Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Youth in Transition: Are They Adult Learners?

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Youth in Transition: Are They Adult Learners?

Article excerpt


Since at-risk youth are in transition to adulthood, major adult learning concepts can be applied to them. The purpose of this study was to describe the learning strategies of youth in transition to adulthood in the urban life skills program of A Pocket Full of Hope®. Both qualitative and quantitative data collecting methods were used. Assessing the Learning Strategies of AdultS (ATLAS) was also used to gather quantitative data, and individual interviews and focus groups were used to collect qualitative data. Youth in transition to adulthood in A Pocket Full of Hope® were found to have learning characteristics that were adult-like. The conclusions and recommendations related to ways of empowering students by creating learner-centered environments that will allow them to develop their full potential.


Today's adolescents face a different social reality than their parents did. Contemporary music, sexual activity, gender confusion, violence, gang participation, and risky behavior are a few examples of challenges that face today's youth (Carroll, 1999). However, when youth are given a chance to develop high self-esteem and confidence and to gain control over a portion of their lives, they are better able to negotiate the turbulent path from childhood to adulthood. Education and training in life skills through school peer mediation, peer tutoring, and peer facilitation can empower these individuals to approach learning with new strategies in this transition stage of their lives. Adult learning concepts support this approach to learning.

These youth are at-risk because of various societal factors. At-risk factors include chemical dependence, teenage pregnancy, poverty, disaffection with school and society, high mobility families, emotional and physical abuse, physical and emotional disabilities, and learning disabilities that do not qualify students for special education but nevertheless impede their progress (Capuzzi & Gross, 2000). Factors such as these cannot only cause school problem but can also lead to problems with the judicial system.

The statistics associated with being at-risk are staggering (Bennett, 1999). The percentage of births to unmarried mothers among at-risk Blacks increased 200% between 1960 and 1997. Currently, more than two-thirds of all Black children are bom out of wedlock. In 1997, 69.2% of births to Black mothers, 40.9% of births to Hispanic mothers, and 25.8% of births to White mothers were to unmarried women. The rate continues to rise with 40.7% of all 2012 births out-ofwedlock and with the out-of-wedlock rate highest among minorities: non-Hispanic blacks-72.2%, American Indians/Alaska Natives-66.9%, Hispanics-53.5%, non-Hispanics whites-29.4% , and Asians/Pacific Islanders-17.1% (Hamilton, Martin, & Ventura, 2013).

In 1971, Margaret Mead concluded in her famous study Coming of Age in Samoa that adolescence characteristics are solely determined by each culture. In traditional African societies, there is no ceremony at all to mark the transition to adulthood (Fortas, 1970). They believe that adolescence is not a separate stage of life, and people of different ages are not separate from each other. The social sphere of adult and child is undivided.

However, today's African-American society is considerably different than the traditional African society. African-American females, particularly those from low socioeconomic groups, are confronted with several risk factors as they progress through adolescence into adulthood. Some challenges encountered by AfricanAmerican girls may not be experienced to the same degree by girls from other ethnic groups. African-American girls often at an early age undertake adult responsibilities such as the care of younger siblings or doing household duties (Belgrave et al, 2004; Henly,1993; Scott-Jones, Roland, & White, 1989).

Despite these challenges, African-Americans female adolescents exhibit strength and resiliency in many areas. …

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