictors of adequate or exceptional functioning in emotional regulation, behavior, and/or school engagement and behavior of youth facing economic and social disparities. For example, one presentation will focus on the transition to elementary school. A second will examine the long-term effects of parent involvement in school for inner-city children and its modification by a parent-support intervention. A third will focus on the impact of a family intervention that promotes and supports vigilant involved parenting for promoting pathways to successful development for rural African-American youth. The fourth presentation will focus on the protective role of racial identity in the relation of discrimination experiences with mental health problems. Implications for approaching child and adolescent health and clinical interventions will be emphasized.