Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Book Reviews -- Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings from the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Book Reviews -- Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings from the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Article excerpt

Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, The National Research Council, Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 1993. ISBN 0-309-04828-1. $29.95 paper.

Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings is the report of a 3-year study conducted by the Panel on High-Risk Youth of the National Research Council. The report contends that past studies have ignored the critical influences of social and physical context in explaining why so many adolescents behave in ways that result in criminality, poor education outcomes, dysfunctional family lives, and threatened health and well-being. The following chapters are included as representative of institutions where critical adolescent behaviors are shaped: families, neighborhoods, the health care system, schools, the criminal justice system, and the child welfare system.

The authors admit that they did not attempt to reach a consensus about solutions to problems facing adolescents. Rather, their goal was to focus attention on factors outside the individual--such as poor schools, single-parent families, and poverty--that influence development. Much of the report contains demographic and social data that document the growing risks faced by adolescents in these settings.

The overriding cause of the decline in the quality of institutions in which adolescents interact, according to the report, is decreased family income. The authors state that improving the economic position of large numbers of families should be the first priority. Related to this economic factor are increased numbers of female-headed households, inadequate health insurance, ineffective and poorly funded schools, deteriorating inner city neighborhoods, and so forth. The authors of this report do a noteworthy job of documenting how the specific effects of the labor market, employment, and family income influence the well-being of adolescents.

Practitioners, policy makers, and service providers may criticize this report for (a) not providing concrete solutions to the identified problems, (b) not addressing how such solutions would be financed, and (c) not contributing anything beyond what has already been documented repeatedly about high-risk youth. …

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