Prevention Science, Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2005 (
Measures of Positive Adult Behavior and Their
Relationship to Crime and Substance Use
J. David Hawkins,
Robert D. Abbott,
Karl G. Hill,
Todd I. Herrenkohl,
and Richard F. Catalano
Drawing on diverse approaches to the study of youth development and adult functioning, as
well as social capital and citizenship, this investigation identiﬁes measures of positive adult
behavior. Although prevention researchers study protective factors, as well as risk factors,
for problem behaviors and other negative outcomes, less attention is given to positive be-
havior outcomes and there is little understanding of the relationships between positive and
negative outcomes. Analyses included 765 participants from the Seattle Social Development
Project interviewed at age 21. Seven measures of positive adult behavior were identiﬁed:
volunteerism, group involvement, neighborliness, interpersonal connection, constructive en-
gagement, ﬁnancial responsibility, and honesty. Measures related to distal social relationships
(group involvement and neighborliness) had relatively weak associations with crime and sub-
stance use. In contrast, the measures of constructive engagement, ﬁnancial responsibility, and
honesty had signiﬁcant negative associations with multiple measures of crime and substance
use. Results indicate that the seven measures provide relatively independent variables useful
for assessing positive adult behavior. These measures can be used to assess positive outcomes
in adulthood of intervention studies, or to assess the prevalence of positive adult behavior in
different populations or groups.
KEY WORDS: positive behavior; adult functioning; outcome assessment; crime; substance use.
Scientiﬁc interest in human strengths and virtues
is illustrated in recent articles devoted to “positive
psychology” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000;
Sheldon & King, 2001), and to topics such as altruism
(Krueger et al., 2001), volunteerism (Stukas et al.,
1999), forgiveness (Witvliet et al., 2001), and “proso-
cialness” (Caprara et al., 2000). Caprara et al. (2000)
have suggested that “there is an emerging conceptual
shift in psychology from the prevailing focus on the
impact of negative factors ...toward a focus on
the inﬂuential role of positive factors. ...There is
much work to be done, however, to sort out the
Social Development Research Group, School of Social Work,
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Educational Psychology, College of Education, University of
Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Correspondence should be directed to Rick Kosterman, PhD, So-
cial Development Research Group, School of Social Work, Uni-
versity of Washington, 9725 3rd Avenue N. E., Suite 401, Seattle,
Washington 98115; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
components of prosocialness ...” (pp. 302, 305).
Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) have also re-
cently emphasized the need for a better understand-
ing of “factors that allow individuals, communities,
and societies to ﬂourish” (p. 5). Increasingly, social
scientists have recognized that “the normal function-
ing of human beings cannot be accounted for within
purely negative (or problem-focused) frames of
reference. ...Unfortunately, psychologists still know
relatively little about human thriving ...” (Sheldon
& King, 2001, p. 216). Similarly, while prevention
researchers study protective factors, as well as risk
factors, for problem behaviors and other negative
outcomes (e.g., Coie et al., 1993; Hawkins et al., 1992),
there has been less attention to positive behavioral
outcomes, and little understanding of the relation-
ships between positive and negative outcomes.
This investigation seeks to identify the char-
acteristics of people who are participating posi-
tively and constructively in society. Our approach
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.