Positive Values: An Introduction

How do you raise a child with character? By teaching positive values. Values are like an integrated compass--they help point the way to thinking and acting appropriately. Search Institute has identified six positive values that are central to healthy development: caring, equality and social justice, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and restraint.

Did You Know?

The most common positive value young people (ages 12 to 18) report having is integrity (68 percent of young people report having this value). The percentages of young people who report having the five other positive values are: honesty (66 percent), responsibility (63 percent), equality and social justice (52 percent), caring (50 percent), and restraint (45 percent).3

·         Girls are much more likely to report having positive values than boys. For example, 59 percent of girls report having the value of caring, compared to only 40 percent of boys. Seventy-five percent of girls report having integrity compared to only 59 percent of boys.1

·         Researchers have discovered that the six positive values are associated with higher levels of positive behavior, better problem-solving skills, better critical-thinking skills, increased conflict-resolution skills, decreased likelihood of having premature sexual intercourse, having fewer friends who make bad choices, great competence, and higher grades and test scores.2

When we teach kids to help another person, that’s a positive value. When kids stand up for another child, even though it’s a hard thing to do, that’s also a positive value. Once you've laid the foundation, kids will continue to learn about and build positive values for years to come.


1. Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2005), 2003 weighted aggregate dataset, unpublished report.

2. Peter Scales and Nancy Leffert, Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2004).