Social Context and Adolescence: Perspectives on Development Among Inner-City African-American Teens
Linda M. Burton Kevin W. Allison Dawn Obeidallah The Pennsylvania State University
The study of development among adolescents has been a topic of interest to social scientists for over half a century ( Adelson, 1986; Coleman, 1961; Feldman & Elliott, 1990; Hoffman, 1980; Modell, 1989; Petersen, 1988). Although this interest has generated a rich theoretical and empirical knowledge base on the biological, social, psychological, and moral development of White middle-class adolescents, issues concerning the influence of social context on the developmental experiences of ethnic/racial minority or economically disadvantaged teens are rarely addressed ( Holliday, 1989; Jarrett, 1990; Seidman, 1991; Spencer & Dornbusch, 1990). For example, a systematic exploration of what constitutes normal development among inner-city, economically disadvantaged, ethnic/racial minority teens has yet to appear in the adolescent development literature ( Bell-Scott & Taylor, 1989; Feldman & Elliott, 1990; Gibbs, 1985; McLoyd, 1990; Spencer, 1990). The lack of systematic conceptual and empirical explorations of social context and development among ethnic/racial minority and economically disadvantaged teens raises serious questions concerning the applicability of mainstream developmental models to the study of their life course ( Murray, Smith, & West, 1989). Is adolescence a clearly delineated developmental stage among ethnic/racial minority and economically disadvantaged teens? What are the parameters of development among these adolescents? How does social context influence the developmental experiences of poor African-American, Hispanic, Native-American, Asian-American, or White adolescents?