1. Theories of Youth Development

After completing this section, you will be able to...

  • Describe six major theories of youth development
  • Apply concepts from the theories of youth development to the creation of connected learning programs and services for teens

Youth development can be approached from many perspectives. In this section, you will be introduced to key theories of child development. In particular, we focus on:

  • Piaget’s cognitive development theory
  • Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory
  • Papert’s theory of constructionism
  • Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory
  • Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of development
  • Erikson’s psychosocial theory of human development.

You can draw on these theoretical perspectives to guide the design of your youth-centered programming and services.

Which Theory is Right?

There is no single theory that accounts for every aspect of youth learning and development. The six theories described in the following sections have different strengths and weaknesses; many of them complement or build on each other. Each theory can teach us something different about supporting youth development through library programming.