“The Science Behind Scouting’s Success”

Monthly blog on behalf of the Orange County Council Commissioner

John A. Hovanesian, M.D.
November 14, 2014
We who volunteer our time to help young people in Scouting know the direct result it has, preparing young people to become productive, honorable adults. But what’s the theory behind this success in practice? Social scientist Brian Burkhard at Tufts University in Boston has recently uncovered five basic elements that are required for any child to experience what he calls “Positive Youth Development” (PYD):

Confidence, gained through recognizing one’s own self-worth happens when a young person is recognized for accomplishment. Scouting’s uniform, organizational structure, and the consistent rules for good living provide a structure that defines who the Scout is.

Competence comes from mastering skills. Peer-to-peer Scout instruction further reinforces these skills and gives a sense of mastery that is essential for PYD.

Connection with other young people and adults in relationships with positive reinforcement. This social connection is missing from the lives of far too many young people in our world but is fundamental to the Scouting experience.

Caring. Built into all of our Scouting principles is the Golden Rule, and we are continuously teaching Scouts to care for God and country, their world around them, and each other. A sense of warmth and safety is essential for PYD.

Character means knowing how to behave, even when no rules are posted. It’s the grit required to carry a long task through to completion (sadly missing in so many young people today). It’s the ability to maintain a positive attitude in good and bad weather. More than anything, it’s what separates Scouting from so many other youth activities. While the schedule says we’re building a pinewood derby car, what we’re actually building is a better leader for tomorrow.

At your next Scouting meeting, look around and see if you can see the five Cs in action. I’ll bet you’ll find, as Brian Burkhard at Tufts did, that Scouting continuously gives young people a potent dose of all the essential ingredients for Positive Youth Development.

Click here for a slide presentation that Brian Burkhard gave to board members of the Orange County Council. 

John A. Hovanesian, M.D.
OCBSA Commissioner

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