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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
developmental appropriateness of the each of the social settings encountered by young people as they pass through adolescence.
With rapid change of course comes a heightened potential for both positive and negative outcomes. Although most individuals pass through this developmental period without excessively high levels of storm and stress, a substantial number do experience difficulty (see Chapter 1). Involvement with criminal and antisocial behavior accelerates dramatically between the ages of 10 and 15, as does drug and alcohol use and sexual interactions (see Cicchetti and Toth, 1996; Eccles et al., 1996a; Moffitt, 1993; Steinberg and Morris, 2001). The incidence of mental health problems and more general alienation also increases, particularly in modern, postindustrialized societies (Giddens, 1990; Eccles et al., 1996a; Rutter and Smith, 1995). Finally, rates of school disengagement and school failure in the United States increase (see Eccles et al., 1998, for a review). Many of these changes begin during the earliest years of adolescent development—between the ages of 10 and 14. In turn, these early changes set in motion problems that can culminate in subsequent school failure, high school dropout, incarceration, and teen pregnancy— any one of which can have serious consequences for young people’s future (Jessor et al., 1991; Sampson and Laub, 1995).
With specific regard to the developmental tasks of adolescence outlined above, there are several concrete risks. First, renegotiation of the relationship with one’s parents can be so turbulent that a permanent rift and alienation between youth and their families emerges. Second, adolescents can get so caught up with a deviant peer group and its behaviors and values that they get involved in behaviors and circumstances that seriously endanger their ability to make a successful transition into mainstream adulthood. Third, adolescents can fail to make social connections with the kinds of adults and social institution that can help them make the transition into mainstream adulthood. Fourth, educational opportunities can be so limited that some adolescents fail to acquire the intellectual and soft skills needed to move successfully into the labor market. Fifth, experiences with civic engagement and social institutions can be so minimal or so poorly designed that some adolescents fail to develop either the will or the skills necessary to participate fully as adult community members. Finally, experiences of racism, prejudice, and cultural intolerance can so alienate some adolescents that they withdraw from or rebel against, mainstream society and conventional social institutions.
Community programs for youth have the potential to play a critical role during this developmental period. Evidence from several sources