What Kids Need to Succeed As Adults

Strong academic skills are important, but they are not the only thing a child needs for success in life. What else is necessary and how can it be cultivated? A new report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, seeks to provide some answers.

Written by researchers at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, the report emphasizes that being prepared for success means more than educational attainment. It also means that young adults have the potential to fulfill their goals as well as what the report calls the “agency” and “competencies” to influence the world around them, along with a clear sense of who they are — an “integrated identity.”


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The report offers a framework for understanding people’s progress from early childhood into early adulthood and describes four “foundational components” children need to develop:

Self-regulation, awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings, and management of one’s attention, emotions and behaviors to achieve goals.

Knowledge and Skills, information or understanding about oneself, other people and the world, and the ability to carry out tasks.

Mindsets, beliefs and attitudes about oneself and the world, and the interaction between the two.

Values, enduring, often culturally-defined, beliefs about what is good or bad and what one thinks is important in life.

The way adults can nurture the development of these components is twofold, according to the report:

  • Providing children and teens with rich experiences, and
  • Ensuring that young people have opportunities to reflect on these experiences.

A key problem, the report says, is that disadvantaged youth often face extra challenges, including fewer opportunities for consistent, positive developmental experiences and relationships.


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