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J Adolesc Health. 2002 Dec;31(6 Suppl):136-52.

Reasons to invest in adolescents.

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Urban Institute, Washington, DC 20037, USA.



To discuss the frequent failure of the United States (and other countries) to make the types of investment in youth that would increase the future prospects of youth from high-risk backgrounds. I argue that these investments are worth making, and describe the types of research and knowledge dissemination that will be necessary to promote such investments.


I begin with a framework for thinking about and working with adolescents. I review theories of youth development, the developmental tasks of adolescence, risk and resilience, and the strong tendency of current approaches to address single problems and symptoms rather than underlying conditions. A conceptual framework is presented that combines known elements of risk and protective factors, such as antecedents, system markers of current or potential difficulties, risk behaviors, and outcomes. I briefly review what we know about youth risk behavior and outcomes in various domains, including combined prevalence and patterning. I then examine what we know about the payoffs that we can expect from investing in activities that promote adolescent health. I end with a set of recommendations for researchers and practitioners, and discuss the information that they need to put these recommendations into practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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