The Evidence Portal

Youth socioemotional wellbeing: Core components

Five core components that are essential to fostering youth socioemotional wellbeing are:

  • Self-concept, self-efficacy and confidence
  • Mindfulness and self-regulation
  • Prosocial skills and relationship-building
  • Building motivation and monitoring behavioural change
  • Building knowledge and awareness for socioemotional wellbeing

In 2021, an evidence review was conducted to understand what works to foster socioemotional wellbeing in young people. 32 evidence-informed programs were identified. A content analysis identified 5 commonalities across these programs.

These five core components are the common activities across evidence-informed programs that have been shown to foster socioemotional wellbeing outcomes for young people. They make up standardised program components that can be delivered by any program for young people with the goal of promoting socioemotional wellbeing.

Who do they work for?

These core components are relevant to services working with young people aged 10-24 and aiming to foster socioemotional wellbeing.

Core Components

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Self-concept, self-efficacy[1] and confidence is achieved through positive self-identity, body image and cultural connectedness or identity. This core component aims to build self-awareness and skills critical to dealing with difficult situations, embracing connection to self and culture, and fostering autonomy and independence. It may involve skill-building in self-efficacy related skills such as refusal, assertiveness and critical thinking skills. It may also include planning for and reappraisal of situations that are likely to evoke an emotional response, and practicing creative expression in a safe and supportive space.


Flexible activities include:

There is a degree of overlap between this core component and the Mindfulness and self-regulation core component. Practitioners are advised to consider which core component is the most applicable and appropriate for their program and targeted cohort. For example, while flexible activities under the Mindfulness and self-regulation core component target body awareness and strategies for emotion and self-regulation, flexible activities under the Self-concept, self-efficacy and confidence core component hone  self-awareness and strategies for dealing with situations that are likely to evoke a negative emotional response. The focus on positive self-identity and cultural connectedness in the Self-concept, self-efficacy and confidence core component may lend itself more to programs that target a diverse cohort of young people and that aim to instil or enhance cultural connectivity.


Related core components


[1] Self-efficacy refers to subjective judgments of one’s capabilities to organise and execute courses of action to attain designated goals (Bandura, 1977, 1997).  In other words, self-efficacy relates to a person’s perception of “how well can I do something?” rather than “what am I like?”

Mindfulness and self-regulation provides strategies that enable self-regulation, stress management and emotional regulation. This core component aims to hone body awareness and strategies for calming the body, managing emotions and relieving stress. It may involve self-reflection exercises such as journaling. It may also include physical activities such as yoga, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises.


Flexible activities include:

Trained facilitators are required to deliver yoga, muscle relaxation, mindfulness and breathing exercises. These flexible activities are able to be delivered in-person in one-to-one sessions or in group sessions. 


Related core components

Prosocial skills and relationship-building aims to build social skills required to positively interact with peers and community members through fostering communication and engaged learning with others. It may involve peer learning and support activities where young people learn with their peers. It may also include engagement with community and skill-building critical to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.


Flexible activities include:

Engaging with others is key to this core component. Consequently, all of these flexible activities are best delivered in group settings, and in-person. Community engagement activities can include referrals to community services, facilitation of a program component by community members, leaders or local professionals, and/or community service projects wherein young people give back to the local community, or contribute to the community.


Related core components

Building motivation and monitoring behavioural change aims to motivate a behavioural change or attitude and/or monitor and document behavioural changes over time. This core component can be used to encourage young people to consider and change otherwise risky behavioural choices, or to plan to make healthy choices that promote their socioemotional wellbeing. It may involve initial screening or personalised assessment to inform a tailored response to the individual young person. It may also include generic or personalised feedback that reinforces the behavioural change.


Flexible activities include:

Personalised assessments, screening, feedback and monitoring can all be delivered in a number of ways including online via web platforms, digitally via text messages, or in-person. Use of monitoring or tracking in conjunction with reinforcement or booster messages can allow for personalised feedback and reinforcement informed by the young person’s self-reported progress.


Related core components

Building knowledge and awareness for socioemotional wellbeing focuses on structured or unstructured learning and development activities that underpin the other core components. Many of the behavioural change, mindfulness, self-regulation, cognitive planning and reappraisal, and prosocial skill-building activities are enhanced by an introductory learning session that focuses on the underlying theory or logic that inform these program components and their effectiveness for fostering socioemotional wellbeing. It may involve learning about meta-cognition and the importance of understanding about interactions between behaviours, thoughts and emotions. It may also include learning about, and being able to critically consider, social norms.


Flexible activities include:

This core component and its flexible activities are able to be delivered in a number of ways. These include structured or unstructured learning, multimedia or social media platforms, interactive sessions, review sessions and through home-learning, homework and at-home practice.


Related core components


To learn more about core components see: How do core components work?

What should you consider when working with Aboriginal Communities?

Research demonstrates that cultural identity and community connectedness is important for socioemotional development and wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (Dobia & Roffey, 2017; Coffin, 2019; Colquhoun & Dockery, 2012; Dudgeon et al., 2014; Ware, 2013; Ware & Meredith, 2013; Haswell-Elkins et al., 2013). Program developers should consider focusing on the physical, spiritual, cultural, social and emotional connectedness of the individual young person, their family and community during program development and delivery. Some findings from relevant grey literature results are discussed below and in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research document.[1]

A report undertaken by members of the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW, and the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, James Cook University sought to obtain a broader understanding of current knowledge around the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous youth (Haswell-Elkins et al., 2013). The project involved four components, including: a systematic review of published and grey literature up to 2010; a review of current policies at national and jurisdictional levels and programs and services addressing the socioemotional wellbeing of Indigenous youth; in-depth case studies of six programs with evidence of success and capacity to inform; and cross-case analyses identifying themes and variations across the six case studies, and a meta-synthesis generating four sets of distilled messages to advance theory and assist policy and practice (Haswell-Elkins et al., 2013, p.1).

This report found, firstly, that there is limited evidence relating to the socioemotional wellbeing of Indigenous youth and a need for further research focused on protective and risk factors. Secondly, while programs that address socioemotional wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are diverse in form, model and setting, there are a number of commonalities across successful programs. These include:

  • Addressing the upstream social determinants of socioemotional wellbeing as well as current issues;
  • Recognising and building on the strengths of Indigenous culture, community and family;
  • Paying careful attention to both content and process, and endeavouring to:
    • Deliver culturally appropriate content in a culturally appropriate way;
    • Deliver program content that is relevant to the Australian Indigenous context as well as the local Indigenous context;
    • Ensure the approach is holistic, encompassing the physical, emotional, mental, cultural and spiritual dimensions of health;
  • Programs led and developed by local people  with an impact at multiple levels:
    • This includes where the focus is the individual, e.g. by strengthening community and culture and establishing or re-establishing connections with family and country;
  • Engaging the broader community, involving Elders and older Indigenous community members as mentors and role models and drawing on relevant skills and resources from the non-Indigenous sector;
  • For programs imported from other places, these must be adapted to the local context:
    • Successful mainstream programs worked in close partnership with the local Indigenous communities and, if not Indigenous-led, placed strong emphasis on employing and empowering Indigenous staff;
    • Successful national, statewide and local programs have strong Indigenous representation on steering and/or advisory committees;
  • Building skills and qualifications for workers and considering a training component for staff in addition to building education and employment pathways for program participants;
  • Adopting a long-term perspective:
    • Programs need to operate at an age-appropriate pace and adopt methods that are not overly bureaucratic and that value the input of the local community, especially young people (Haswell-Elkins., 2013, pp. 2-3).

What else should you consider?

When using the core components and flexible activities above to design or implement a program, it must be tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of the target group.

It should be noted that many of the concepts and terminology used in the identified core components and flexible activities are directly sourced from the research evidence.  In order to accurately reflect the research findings, there have been only minimal edits to the original language used.  However, end-users should be mindful that some language and evidence may be more appropriate/relevant in overseas contexts and this should be considered when applying to the Australian context.

Australia adopts a rights-based approach[2] based on the premise that young people should be empowered to make their own decisions, with youth-led or partnership approaches a key mechanism for creating positive outcomes for young people.  While this evidence review did not specifically draw out this concept from the research literature, the core components and flexible activities identified have a direct impact on the development of young people’s personal agency.

Further resources

Coffin, J. 2019. The Nguudu Barndimanmanha Project-Improving social and emotional wellbeing in Aboriginal youth through equine assisted learning. Public Health 7, 278.

Colquhoun S & Dockery AM. 2012. The link between Indigenous culture and wellbeing: qualitative evidence for Australian Aboriginal peoples. Perth: Centre for Labour Market Research, Curtin University.

Dobia, B., Roffey, S. 2017. Respect for Culture – Social and Emotional Learning with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth. In: Frydenberg E., Martin A., Collie R. (eds.) Social and Emotional Learning in Australia and the Asia-Pacific. Springer, Singapore.

Dudgeon, P., Walker, R., Scrine, C., Shepherd, C., Calma, T., & Ring, I. 2014. Effective strategies to strengthen the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Issues Paper No. 12 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse. Canberra: Australian institute of Health and Welfare; Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Gibbs, J. 2006. Tribes: A new way of learning and being together. Windsor CA: CenterSource Systems.

Haswell-Elkins, M., Blignault, I., Fitzpatrick, S., & Jackson Pulver, L. 2013. The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous Youth: Reviewing and Extending the Evidence and Examining its Implications for Policy and Practice, accessed from

SHRG (Social Health Reference Group) 2004. A National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional requires 2004–2009. Prepared for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council & National Mental Health Working Group. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

Tomyn AJ, Norrish JM & Cummins RA. 2013. The subjective wellbeing of Indigenous Australian adolescents: validating the Personal Wellbeing Index-School Children. Social Indicators Research 110(3):1013–31.

Ware, V. 2013. Mentoring programs for Indigenous youth at risk. Resource Sheet No. 22 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health & Welfare; Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Ware, V., & Meredith, V. 2013. Supporting healthy communities through sports and recreation programs. Resource Sheet No. 26 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health & Welfare; Australian Institute of Family Studies.

[1] The database searches yielded five results pertaining to the socioemotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. These did not meet the high risk of bias threshold for the review and were excluded.


Last updated:

12 Dec 2022

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