Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts

Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts

Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts

Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts

Synopsis

Adolescent researchers are increasingly aware that they must examine development both across time and across context. To do so, however, requires new conceptualizations and methodological approaches to the study of development, including attention to the pathways young people choose in adolescence and follow into adulthood. This volume assembles work by key researchers in the field who are struggling to understand how developmental trajectories are constructed and maintained throughout the adolescent period.

A complete understanding of developmental pathways requires the recognition that adolescents' social contexts--family, school, neighborhood, and/or peer group--are important influences on the choices they make at this developmental period. Researchers have traditionally studied contexts in isolation rather than examining the interrelationships among contexts and their implications for adolescent development. The present volume seeks to address this gap in the literature, with attention given not only to the interrelationships among contexts for white, middle-class youth, but also to these issues for minority adolescents in neighborhoods that vary in terms of access to resources. It concludes with an examination of researcher-community collaboration as a strategy to move communities toward a greater awareness of adolescent development and the problems facing youth in their community, and as a means to promote potential avenues for policy change and intervention.

Excerpt

Anne C. Petersen University of Minnesota

This volume documents the rapid growth of adolescence research. Like young adolescents when they experience their growth spurt, the field has quickly begun to examine identified gaps. This volume presents initial models and theories, as well as some results on the nature of social contexts, and their effects on adolescent development, thus providing an important start to understanding how contexts interact with individuals in shaping development. Similarly, models, theories, and results about influences on continuity and change presented in the volume advance our understanding of how developmental processes work. The volume thereby leads the field into important frontiers, with some of the contributors breaking new, exciting ground.

A continuing challenge to the field is that presented by the PRIDE effort at Penn State and stimulated by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. As we develop scientific agendas, it is important to also consider societal needs. Adolescence has become more risky for some young people in current developed societies. Although youth in these countries are less likely to die of starvation or disease than in earlier times, relative societal affluence has not protected them from such ravages as drugs, violence, or hopelessness. It is important to understand the effects of contexts and the processes of development. Doing so will improve the contexts and developmental pathways through them, increasing the likelihood that young people reach adulthood as healthy human beings who are effective in adult roles such as citizen, worker, and parent. Will at least some of our research provide information useful to policymakers and program developers interested in these goals? This is the question we should regularly pose.

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