Self-controlrefers to one’s ability to control and regulate oneself. This includes one’s ability to control impulses, delay gratification, direct and focus attention, and regulate and modulate emotions and behaviors. Self-control is highly supported by the literature as related to workforce outcomes. In the violence prevention and psychology literature, a distinction between two important aspects of self-control is emphasized: self-control of behavior, and self-control of emotion. Self-control is key for managing impulsivity that is linked with aggression and gang membership. Of all of the youth soft skills examined, self-control had the most support of all in the violence prevention literature across outcomes and types of literature. The association between both types of self-control and youth violence prevention was also highly supported in the expert consultations.
Positive self-conceptrefers to “a realistic awareness of oneself and one’s abilities that reflects an understanding of his/her strengths and potential (and hence, is, positive)” (Lippman et al., 2015). In addition to being an important intrapersonal skill for workforce success, positive self-concept is supported by empirical evidence and experts in the field as an important skill for preventing different forms of youth violence. Positive self-concept enables youth to walk away from a fight, or successfully navigate challengingtasks and situations at work. Experts highlight that the effects of positive self-concept on violence prevention outcomes may operate through different mechanisms and may differ depending on the context.
Higher order thinkingskills include problem solving, criticalthinking, and decision making. They refer to the “ability to identify an issue and take in information from multiple sources to evaluate options in order to reach a reasonable conclusion” (Lippman et al., 2015). Higher order thinkingis sought by employers and is critical for workforce success. Higher order thinking skills also garnered considerable support from the literature as important skills in the prevention of youth violence. Important higher order thinking skills for violence prevention often include accurately interpreting others’ behaviors and using non-aggressive problem solving strategies. When higher order thinking skills are included in studies, the findings are generally positive and consistent. However, research on discrete higher order thinking skills is not as prevalent as the research on self-control, social skills, and empathy.
Social skillsare related to getting along with others. Social skills allow youth to interact productively in social contexts and to respond to emotions or conflict in socially appropriate, non-aggressive ways. Social skills can be generally conceptualized as the ability to interact positively and pro-socially with others. Social skills predict workforce outcomes and are highly sought by employers. In the violence prevention literature, social skills are operationalized as including “interpersonal skills,” the ability to take prosocial approaches to conflicts, engaging positively with others, and the positive attribution of others’ intentions. The evidence for a link between youth’ssocial skills and violence prevention outcomesin the literature is strong and appears consistently across all categories of outcomes and contexts. Researchersand practitioners also endorsed social skills as essential for youth violence prevention.
Communicationrefers to one’s ability to effectively express and understand knowledge and ideas. Modes of communication include listening, verbal, non-verbal, and written communication. Communication skills are related to workforce outcomes and are the most frequently sought skill among employers. Within the SRH literature, a distinction between twoaspects of communication is evident: communication with parents and communication with partners. Between partners, communication related to sexual behavior often takes the form of negotiating sexual initiation and use of contraception, including condoms. There isstrongevidence that communication skills are positively related to SRH outcomes.
Empathyrefers to “the affective and cognitive ability to feel and understand what someoneelse is feeling” (Lippman et al., 2014a).Some violence prevention literature distinguishes types of empathy, with “cognitive empathy” referring to one’s ability to cognitively take another’s perspective and identify their state of mind, while “affective empathy” refers to the ability to share in another’s emotional state (Caravita, di Blasio, andSalmivalli, 2008). Across the literature reviewed, there is more evidence linking affective empathy with violence prevention outcomes in youth than cognitive empathy.
Goal orientationis defined as the motivation and ability to make viable plans and take action toward desired goals (Lippman et al., 2014a). Goal orientation was conceptualized in the workforce and SRH literature as educational and career aspirations, expectations about one’s ability to achieve specific accomplishments in the future, goal setting and planning skills. Goal orientation is closely tied with positive self-concept, since it relates to individuals’ beliefs about their abilities to accomplish specific goals. Goal-orientation was supported by the literature as related to three of the SRH outcomes studied for youth and was endorsed by some experts.
Responsibility is defined as “1) one’s ability to understand their role (in a particular context, i.e., home, school, workplace, relationship) and reliably accomplish tasks associated with this role ... and 2) one’s belief that their choices and actions can influence the events in their life and lead to positive outcomes” (Lippman et al., 2015, “Appendices,” p. 104). The violence prevention and SRH literatures emphasize the latter aspect.