The Developmental Science of Adolescence: History Through Autobiography
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Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson. Liberty: Thriving and civic engagement among America's youth. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology 2nd ed. New York: Wiley. Applying developmental science for youth and families: Historical and theoretical foundations. Volume 1 of Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs.
Editors: Richard M. Lerner, Francine Jacobs, and Donald Wertlieb. Developmental psychology. Pathways to positive development among diverse youth.
Reflections on Six Decades of Research on Adolescent Behavior and Development
New directions for youth development: Theory, practice, and research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Concepts and theories of human development 3rd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. You are here Home. Richard M. Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science. Phone Email richard. Developmental Science. Research Interests:. Selected Honors and Awards:. On balance, however, developmental behavioral science can be seen in retrospect as having evolved in a decidedly positive direction.
Clearly, it has yielded a firmer grasp on adolescent behavior and development. A recent experience of having to organize the body of my work on adolescent behavior and development since the late s Jessor , a , b stimulated some overall impressions about the burgeoning field of developmental behavioral science Jessor This account of those impressions—about my own work as well as the work of other scholars—while not exhaustive by any means, takes note of several salutary trends, calls attention to a few important shortcomings, and engages with some current issues in the field.
In regard to salutary trends, an overriding impression is that the field has, indeed, become more truly developmental , relying far more on time-extended or longitudinal designs than was the practice early on. This greater reliance on studying how the same young people grow and change over time has replaced an earlier reliance on inferring growth and change from differences between age cohorts.
In addition to the greater developmental attention to intra-individual change, there has been increased attention to assessing concomitant change in the predictors or co-variates of that intra-individual change over the same time segment Jessor and Jessor That is to say, there is increased awareness that a more compelling understanding of developmental change requires simultaneously demonstrating theoretically-consonant or theoretically-parallel change in its determinants as well.
Another important trend in the field of developmental behavioral science is that it has become increasingly inter-or trans-disciplinary. Notable also as an important trend has been the enlargement in developmental research of what constitutes a satisfactory explanatory objective.
In contrast to earlier studies that sought to predict or explain single behaviors e. Reliance in developmental research on single concepts, whether behaviors or beliefs or attitudes or contexts, can be expected to yield only highly constrained, even impoverished, understanding of individuality and of individual development. Concern with social problems in adolescence and youth, such as drug use, violence, obesity, poverty, etc. This invigorated problem focus has been another important contribution to developmental behavioral science. This recognition has transformed what previously had been specializations by developmental scholars in particular problem behaviors, e.
Another salutary trend has been the growing recognition that a commitment to understanding adolescent problem behavior is not incompatible with a concern for understanding positive youth development but, indeed, is essential to the latter. Initially presented as an antidote to a perceived over-emphasis on problem behavior in adolescence, the positive youth development movement sought to counter by emphasizing, instead, adolescent strengths and assets.
An unfortunate antinomy was established, thereby, between research on adolescent problem behavior and research on adolescent assets. That oppositional division was unhelpful in that it could yield only a partial understanding of adolescence and adolescent development; after all, problems and assets co-exist in every adolescent, and to privilege one at the expense of the other is to compromise a broader understanding.
Recently there have been signs of a growing reconciliation between the two research constituencies and a mutual recognition that a firm grasp on adolescence and youth requires attention to both problems and assets—and to how they relate—and that comprehensive interventions designed to prevent the former and promote the latter require strategies tailored to each Jessor and Turbin With regard to method, the long-term, seemingly intractable opposition between quantitative and qualitative approaches to research appears to have been tempered or mitigated in recent decades, and research projects are increasingly employing both methods.
A salutary outcome of the openness of the post-positivist era in social inquiry, it reflects a growing recognition of the compelling logic of methodological pluralism and of reliance on mixed methods and on their convergence. In a relevant volume Jessor et al. Happily, we are now past the time of awarding honorific status to particular methods, whether qualitative or quantitative, and increasingly see methods simply as handmaidens to theory and problems. Lastly, a salutary trend also worth noting is the greater interest in adolescent health and in the role that it plays in development.
There has been an assimilation of the interest in problem behaviors with an interest in health behaviors since many of what are termed problem behaviors are, at the same time, health-compromising behaviors. It has become evident that health behaviors also cluster, as do problem behaviors, and that involvements in health-promoting behaviors relate inversely to involvements in problem behavior.
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The broader rubric of behavioral health emerged some time ago e. This increased attention to the role of health in adolescent behavior and development has obvious reverberations for intervention efforts to advance positive, pro-social development more generally. With regard to shortcomings or disappointments, my overriding impression is that theory in general , and theories of the middle range Merton especially, have played only a limited role in developmental behavioral science over recent decades.
It is theory that enables generality of findings across cultures and local, national, or international settings that differ greatly at the descriptive level, and across persons who vary in age, gender, ethnicity, social status, and national origin, among other attributes. The impact of genotypic, theoretical constructs such as social support or social control, for two examples, on adolescent behavior or experience should be invariant, whether from an older sib in Chicago, or a parent in Italy, or a teacher in Iran Jessor Engaging theory in developmental research also permits the logical derivation of measures and procedures from the theory, thereby endowing them with construct validity at the outset of the research.
Greater engagement with theory, its development and application, increases the likelihood of developmental research findings that will have both generality and robustness.
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