Module 6

Qualities and Needs of Adolescents and At-Risk Youth


  • List the needs of adolescents.
  • Review testimony about how the Challenge program addressed the needs of at-risk youth.


According to Larry Brendtro, an expert on at-risk youth, young people have four basic needs, in addition to physical needs. They are:

  1. Belonging – The need to be accepted and loved by others, rather than be alienated from them. Youth seek to gain the acceptance, attention, and affection of others.
  2. Mastery – The need to be good at something, rather than stay caught in a cycle of failure. Youth seek to master their environment and achieve their goals.
  3. Independence – The need to gain control of one’s destiny, rather than be at the mercy of others. Youth seek to control their world and gain the respect of others.
  4. Generosity – The need to give to others, rather than to be always receiving. Youth need to be needed in the lives of others, to contribute to someone else’s life and to be worth something to that person or culture.

Beneath all four needs lies the search for meaning. Youth strive to meet their basic needs because they want their lives to have meaning and importance. The drive to meet these needs becomes even more urgent when environment is unsafe or inadequate.