Journal of Youth Studies, 14(6) pp 675-691

The field of youth development, long given over to discussions of youth as a time of storm and stress, raging hormones and problem behavior, has increasingly turned to look at the ‘sunny side’ of youth – at their agency, insights, capabilities and contributions. Youth, we are now regularly told, are not problems but resources and assets. In this paper, we look critically at the new, positive youth development movement and argue that, although having many continuities with ‘old’ models of youth development, it should nevertheless be seen as a shift in dominant conceptualizations of youth that has been driven in large part by neoliberal ideology and human capital theory. In order to analyze and understand intellectual, cultural and social phenomena such as the recent positive youth development movement, we need to recognize that youth as a social category has long been double-sided. It is not just negative stereotypes of youth that need to be critically interrogated, but positive stereotypes as well.