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Adolescence in the Twenty-First Century

March 14, 2013

Another really interesting article… Crosnoe and Johnson introduce their overview of ‘Adolescence in the Twenty-First Century’ by writing:

First coined by Hall (1904) only a century ago, adolescence was “created” by the convergence of multiple trends, including labor and schooling laws, that extended dependency beyond childhood and delayed entry into adult roles (Modell & Goodman 1990). Adolescence as a period of dependency and preparation for adulthood has since been reinforced through more recent social changes, including economic restructuring and changing cultural norms about parenting (Goldin & Katz 2008, Settersten et al. 2005). Research on adolescence has also changed dramatically. This review discusses recent developments in this literature, being cognizant of their historical underpinnings while focusing on the future. Given our background in the life course tradition, as well as the inherent importance of transitions, trajectories, and context to understanding this life stage, we use a life course framework to organize our review. Owing to space constraints, we focus primarily on American adolescents.” (p.440)

In their summary of points made in this article (p.454), Crosnoe and Johnson write:

“1. Research on adolescence has moved in a sociological direction by emphasizing the role of context in shaping adolescents’ lives and the link between adolescent development and societal inequality, fueled in part by recent advances in data collection and methodology.

2. Early childhood experiences are very important to long-term health, educational, and behavioral trajectories, but adolescent experiences play key roles in this process by magnifying or deflecting children’s trajectories.

3. Many of the major developmental trajectories of adolescence, including those related to puberty, risky behavior, academic achievement, health, and identity development, reflect a complex interplay of biology, personal agency, and environment.

4. Adolescents’ navigation of institutional systems, such as school and work, have become increasingly complex and interrelated, with high school coursework more consequential to long-term outcomes in the globalized economy and paid work during adolescence becoming more common and potentially either risky or beneficial for educational attainment depending on motivation, background, and academic competence.

5. Adolescents tend to spend less time with parents and other relatives and seek moreautonomy while becoming more immersed in expanding peer networks, including romantic networks, but they typically do so while maintaining strong emotional ties to their families.

6. Although much of the research on school and neighborhood effects on adolescent behavior has focused on the structural features of these contexts, more attention is being paid to the ways in which they organize peer groups that differ widely in terms of norms, values, and behavioral opportunities, as well as the ways families affect and respond within them.

7. Gender, race, social class, and immigration stratify adolescents’ lives, with poor and/or minority youth particularly vulnerable in the educational system, through a variety of structural inequalities and interpersonal processes, but immigrant youth often demonstrate a high level of resilience in the face of similar risks.” (p.454)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Robert Crosnoe and Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson (2011) Research on Adolescence in the Twenty-First Century. Annual Review of Sociology 37:439–60

Abstract: “Recent methodological advances have allowed empirical research on adolescence to do better justice to theoretical models. Organized by a life course framework, this review covers the state of contemporary research on adolescents’ physical, psychological, interpersonal, and institutional pathways; how these pathways connect within primary ecological contexts; and how they relate to broader patterns of societal stratification and historical change. Looking forward, it also emphasizes three future challenges/opportunities, including efforts to illuminate biosocial processes, link adolescence to other life stages, and account for the influence of major social changes (e.g., the new media).” (p.439)

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