Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 537–553 | Cite as

Factor Structure and Criterion Validity of the Five Cs Model of Positive Youth Development in a Multi-University Sample of College Students

  • Melissa R. DvorskyEmail author
  • Michael J. Kofler
  • G. Leonard Burns
  • Aaron M. Luebbe
  • Annie A. Garner
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
  • Elia F. Soto
  • Stephen P. Becker
Empirical Research


There is growing recognition that clinical and developmental outcomes will be optimized by interventions that harness strengths in addition to ameliorating deficits. Although empirically-supported methods for identifying strengths are available for children and adolescents, this framework has yet to be applied to emerging adulthood. This study evaluates the nature of the Five Cs model of Positive Youth Development (PYD) – character, confidence, competence, connection, and caring – in a sample of emerging adults from six universities (N = 4654; 70% female; 81% White). Historically, PYD has been modeled as either separate correlated factors or a second-order factor structure. More recently, the bifactor model has been recommended to determine the degree to which PYD is unidimensional versus multidimensional. The present study examined the multidimensionality of PYD by comparing the model fit of a one-factor, five-correlated factor model, and second-order factor structure with a bifactor model and found support for the bifactor model with evidence of invariance across sex. Criterion validity was also assessed using three criterion measures particularly relevant for adjustment during emerging adulthood: anxiety, depressive symptoms, and emotion regulation difficulties. PYD and the residual Cs tended to correlate negatively with indicators of maladaptive development. Future directions including applications of the PYD framework as a measure of thriving across emerging adulthood are discussed.


Factor structure Five Cs Internalizing Positive youth development Resilience Psychometrics 


Authors’ Contributions

MD conceived the study, made substantive intellectual contributions to the concept and design of this study and the preparation of this manuscript. MD was responsible for performing all analyses and interpretations of the data and led the coordination and drafting of the manuscript. MK conceived the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, and preparation of this manuscript by contributing to the revisions of drafts of this manuscript content, and providing guidance on the acquisition of data. GB provided guidance on the analytic plan, participated in the design and helped to draft the manuscript. AL, AG, and MJ participated in the design and coordination of the study and provided revisions on the drafting of the manuscript. ES participated in the drafting of this manuscript. SB participated in its design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Stephen Becker is supported by award number K23MH108603 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

At five of the universities, a waiver of consent was obtained since no identifying information was collected. A detailed information sheet was presented to participants before starting the survey and stated that “by choosing to move forward with the survey and submitting your completed survey, you indicate your consent for your answers to be used in this research study.” The information sheet also provided participants with information about the study, as well as risks/benefits, their rights as participants, that they could choose to not answer any question, and that they could withdraw at any time without penalty. At the sixth university, in person informed consent was obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa R. Dvorsky
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael J. Kofler
    • 3
  • G. Leonard Burns
    • 4
  • Aaron M. Luebbe
    • 5
  • Annie A. Garner
    • 6
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
    • 7
  • Elia F. Soto
    • 3
  • Stephen P. Becker
    • 1
    • 8
  1. 1.Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical PsychologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  6. 6.Department of PsychologySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  8. 8.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA

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