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Adolescence—beginning with the onset of puberty and ending in the mid-20s—is a critical period of development during which key areas of the brain mature and develop. These changes in brain structure, function, and connectivity mark adolescence as a period of opportunity to discover new vistas, to form relationships with peers and adults, and to explore one's developing identity. It is also a period of resilience that can ameliorate childhood setbacks and set the stage for a thriving trajectory over the life course.

Because adolescents comprise nearly one-fourth of the entire U.S. population, the nation needs policies and practices that will better leverage these developmental opportunities to harness the promise of adolescence—rather than focusing myopically on containing its risks. This report examines the neurobiological and socio-behavioral science of adolescent development and outlines how this knowledge can be applied, both to promote adolescent well-being, resilience, and development, and to rectify structural barriers and inequalities in opportunity, enabling all adolescents to flourish.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780309490085
Publisher: National Academies Press
Publication date: 08/26/2019
Pages: 492
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Table of Contents

Summary 1

Part I Adolescence As A Period Of Opportunity

1 Introduction 17

Study Charge and Approach 19

History of Adolescence 24

Contemporary Adolescents 26

The Promise of Adolescence 32

The Political Challenge 32

Study Methods 33

Organization of the Report 34

2 Adolescent Development 37

Puberty 38

Neurobiological Development 46

Psychosocial Development in Adolescence 59

Conclusion 75

3 How Environment "Gets Under the Skin": The Continuous Interplay Between Biology and Environment 77

Understanding Epigenetics 78

Reciprocal Interactions Between Brain, Body, and Environment 84

Ameliorating Early Life Adversities in Adolescence 91

Conclusion 93

4 Inequity and Adolescence 95

Disparities in Adolescent Outcomes 97

Sources of Disparities: Inequality of Opportunity 116

Achieving Equity for Adolescents 137

Conclusion 144

Part II Using Developmental Knowledge to Assure Opportunity for All Youth

5 Introduction 149

Growing System Complexity 150

Parents and Caregivers 152

Faith-based Institutions 155

Envisioning Developmentally Informed Youth-Serving Systems 157

6 Education 159

Societal Changes 162

Improved Understanding of Adolescence 166

Creating the Education Sector of the Future 171

Recommendations 197

7 Health System 209

The Vision: Seamless Access to Adolescent-Friendly Health Services 210

Sexual and Reproductive Health Care 216

Behavioral Health Care 221

Confidentiality and Parental Consent Requirements 231

Adolescent Health Care Workforce 236

Meeting Adolescents Where They Are: Services in Nonclinical Settings 237

Recommendations 242

8 Child Welfare System 257

Child Maltreatment and the Adolescent Brain 259

Introduction to the Child Welfare System 261

Aligning the Child Welfare System with the Needs of Adolescents 266

Developmental Research on Adolescents in the Child Welfare System: Challenges and Promising Solutions 274

Flourishing for Child Welfare-Involved Adolescents 285

Recommendations 286

9 Justice System 295

Developmentally Informed Juvenile Justice: Progress Report 297

Reducing Radical Disparities 307

Opportunities for Continued Juvenile Justice Reforms 313

A Developmentally Informed Criminal Justice System 330

Opportunities for Cross-System Collaboration 336

Recommendations 340

10 The Scientific Opportunity 347

Data Limitations 348

Recommendations for Future Research 350

Investments in Research on Adolescence 354

Conclusion 355

References 357


A Assessing the Evidence 445

B Youth Engagement 449

C Biosketches of Committee Members and Staff 459

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