Socioemotional Development in Adolescence

By Santrock, J.W.

Edited by Paul Ducham


Self-esteem is the overall way we evaluate ourselves. Controversy characterizes the extent to which self-esteem changes during adolescence and whether there are gender differences in adolescents’ self-esteem (Harter, 2006). In one study, both boys and girls had particularly high self-esteem in childhood, but their self-esteem dropped considerably during adolescence (Robins & others, 2002). The self-esteem of girls declined more than the self-esteem of boys during adolescence in this study.
Does self-esteem in adolescence foreshadow adjustment and competence in adulthood? A New Zealand longitudinal study assessed the self-esteem of adolescents at 11, 13, and 15 years of age and then assessed the adjustment and competence of the same individuals when they were 26 years old (Trzesniewski & others, 2006). The results revealed that adults with poorer mental and physical health, worse economic prospects, and higher levels of criminal behavior were more likely to have had low self-esteem in adolescence than their better adjusted, more competent adult counterparts.
Some critics argue that developmental changes and gender differences in self-esteem during adolescence have been exaggerated (Harter, 2006). Despite the differing results and interpretations, the self-esteem of girls is likely to decline at least somewhat during early adolescence.
Why would the self-esteem of girls decline during early adolescence? One explanation points to girls’ negative body images during pubertal change. Another explanation involves the greater interest young adolescent girls take in social relationships and society’s failure to reward that interest (Impett & others, 2008).
Self-esteem reflects perceptions that do not always match reality (Krueger, Vohs, & Baumeister, 2008). An adolescent’s self-esteem might indicate a perception about whether he or she is intelligent and attractive, for example, but that perception may not be accurate. Thus, high self-esteem may refer to accurate, justified perceptions of one’s worth as a person and one’s successes and accomplishments, but it can also indicate an arrogant, grandiose, unwarranted sense of superiority over others. In the same manner, low self-esteem may suggest either an accurate perception of one’s shortcomings or a distorted, even pathological insecurity and inferiority.
Narcissism refers to a self-centered and self-concerned approach toward others. Typically, narcissists are unaware of their actual self and how others perceive them. ThIs lack of awareness contributes to their adjustment problems. Narcissists are excessively self-centered and selfcongratulatory, viewing their own needs and desires as paramount.
Are today’s adolescents and emerging adults more self-centered and narcissistic than their counterparts in earlier generations? Research by Jean Twenge and her colleagues (2008a, b) indicated that compared with Baby Boomers who were surveyed in 1975, twelfth-graders surveyed in 2006 were more self-satisfied overall and far more confident that they would be very good employees, mates, and parents. However, other recent large-scale analyses have revealed no increase in high school and college students’ narcissism from the 1980s through the first generation of the twenty-first century (Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010; Trzesniewski & Donnellan, 2010; Trzesniewski, Donnellan, & Robins, 2008a, b).
In one recent analysis, age changes in narcissism were much stronger than generation changes (Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010). In this study, across three generations, college students were the most narcissistic, followed by their parents, and then students’ grandparents were the least narcissistic. These researchers say that is more accurate to label today’s adolescents and emerging adults developmental me rather than generational me.


Identity is a self-portrait composed of many pieces, including these:
• The career and work path the person wants to follow (vocational/career identity)
• Whether the person is conservative, liberal, or middle-of-the-road (political identity)
• The person’s spiritual beliefs (religious identity)
• Whether the person is single, married, divorced, and so on (relationship identity)
• The extent to which the person is motivated to achieve and is intellectually oriented (achievement, intellectual identity)
• Whether the person is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual (sexual identity)
• Which part of the world or country a person is from and how intensely the person identifies with his or her cultural heritage (cultural/ethnic identity)
• The kind of things a person likes to do, which can include sports, music, hobbies, and so on (interests)
• The individual’s personality characteristics, such as being introverted or extroverted, anxious or calm, friendly or hostile, and so on (personality)
• The individual’s body image (physical identity)
Synthesizing the identity components can be a long and drawn-out process, with many negations and affirmations of various roles and faces (Kroger, 2012). Identity development gets done in bits and pieces. Decisions are not made once and for all, but have to be made again and again. Identity development does not happen neatly, and it does not happen cataclysmically (Duriez & others, 2012; Schwartz & others, 2011, 2013).


It was Erik Erikson (1950, 1968) who first understood how central questions about identity are to understanding adolescent development.
Erikson’s fifth developmental stage, which individuals experience during adolescence, is identity versus identity confusion. During this time, said Erikson, adolescents are faced with deciding who they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life.
The search for an identity during adolescence is aided by a psychosocial moratorium, which is Erikson’s term for the gap between childhood security and adult autonomy. During this period, society leaves adolescents relatively free of responsibilities and able to try out different identities. Adolescents experiment with different roles and personalities. They may want to pursue one career one month (lawyer, for example) and another career the next month (doctor, actor, teacher, social worker, or astronaut, for example). They may dress neatly one day, sloppily the next. This experimentation is a deliberate effort on the part of adolescents to find out where they fit in the world. Most adolescents eventually discard undesirable roles.
Youth who successfully cope with conflicting identities emerge with a new sense of self that is both refreshing and acceptable. Adolescents who do not successfully resolve this identity crisis suffer what Erikson calls identity confusion. The confusion takes one of two courses: Individuals withdraw, isolating themselves from peers and family, or they immerse themselves in the world of peers and lose their identity in the crowd.


Although questions about identity may be especially important during adolescence, identity formation neither begins nor ends during these years. What is important about identity development in adolescence, especially late adolescence, is that for the first time, physical development, cognitive development, and socioemotional development advance to the point at which the individual can sort through and synthesize childhood identities and identifications to construct a viable path toward adult maturity.
How do individual adolescents go about the process of forming an identity? Eriksonian researcher James Marcia (1980, 1994) reasons that Erikson’s theory of identity development contains four statuses of identity, or ways of resolving the identity crisis: identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, and identity achievement. What determines an individual’s identity status? Marcia classifies individuals based on the existence or extent of their crisis or commitment (see Figure 12.1). Crisis is defined as a period of identity development during which the individual is exploring alternatives. Most researchers use the term exploration rather than crisis. Commitment is personal investment in identity.
The four statuses of identity are described below:
Identity diffusion is the status of individuals who have not yet experienced a crisis or made any commitments. Not only are they undecided about occupational and ideological choices, they are also likely to show little interest in such matters.
Identity foreclosure is the status of individuals who have made a commitment but not experienced a crisis. This occurs most often when parents hand down commitments to their adolescents, usually in an authoritarian way, before adolescents have had a chance to explore different approaches, ideologies, and vocations on their own.
Identity moratorium is the status of individuals who are in the midst of a crisis but whose commitments are either absent or are only vaguely defined.
Identity achievement is the status of individuals who have undergone a crisis and made a commitment. Earlier in this article,  we described a number of dimensions of identity. To explore your identity status on a number of dimensions, see Figure 12.1.



A recent study found that as individuals matured from early adolescence to emerging adulthood, they increasingly pursued in-depth exploration of their identity (Klimstra & others, 2010). And a recent meta-analysis of 124 studies by Jane Kroger and her colleagues (2010) revealed that during adolescence and emerging adulthood, identity moratorium status rose steadily to age 19 and then declined; identity achievement rose across late adolescence and emerging adulthood; and foreclosure and diffusion statuses declined across the high school years but fluctuated in the late teens and emerging adulthood. The studies also found that a large portion of individuals were not identity achieved by the time they reached their twenties.
Indeed, a consensus is developing that the key changes in identity are more likely to take place in emerging adulthood (18 to 25 years of age) or later than during adolescence (Moshman, 2011; Schwartz & others, 2013; Syed, 2010, 2013). For example, Alan Waterman (1985, 1999) has found that from the years preceding high school through the last few years of college, the number of individuals who are identity achieved increases, while the number who are identity diffused decreases. College upperclassmen are more likely to be identity achieved than college freshmen or high school students. Many young adolescents, on the other hand, are identity diffused. These developmental changes are especially true for vocational choice. In terms of religious beliefs and political ideology, fewer college students reach the identityachieved status; a substantial number are characterized by foreclosure and diffusion. Thus, the timing of identity development may depend on the particular dimension.
Why might college produce some key changes in identity? Increased complexity in the reasoning skills of college students combined with a wide range of new experiences that highlight contrasts between home and college and between themselves and others stimulates them to reach a higher level of integrating various dimensions of their identity (Phinney, 2008).
Resolution of the identity issue during adolescence and emerging adulthood does not mean that identity will be stable throughout the remainder of life. Many individuals who develop positive identities follow what are called “MAMA” cycles; that is, their identity status changes from moratorium to achievement to moratorium to achievement (Marcia, 1994). These cycles may be repeated throughout life (Francis, Fraser, & Marcia, 1989). Marcia (2002) points out that the first identity is just that—it is not, and should not be expected to be, the final product.


Throughout the world, ethnic minority groups have struggled to maintain their ethnic identities while blending in with the dominant culture (Erikson, 1968). Ethnic identity is an enduring aspect of the self that includes a sense of membership in an ethnic group, along with the attitudes and feelings related to that membership (Hudley & Irving, 2012). Most adolescents from ethnic minority groups develop a bicultural identity. That is, they identify in some ways with their ethnic group and in other ways with the majority culture.
For ethnic minority individuals, adolescence and emerging adulthood are often special junctures in their development (Syed, 2010, 2013). Although children are aware of some ethnic and cultural differences, individuals consciously confront their ethnicity for the first time in adolescence or emerging adulthood. Unlike children, adolescents and emerging adults have the ability to interpret ethnic and cultural information, to reflect on the past, and to speculate about the future. With their advancing cognitive skills of abstract thinking and self-reflection, adolescents (especially older adolescents) increasingly consider the meaning of their ethnicity and also have more ethnic-related experiences (O’Hara & others, 2012; Seaton & others, 2011). Because adolescents are more mobile and independent from their parents, they are more likely to experience ethnic stereotyping and discrimination as they interact with diverse individuals in school contexts and other public settings (Brody, Kogan, & Chen, 2012; Potochnick, Perreira, & Fuligni, 2012). Researchers have found that many ethnic minority groups experience stereotyping and discrimination, including African American, Latino, and Asian American adolescents (Hughes, Way, and Rivas-Drake, 2011; Roberts & others, 2012; Umana Taylor & others, 2012).
The indicators of identity change oft en differ for each succeeding generation (Phinney & Ong, 2007). First-generation immigrants are likely to be secure in their identities and unlikely to change much; they may or may not develop a new identity. The degree to which they begin to feel “American” appears to be related to whether or not they learn English, develop social networks beyond their ethnic group, and become culturally competent in their new country. Second-generation immigrants are more likely to think of themselves as “American,” possibly because citizenship is granted at birth. Their ethnic identity is likely to be linked to retention of their ethnic language and social networks. In the third and later generations, the issues become more complex. Historical, contextual, and political factors that are unrelated to acculturation may affect the extent to which members of this generation retain their ethnic identities. For non-European ethnic groups, racism and discrimination influence whether ethnic identity is retained.
Researchers are also increasingly finding that a positive ethnic identity is related to positive outcomes for ethnic minority adolescents (Umana-Taylor, Updegraff, & Gonzales-Bracken, 2011). A recent study revealed that a positive ethnic identity helped to buffer some of the negative effects of discrimination experienced by Mexican American adolescents (Umana-Taylor & others, 2012). Another study indicated that Navajo adolescents’ positive ethnic heritage was linked to higher self-esteem, school connectedness, and social functioning (Jones & Galliher, 2007).


Identity development becomes a central focus during adolescence and emerging adulthood (Schwartz & others, 2013; Syed, 2013). As part of their search for identity, adolescents and emerging adults begin to grapple in more sophisticated, logical ways with such questions as “Why am I on this planet?” “Is there really a God or higher spiritual being, or have I just been believing what my parents and the church imprinted in my mind?” “What really are my religious views?”
A recent study of Latino, African American, Asian, and non-Latino White adolescents revealed that their religious identity remained stable across high school grades but that religious participation declined (Lopez, Huynh, & Fuligni, 2011). In this study, Latino and Asian adolescents had the highest levels of religious identity, while Latino adolescents had the highest level of religious participation.


Many of the cognitive changes thought to influence religious development involve Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory. More so than in childhood, adolescents think abstractly, idealistically, and logically. The increase in abstract thinking lets adolescents consider various ideas about religious and spiritual concepts. For example, an adolescent might ask how a loving God can possibly exist given the extensive suffering of many people in the world (Good & Willoughby, 2008). Adolescents’ increased idealistic thinking provides a foundation for thinking about whether religion provides the best route to a better world. And adolescents’ increased logical reasoning gives them the ability to develop hypotheses and systematically sort through different answers to spiritual questions (Good & Willoughby, 2008).


Researchers have found that various aspects of religion are linked with positive outcomes for adolescents (Harakeh & others, 2012; Shek, 2012). A recent study revealed that parents’ religiousness during youths’ adolescence was positively related to youths’ own religiousness during adolescence (Spilman & others, 2012). Religion plays a role in adolescents’ health and influences whether they engage in problem behaviors (King, Ramos, & Clardy, 2013). For example, in a recent national random sample of more than 2,000 11- to 18-year-olds, those who had a stronger interest in religion were less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, use marijuana, be truant from school, engage in delinquent activities, and be depressed than their low-religiosity counterparts (Sinha, Cnaan, & Gelles, 2006).
Many religious adolescents also adopt their religion’s message about caring and concern for people (Lerner & others, 2013; Saroglou, 2013; Shek, 2012). For example, in one survey religious youth were almost three times as likely to engage in community service as nonreligious youth (Youniss, McLellan, & Yates, 1999).


A key aspect of the managerial role of parenting is effective monitoring, which is especially important as children move into the adolescent years (Smetana, 2010, 2011a, b). Monitoring includes supervising adolescents’ choice of social settings, activities, and friends, as well as their academic efforts. 
A current interest involving parental monitoring focuses on adolescents’ management of their parents’ access to information, especially disclosing or concealing strategies about their activities (Amsel & Smetana, 2011; Rote & others, 2012). When parents engage in positive parenting practices, adolescents are more likely to disclose information (Rote & others, 2012). For example, disclosure increases when parents ask adolescents questions and when adolescents’ relationship with parents is characterized by a high level of trust, acceptance, and quality (Keijsers & Laird, 2010). Researchers have found that adolescents’ disclosure to parents about their whereabouts, activities, and friends is linked to positive adolescent adjustment (Laird & Marrero, 2010; Rote & others, 2012; Smetana, 2011a, b).


One of the most widely discussed aspects of socioemotional development in infancy is secure attachment to caregivers (Brisch, 2012; Easterbrooks & others, 2013; Kok & others, 2012). In the past decade, researchers have explored whether secure attachment also might be an important concept in adolescents’ relationships with their parents (Gorrese & Ruggieri, 2012; Schwarz, Stutz, & Ledermann, 2012). Researchers have found that securely attached adolescents are less likely than those who are insecurely attached to have emotional difficulties and to engage in problem behaviors such as juvenile delinquency and drug abuse (Dykes & Cassidy, 2011; Hoeve & others, 2012). In a longitudinal study, Joseph Allen and colleagues (2009) found that secure attachment at 14 years of age was linked to a number of positive outcomes at 21 years of age, including relationship competence, financial/career competence, and fewer problematic behaviors. In a recent analysis, it was concluded that the most consistent outcomes of secure attachment in adolescence involve positive peer relations and development of the adolescent’s capacity to regulate emotions (Allen & Miga, 2010).


We have seen that parents play very important roles in adolescent development (Morris, Cui, & Steinberg, 2013). Although adolescents are moving toward independence, they still need to stay connected with their family (Schwarz, Stutz, & Ledermann, 2012). For example, the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health of more than 12,000 adolescents found that those who did not eat dinner with a parent five or more days a week had dramatically higher rates of smoking, drinking, using marijuana, getting into fights, and initiating sexual activity (Council of Economic Advisors, 2000).


Although parent-adolescent conflict increases in early adolescence, it does not reach the tumultuous proportions G. Stanley Hall envisioned at the beginning of the twentieth century (Bornstein, Jager, & Steinberg, 2013). Rather, much of the conflict involves the everyday events of family life, such as keeping a bedroom clean, dressing neatly, getting home by a certain time, and not talking endlessly on the phone. The conflicts rarely involve major dilemmas such as drugs or delinquency.
Conflict with parents oft en escalates during early adolescence, remains somewhat stable during the high school years, and then lessens as the adolescent reaches 17 to 20 years of age.
Parent-adolescent relationships become more positive if adolescents go away to college than if they attend college while living at home (Sullivan & Sullivan, 1980).
The everyday conflicts that characterize parent-adolescent relationships may actually serve a positive developmental function. These minor disputes and negotiations facilitate the adolescent’s transition from being dependent on parents to becoming an autonomous individual. Recognizing that conflict and negotiation can serve a positive developmental function can tone down parental hostility.
The old model of parent-adolescent relationships suggested that as adolescents mature they detach themselves from parents and move into a world of autonomy apart from parents. The old model also suggested that parentadolescent conflict is intense and stressful throughout adolescence. The new model emphasizes that parents serve as important attachment figures and support systems while adolescents explore a wider, more complex social world. The new model also emphasizes that in most families parent-adolescent conflict is moderate rather than severe and that the everyday negotiations and minor disputes not only are normal but also can serve the positive developmental function of helping the adolescent make the transition from childhood dependency to adult independence (see Figure 12.3).
Still, a high degree of conflict characterizes some parent-adolescent relationships (Schwarz, Stutz, & Ledermann, 2012). And this prolonged, intense conflict is associated with various adolescent problems: movement out of the home, juvenile delinquency, school dropout, pregnancy and early marriage, membership in religious cults, and drug abuse (Brook & others, 1990).



For most children, being popular with their peers is a strong motivator. Beginning in early adolescence, however, teenagers typically prefer to have a smaller number of friendships that are more intense and intimate than those of young children.
Harry Stack Sullivan (1953) was the most influential theorist to discuss the importance of adolescent friendships. During adolescence, said Sullivan, friends become increasingly important in meeting social needs. In particular, Sullivan argued that the need for intimacy intensifies during early adolescence, motivating teenagers to seek out close friends. If adolescents fail to develop such close friendships, they experience loneliness and a reduced sense of self-worth.
Many of Sullivan’s ideas have withstood the test of time. For example, adolescents report disclosing intimate and personal information to their friends more often than do younger children (Buhrmester, 1998) (see Figure 12.4). Adolescents also say they depend more on friends than on parents to satisfy their needs for companionship, reassurance of worth, and intimacy. The ups and downs of experiences with friends shape adolescents’ well-being (Cook, Buehler, & Blair, 2012). Adolescent girls are more likely to disclose information about problems to a friend than are adolescent boys (Rose & others, 2012).
Although having friends can be a developmental advantage, not all friendships are alike and the quality of friendship matters. People differ in the company they keep—that is, who their friends are. It is a developmental disadvantage to have coercive, conflict-ridden, and poor-quality friendships (Ali & Dwyer, 2011; Poulin & others, 2011). Developmental advantages occur when adolescents have friends who are socially skilled, supportive, and oriented toward academic achievement (Rodkin & Ryan, 2012; Ryan, 2011). Positive friendship relationships in adolescence are associated with a host of positive outcomes, including lower rates of delinquency, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and bullying victimization, and a higher level of academic achievement (Kendrick, Jutengren, & Stattin, 2012; Tucker & others, 2012; Way & Silverman, 2012; Wentzel, 2013).
Although most adolescents develop friendships with individuals who are close to their own age, some adolescents become best friends with younger or older individuals. Do older friends encourage adolescents to engage in delinquent behavior or early sexual behavior? Adolescents who interact with older youth do engage in more problem behaviors, such as delinquency and early sexual behavior (Poulin & Pedersen, 2007).
To read about strategies for helping adolescents develop friendships, see Connecting Development to Life.



Young adolescents conform more to peer standards than children do. Around the eighth and ninth grades, conformity to peers—especially to their antisocial standards—peaks (Brown & Larson, 2009; Brown & others, 2008). At this point, adolescents are most likely to go along with a peer to steal hubcaps off a car, draw graffition a wall, or steal cosmetics from a store counter. One study found that U.S. adolescents are more likely than Japanese adolescents to put pressure on their peers to resist parental influence (Rothbaum & others, 2000).
Which adolescents are most likely to conform to peers? Mitchell Prinstein and his colleagues (Cohen & Prinstein, 2006; Prinstein, 2007; Prinstein & Dodge, 2008) have recently conducted research suggesting that adolescents who feel uncertain about their social identity, which may be evident in low self-esteem and high social anxiety, are most likely to conform to peers. This uncertainty often increases during times of transition, such as changing circumstances in school and family life. Also, adolescents are more likely to conform to peers whom they perceive to have higher status than they do.


Cliques and crowds assume more important roles during adolescence than during childhood (Brown, 2011). Cliques are small groups that range from 2 to about 12 individuals and average about 5 or 6 individuals. The clique members are usually of the same sex and about the same age.
Cliques can form because adolescents engage in similar activities, such as belonging to a club or playing on a sports team. Some cliques also form because of friendship. Several adolescents may form a clique because they have spent time with each other, share mutual interests, and enjoy each other’s company.
Crowds are larger than cliques and less personal. Adolescents are usually members of a crowd based on reputation, and they may or may not spend much time together. Many crowds are defined by the activities adolescents engage in (such as “jocks” who are good at sports or “druggies” who take drugs) (Brown, 2011).


Three stages characterize the development of romantic relationships in adolescence (Connolly & McIsaac, 2009):
1. Entry into romantic attractions and affiliations at about 11 to 13 years of age. This initial stage is triggered by puberty. From 11 to 13, adolescents become intensely interested in romance and it dominates many conversations with samesex friends. Developing a crush on someone is common and the crush often is shared with a same-sex friend. Young adolescents may or may not interact with the individual who is the object of their infatuation. When dating occurs, it usually occurs in a group setting.
2. Exploring romantic relationships at approximately 14 to 16 years of age. At this point in adolescence, two types of romantic involvement occur: (a) Casual dating emerges between individuals who are mutually attracted. These dating experiences are often short-lived, lasting a few months at best, and usually endure for only a few weeks. (b) Dating in groups is common and reflects embeddedness in the peer context. Friends often act as third-party facilitators of a potential dating relationship by communicating their friend’s romantic interest and confirming whether this attraction is reciprocated.
3. Consolidating dyadic romantic bonds at about 17 to 19 years of age. At the end of the high school years, more serious romantic relationships develop. This is characterized by strong emotional bonds more closely resembling those in adult romantic relationships. These bonds oft en are more stable and enduring than earlier bonds, typically lasting one year or more.
Two variations on these stages in the development of romantic relationships in adolescence involve early and late bloomers (Connolly & McIsaac, 2009). Early bloomers include 15 to 20 percent of 11- to 13-year-olds who say that they currently are in a romantic relationship and 35 percent who indicate that they have had some prior experience in romantic relationships. Late bloomers comprise approximately 10 percent of 17- to 19-year-olds who say that they have had no experience with romantic relationships and another 15 percent who report that they have not engaged in any romantic relationships that lasted more than four months.


Recently, researchers have begun to study romantic relationships among gay and lesbian youth (Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2011; Savin-Williams, 2013). Many sexual minority youth date other-sex peers, which can help them to clarify their sexual orientation or disguise it from others (Cohen & Savin-Williams, 2013). Most gay and lesbian youth have had some same-sex sexual experience, often with peers who are “experimenting.” Some gay and lesbian youth continue to have a same-sex orientation while others have a primarily heterosexual orientation (Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2011; Vrangalova & Savin-Williams, 2013). In one study, gay and lesbian youth rated the breakup of a current romance as their second most stressful problem, second only to disclosure of their sexual orientation to their parents (D’Augelli, 1991).


The sociocultural context exerts a powerful influence on adolescents’ dating patterns (Cheng & others, 2012; Holloway & others, 2012). This influence may be seen in differences in dating patterns among ethnic groups within the United States. For example, one study found that Asian American adolescents were less likely to have been involved in a romantic relationship in the past 18 months than African American or Latino adolescents were (Carver, Joyner, & Udry, 2003).
Values, religious beliefs, and traditions often dictate the age at which dating begins, how much freedom in dating is allowed, whether dates must be chaperoned by adults or parents, and the roles of males and females in dating. For example, Latino and Asian American cultures have more conservative standards regarding adolescent dating than does the Anglo-American culture. Dating may become a source of conflict within a family if the parents grew up in cultures where dating begins at a late age, little freedom in dating is allowed, dates are chaperoned, and dating by adolescent girls is especially restricted. When immigrant adolescents choose to adopt the ways of the dominant U.S. culture (such as unchaperoned dating), they often clash with parents and extended-family members who have more traditional values.


Researchers have linked dating and romantic relationships with various measures of how well adjusted adolescents are (Collins, Welsh, & Furman, 2009). For example, a study of tenth-graders revealed that the more romantic experiences they had experienced, the more likely they were to report high levels of social acceptance, friendship competence, and romantic competence; however, having more romantic experience also was linked with a higher level of substance use, delinquency, and sexual behavior (Furman, Low, & Ho, 2009). In another study conducted among adolescent girls but not adolescent males, having an older romantic partner was linked with an increase in depressive symptoms, largely influenced by an increase in substance use (Haydon & Halpern, 2010).
Dating and romantic relationships at an early age can be especially problematic (Connolly & McIsaac, 2009). A recent study found that romantic activity was linked to depression in early adolescent girls (Starr & others, 2012). Researchers also have found that early dating and “going with” someone are linked with adolescent pregnancy and problems at home and school (Florsheim, Moore, & Edgington, 2003).


What traditions remain for adolescents around the globe? What circumstances are changing adolescents’ lives? Depending on the culture, adolescence may involve many different experiences (Arnett, 2012).

Health  Adolescent health and well-being have improved in some respects but not in others. Overall, fewer adolescents around the world die from infectious diseases and malnutrition now than in the past (UNICEF, 2012). However, a number of adolescent health-compromising behaviors (especially illicit drug use and unprotected sex) are increasing in frequency. Extensive increases in the rates of HIV in adolescents have occurred in many sub-Saharan countries (UNICEF, 2012).

Gender  Around the world, the experiences of male and female adolescents continue to be quite different (Brown & Larson, 2002; Larson, Wilson, & Rickman, 2009). Except in a few regions, such as Japan, the Philippines, and Western countries, males have far greater access to educational opportunities than females do (UNICEF, 2012). In many countries, adolescent females have less freedom than males to pursue a variety of careers and engage in various leisure activities. Gender differences in sexual expression are widespread, especially in India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Arab countries where far more restrictions are placed on the sexual activity of adolescent females than on males. These gender differences do appear to be narrowing over time, however. In some countries, educational and career opportunities for women are expanding, and control over adolescent girls’ romantic and sexual relationships is weakening.

Family  In some countries, adolescents grow up in closely knit families with extensive kin networks that retain a traditional way of life. For example, in Arab countries “adolescents are taught strict codes of conduct and loyalty” (Brown & Larson, 2002, p. 6). However, in Western countries such as the United States, parenting is less authoritarian than in the past, and much larger numbers of adolescents are growing up in divorced families and stepfamilies. In many countries around the world, current trends “include greater family mobility, migration to urban areas, family members working in distant cities or countries, smaller families, fewer extended-family households, and increases in mothers’ employment” (Brown & Larson, 2002, p. 7). Unfortunately, many of these changes may reduce the ability of families to spend time with their adolescents.

Peers  Some cultures give peers a stronger role in adolescence than other cultures do (Brown & others, 2008). In most Western nations, peers figure prominently in adolescents’ lives, in some cases taking on roles that in other cultures are assumed by parents. Among street youth in South America, the peer network serves as a surrogate family that supports survival in dangerous and stressful settings. In other regions of the world, such as in Arab countries, peer relations are restricted, especially for girls (Booth, 2002).

Time Allocation to Different Activities  Reed Larson and his colleagues (Larson, 2001; Larson & Angus, 2011; Larson & Dawes, 2013; Larson & Verma, 1999; Larson & Walker, 2010; Larson & others, 2009; Larson, Wilson, & Rickman, 2009) have examined how adolescents spend their time in work, play, and developmental activities such as school. U.S. adolescents spend about 60 percent as much time on schoolwork as East Asian adolescents do, which is mainly due to U.S. adolescents doing less homework (Larson & Verma, 1999).
What U.S. adolescents have in greater quantities than adolescents in other industrialized countries is discretionary time (Larson & Wilson, 2004; Larson, Wilson, & Rickman, 2009). About 40 to 50 percent of U.S. adolescents’ waking hours (not counting summer vacations) is spent in discretionary activities, compared with 25 to 35 percent in East Asia and 35 to 45 percent in Europe. Whether this additional discretionary time is a liability or an asset for U.S. adolescents, of course, depends on how they use it.
According to Larson (2001), U.S. adolescents may have too much unstructured time because when they are given a choice they typically engage in unchallenging activities such as hanging out and watching TV. Although relaxation and social interaction are important aspects of adolescence, it seems unlikely that spending large numbers of hours per week in unchallenging activities would foster development. Structured voluntary activities may provide more promise for adolescent development than unstructured time, especially if adults give responsibility to adolescents, challenge them, and provide competent guidance in these activities (Larson & Walker, 2010; Larson & others, 2009).
In sum, adolescents’ lives are characterized by a combination of change and tradition. Researchers have found both similarities and differences in the experiences of adolescents in different countries (Larson, Wilson, & Rickman, 2009; Schlegel, 2009).

Rites of Passage  Another variation in the experiences of adolescents in different cultures is whether the adolescents go through a rite of passage. Some societies have elaborate ceremonies that signal the adolescent’s move to maturity and achievement of adult status (Kottak, 2009). A rite of passage is a ceremony or ritual that marks an individual’s transition from one status to another. Most rites of passage focus on the transition to adult status. In some traditional cultures, rites of passage are the avenue through which adolescents gain access to sacred adult practices, to knowledge, and to sexuality. These rites often involve dramatic practices intended to facilitate the adolescent’s separation from the immediate family, especially the mother. The transformation is usually characterized by some form of ritual death and rebirth, or by means of contact with the spiritual world. Bonds are forged between the adolescent and the adult instructors through shared rituals, hazards, and secrets to allow the adolescent to enter the adult world. This kind of ritual provides a forceful and discontinuous entry into the adult world at a time when the adolescent is perceived to be ready for the change.
An especially rich tradition of rites of passage for adolescents has prevailed in African cultures, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Under the influence of Western industrialized culture, many of these rites are disappearing today, although they are still prevalent in locations where formal education is not readily available.
Do we have such rites of passage for American adolescents? We certainly do not have universal formal ceremonies that mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood. Certain religious and social groups do, however, have initiation ceremonies that indicate that an advance in maturity has been reached: the Jewish bar and bat mitzvah, the Catholic confirmation, and social debuts, for example. School graduation ceremonies come the closest to being culture-wide rites of passage in the United States. The high school graduation ceremony has become nearly universal for middle-class adolescents and increasing numbers of adolescents from low-income backgrounds.


Relatively high rates of immigration are contributing to the growth of ethnic minorities in the United States. Immigrants oft en experience stressors uncommon to or less prominent among longtime residents, such as language barriers, dislocations and separations from support networks, changes in SES status, and the dual struggle to preserve identity and to acculturate (Urdan, 2012).
Recent research indicates that many members of families that have recently immigrated to the United States adopt a bicultural orientation, selecting characteristics of the U.S. culture that help them to survive and advance, while retaining aspects of their culture of origin. Immigration also involves cultural brokering, which has increasingly occurred in the United States as children and adolescents serve as mediators (cultural and linguistic) for their immigrant parents (Villanueva & Buriel, 2010).
In adopting characteristics of the U.S. culture, Latino families are increasingly embracing the importance of education. Although their school dropout rates have remained higher than those of other ethnic groups, toward the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century they declined considerably (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010). In retaining positive aspects of their culture of origin, as research by Ross Parke and his colleagues (2011) indicates, Latino families maintain a strong commitment to family that sustains them emotionally when they immigrate to the United States, even in the face of oft en having low-paying jobs and challenges in advancing economically. For example, divorce rates for Latino families are lower than for non-Latino White families of similar socioeconomic status.


Much of the research on ethnic minority adolescents has failed to tease apart the influences of ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Ethnicity and socioeconomic status can interact in ways that exaggerate the influence of ethnicity because ethnic minority individuals are overrepresented in the lower socioeconomic levels of American society (Chen & Brooks-Gunn, 2012; Wright & others, 2012). Consequently, researchers too often have given ethnic explanations for aspects of adolescent development that were largely due instead to socioeconomic status.
Not all ethnic minority families are poor. However, poverty contributes to the stressful life experiences of many ethnic minority adolescents (McLoyd & others, 2011; Way & Silverman, 2012). Thus, many ethnic minority adolescents experience a double disadvantage: (1) prejudice, discrimination, and bias because of their ethnic minority status; and (2) the stressful effects of poverty.
Although some ethnic minority youth have middle-income backgrounds, economic advantage does not entirely enable them to escape the prejudice, discrimination, and bias associated with being a member of an ethnic minority group (Duncan, 2012; Duncan & others, 2013; McLoyd & others, 2011). In one study, discrimination experienced by seventh- to tenth-grade African American students was related to their lower level of psychological functioning, including perceived stress, symptoms of depression, and lower perceived well-being; more positive treatment of African Americans was associated with more positive psychological functioning in adolescents (Sellers & others, 2006).


If the amount of time spent in an activity is any indication of its importance, there is no doubt that media play important roles in adolescents’ lives (Hogan, 2012; Strasburger, Jordan, & Donnerstein, 2012). To better understand various aspects of U.S. adolescents’ media use, the Kaiser Family Foundation has funded three national surveys in 1999, 2004, and 2009. The 2009 survey included more than 2,000 8- to 18-year-olds and documented that adolescent media use has increased dramatically in the last decade (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Today’s youth live in a world in which they are encapsulated by media. In this survey, in 2009, 8- to 11-year-olds used media 5 hours and 29 minutes a day, 11- to 14-year-olds used media an average of 8 hours and 40 minutes a day, and 15- to 18-year-olds an average of 7 hours and 58 minutes a day (see Figure 12.5). Thus, media use jumps more than 3 hours in early adolescence! The largest increases in media use in early adolescence are for TV and video games. TV use by youth increasingly has involved watching TV on the Internet, an iPod/MP3 player, and on a cell phone. As indicated in Figure 12.5, listening to music and using computers also increase considerably among 11- to 14-year-old adolescents. And based on the 2009 survey adding up the daily media use figures to obtain weekly media use leads to the staggering levels of more than 60 hours a week of media use by 11- to 14-year-olds and almost 56 hours a week by 15- to 18-year-olds!
A major trend in the use of technology is the dramatic increase in media multitasking (Pea & others, 2012). In the 2009 survey, when the amount of time spent multitasking was included in computing media use, 11- to 14-year-olds spent nearly 12 hours a day (compared with almost 9 hours a day when multitasking was not included) exposed to media (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010)! In this survey, 39 percent of seventh- to twelft h-graders said “most of the time” they use two or more media concurrently, such as surfing the Web while listening to music. In some cases, media multitasking—such as text messaging, listening to an iPod, and updating a YouTube site—is engaged in while doing homework. It is hard to imagine that this allows a student to do homework efficiently, although there is little research on media multitasking. A study that compared heavy and light media multitaskers revealed that heavy media multitaskers were more susceptible to interference from irrelevant information (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009). A recent study of 8- to 12-year-old girls also found that a higher level of media multitasking was linked to negative social well-being while a higher level of face-to-face communication was associated with positive social-wellbeing indicators such as greater social success, feeling more normal, and having fewer friends whom parents thought were a bad influence (Pea & others, 2012).
Mobile media, such as cell phones and iPods, are mainly driving the increased media use by adolescents. For example, in the 2004 survey, only 18 percent of youth owned an iPod or MP3 player; In 2009, 76 percent owned them; in 2004, 39 percent owned a cell phone, a figure that jumped to 66 percent in 2009 (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010).



Culture involves change, and nowhere is that change greater than in the technological revolution individuals are experiencing with increased use of computers and the Internet (Gross, 2013; Levinson, 2013). Society still relies on some basic nontechnological competencies—for example, good communication skills, positive attitudes, and the ability to solve problems and to think deeply and creatively. But how people pursue these competencies is changing in ways and at speeds that few people had to cope with in previous eras. For youth to be adequately prepared for tomorrow’s jobs, technology needs to become an integral part of their lives (Jackson & others, 2012).
The digitally mediated social environment of adolescents and emerging adults includes e-mail, instant messaging, social networking sites such as Facebook, chat rooms, video sharing and photo sharing, multiplayer online computer games, and virtual worlds. The remarkable increase in the popularity of Facebook was reflected in 2010 when it surpassed Google as the most frequently visited Internet site. Most of these digitally mediated social interactions began on computers but more recently have also shifted to cell phones, especially smartphones (Underwood & others, 2012; Valkenburg & Peter, 2011).
A national survey revealed dramatic increases in adolescents’ use of social media and text messaging (Lenhart & others, 2010). In 2009, nearly three-fourths of U.S. 12- to 17-year-olds reported that they used social networking sites. Eightyone percent of 18- to 24-year-olds had created a profile on a social networking site and 31 percent of them visited a social networking site at least several times a day. More emerging adult women visit a social networking site several times a day (33 percent) than do their male counterparts (24 percent).
Text messaging has become the main way that adolescents connect with their friends, surpassing face-to-face contact, e-mail, instant messaging, and voice calling (Lenhart & others, 2010). However, voice mailing is the primary way that most adolescents connect with parents.
Two recent studies yielded the following information about the role of parents in guiding adolescents’ use of the Internet and other media:
• Both maternal and paternal authoritative parenting predicted proactive monitoring of adolescent media use, including restriction of certain media from adolescent use and parent-adolescent discussion of exposure to questionable media content (Padilla-Walker & Coyne, 2011).
• Problematic mother-adolescent (age 13) relationships that involved undermining attachment and autonomy predicted emerging adults’ preference for online communication and greater probability of forming a low-quality relationship with someone they met online (Szwedo, Mikami, & Allen, 2011).


The number of juvenile court delinquency caseloads in the United States increased dramatically from 1960 to 1996 but has decreased slightly since 1996 (see Figure 12.6) (Puzzanchera & Sickmund, 2008). Note that this figure reflects only adolescents who have been arrested and assigned to juvenile court delinquency caseloads and does not include those who were arrested but not assigned to the delinquency caseloads, nor does the figure include youth who committed offenses but were not apprehended.
Males are more likely to engage in delinquency than are females. However, U.S. government statistics revealed that the percentage of delinquency caseloads involving females increased from 19 percent in 1985 to 27 percent in 2005 (Puzzanchera & Sickmund, 2008). Delinquency rates among minority groups and lower-socioeconomic-status youth are especially high in proportion to the overall population of these groups. However, such groups have less influence over the judicial decision-making process in the United States and therefore may be judged delinquent more readily than their White, middle-socioeconomic-status counterparts.
A distinction is made between early-onset—before age 11—and late-onset—after 11—antisocial behavior. Early-onset antisocial behavior is associated with more negative developmental outcomes than late-onset antisocial behavior (Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006). Not only is it more likely to persist into emerging adulthood but it is also associated with more mental health and relationship problems (Burke, 2011; Loeber & Burke, 2011).



Although delinquency is less exclusively a phenomenon of lower socioeconomic status than it was in the past, some characteristics of lower-SES culture might promote delinquency (Thio, 2010). The norms of many lower-SES peer groups and gangs are antisocial, or counterproductive, to the goals and norms of society at large. Getting into and staying out of trouble are prominent features of life for some adolescents in low-income neighborhoods. Being “tough” and “masculine” are highstatus traits for lower-SES boys, and these traits are oft en measured by the adolescent’s success in performing and getting away with delinquent acts. And adolescents in communities with high crime rates observe many models who engage in criminal activities. These communities may be characterized by poverty, unemployment, and feelings of alienation toward the middle class (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2012). Quality schooling, educational funding, and organized neighborhood activities may be lacking in these communities. A recent study found that youth whose families had experienced repeated poverty were more than twice as likely to be delinquent at 14 and 21 years of age (Najman & others, 2010).
Certain characteristics of families are also associated with delinquency (Connell, Dishion, & Klostermann, 2012; Tolou-Shams & others, 2012; Van Ryzin & Dishion, 2012). Parents of delinquents are less skilled in discouraging antisocial behavior and in encouraging skilled behavior than are parents of nondelinquents. Parental monitoring of adolescents is especially important in determining whether an adolescent becomes a delinquent (Fosco & others, 2012). A recent study found that early parental monitoring in adolescence and ongoing parental support were linked to a lower incidence of criminal behavior in emerging adulthood (Johnson & others, 2011). A study of families living in high-risk neighborhoods revealed that parents’ lack of knowledge of their young adolescents’ whereabouts was linked to whether the adolescents engaged in delinquency later in adolescence (Lahey & others, 2008). Family discord and inconsistent and inappropriate discipline are also associated with delinquency (Bor, McGee, & Fagan, 2004). Further, recent research indicates that family therapy is oft en effective in reducing delinquency (Baldwin & others, 2012; Henggeler & Sheidow, 2012). A recent meta-analysis found that of five program types (case management, individual treatment, youth court, restorative justice, and family treatment), family treatment was the only one that was linked to a reduction in recidivism for juvenile offenders (Schwalbe & others, 2012).
An increasing number of studies have found that siblings can have a strong influence on delinquency (Bank, Burraston, & Snyder, 2004). Finally, having delinquent peers greatly increases the risk of becoming delinquent (Fosco, Frank, & Dishion, 2012).
One individual whose goal is to help at-risk adolescents, such as juvenile delinquents, cope more effectively with their lives is Rodney Hammond. Read about his work in Connecting with Careers.


How extensive is depression in adolescence? Rates of ever experiencing major depressive disorder range from 15 to 20 percent for adolescents (Graber & Sontag, 2009). By about age 15, adolescent females have a rate of depression that is twice that of adolescent males. Among the reasons for this gender difference are that females tend to ruminate on their depressed mood and amplify it; females’ self-images, especially their body images, are more negative than those of males; females face more discrimination than males do; and puberty occurs earlier for girls than for boys (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2011). As a result, girls experience a piling up of changes and life experiences in the middle school years that can increase depression (Hammen, 2009).
Do gender differences in adolescent depression hold for other cultures? In many cultures the gender difference of females experiencing more depression does hold, but a recent study of more than 17,000 Chinese 11- to 22-year-olds revealed that the male adolescents and emerging adults experienced more depression than their female counterparts did (Sun & others, 2010). Explanation of the higher rates of depression among males in China focused on stressful life events and a less positive coping style.
Genes are linked to adolescent depression (Hansell & others, 2012). A recent study found that certain dopamine-related genes were associated with depressive symptoms in adolescents (Adkins & others, 2012). And another recent study revealed that the link between adolescent girls’ perceived stress and depression occurred only when the girls had the short version of the serotonin-related gene—5HTTLPR (Beaver & others, 2012).
Certain family factors place adolescents at risk for developing depression (Kitts & Goldman, 2012). These include having a depressed parent, emotionally unavailable parents, parents who have high marital conflict, and parents with financial problems. A recent study revealed that mother-daughter co-rumination (extensively discussing, rehashing, and speculating about problems) was linked to an increase in anxiety and depression in adolescent girls (Waller & Rose, 2010). Another study found that exposure to maternal depression by age 12 predicted risk processes during development (higher stress and difficulties in family relationships), which set the course for the development of the adolescent’s depression (Garber & Cole, 2010).
Poor peer relationships also are associated with adolescent depression (Vanhalst & others, 2012). Not having a close relationship with a best friend, having less contact with friends, and being rejected by peers increase depressive tendencies in adolescents (Kistner & others, 2006). A recent study revealed that four types of bullying—in person among bullies, victims, and bully-victims, as well as victims of cyberbullying—were all linked to adolescents’ depression (Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011). Another recent study found that relational aggression was linked to depression for girls (Spieker & others, 2012). Problems in adolescent romantic relationships can also trigger depression (Starr & others, 2012).
Friendship often provides social support. However, whether friendship is linked with a lower level of depression among girls and boys depends on the type of friendship. For example, in a recent study young adolescents with nondepressed friends were less likely to be depressed than young adolescents without friends, whereas young adolescents with depressed friends were more likely to be depressed (Brendgen & others, 2010). And a study of thirdthrough ninth-graders revealed that girls’ co-rumination predicted not only an increase in the positive quality of the friendship, but also an increase in further co-rumination and in depressive and anxiety symptoms (Rose, Carlson, & Waller, 2007).
Being stressed about weight-related concerns is increasingly thought to contribute to the greater incidence of depression in adolescent girls than in adolescent boys (Alberga & others, 2012). A recent study revealed that one explanation for adolescent girls’ higher level of depressive symptoms is a heightened tendency to perceive oneself as overweight and to diet (Vaughan & Halpern, 2010).
What type of treatment is most likely to reduce depression in adolescence? A recent research review concluded that drug therapy using serotonin reuptake inhibitors, cognitive behavior therapy, and interpersonal therapy are effective in treating adolescent depression (Maalouf & Brent, 2012). However, in this review, the most effective treatment was a combination of drug therapy and cognitive behavior therapy.


Suicide behavior is rare in childhood but escalates in adolescence and then increases further in emerging adulthood (Park & others, 2006). Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in 10- to 19-year-olds today in the United States (National Center for Health Statistics, 2012). Approximately 4,400 adolescents commit suicide each year (Eaton & others, 2010).
Although a suicide threat should always be taken seriously, far more adolescents contemplate or attempt it unsuccessfully than actually commit it. As indicated in Figure 12.7, in the last two decades there has been a considerable decline in the percentage of adolescents who think about committing suicide, although from 2009 to 2011 this percentage increased from 14 to 16 percent (Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2011). In this national study, in 2011, 8 percent attempted suicide and 2 percent engaged in suicide attempts that required medical attention.
Females are more likely to attempt suicide than males, but males are more likely to succeed in committing suicide. Males use more lethal means, such as guns, in their suicide attempts, whereas adolescent females are more likely to cut their wrists or take an overdose of sleeping pills—methods less likely to result in death.
Distal, or earlier, experiences often are involved in suicide attempts as well. The adolescent may have a long-standing history of family instability and unhappiness (Wan & Leung, 2010). Just as a lack of affection and emotional support, high control, and pressure for achievement by parents during childhood are related to adolescent depression, such combinations of family experiences also are likely to show up as distal factors in adolescents’ suicide attempts.
Adolescents’ peer relations also are linked to suicide attempts. A recent research review revealed that prior suicide attempts by a member of an adolescent’s social groups were linked to the probability that the adolescent also would attempt suicide (de Leo & Heller, 2008). Adolescents who attempt suicide may lack supportive friendships. And a recent study revealed that peer victimization was linked to suicide thoughts and attempts (Klomek & others, 2008).
Adolescent suicide attempts also vary across ethnic groups in the United States (Wong & others, 2012). As indicated in Figure 12.8, more than 20 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) female adolescents reported that they had attempted suicide in the previous year, and suicide accounts for almost 20 percent of AI/ AN deaths in 15- to 19-year-olds (Goldston & others, 2008). As indicated in Figure 12.8, African American and non-Latino White males reported the lowest incidence of suicide attempts. A major risk factor in the high rate of suicide attempts by AI/AN adolescents is their elevated rate of alcohol abuse. A recent study revealed that continuous, escalating stress, especially at home, was linked with suicide attempts in young Latinas (Zayas & others, 2010). Results of this study reflected the cultural discontinuity experienced by young Latinas, who struggle to reconcile traditional Latina gender socialization with the gender expectations of modern Western society.
Just as genetic factors are associated with depression, they also are associated with suicide (Kapornai & Vetro, 2008). The closer a person’s genetic relationship to someone who has committed suicide, the more likely that person is to also commit suicide.
What is the psychological profile of the suicidal adolescent? Suicidal adolescents often have depressive symptoms (Woolgar & Tranah, 2010). Although not all depressed adolescents are suicidal, depression is the most frequently cited factor associated with adolescent suicide (Thapar & others, 2012). Further, one study indicated that adolescents’ use of alcohol while they were sad or depressed was linked with risk for making a suicide attempt (Schilling & others, 2009). A recent study also found that the strong link between selfreported adolescent suicide attempts and drug use was any lifetime use of tranquilizers or sedatives (Kokkevi & others, 2012). And the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health identified the following indicators of suicide risk: depressive symptoms, a sense of hopelessness, engaging in suicide ideation, having a family background of suicidal behavior, and having friends with a history of suicidal behavior (Thompson, Kuruwita, & Foster, 2009). A recent study revealed that family support, peer support, and community connectedness was linked to a lower risk of suicidal tendencies in African American adolescents (Matlin, Molock, & Tebes, 2011). And in yet another study, sexual victimization was linked to a risk for suicide attempts in adolescence (Plener, Singer, & Goldbeck, 2011). Bullying victimization is associated with suicide-related thoughts and behavior (McMahon & others, 2012).

FIGR 12.7

FIGR 12.8


We have described some of the major adolescent problems in this article: substance abuse; juvenile delinquency; school-related problems such as dropping out of school; adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; eating disorders; depression; and suicide.
The four problems that affect the most adolescents are (1) drug abuse, (2) juvenile delinquency, (3) sexual problems, and (4) school-related problems (Dryfoos, 1990; Dryfoos & Barkin, 2006). The adolescents most at risk have more than one of these problems. Researchers are increasingly finding that problem behaviors in adolescence are interrelated (Milburn & others, 2012; Passini, 2012). For example, heavy substance abuse is related to early sexual activity, lower grades, dropping out of school, and delinquency (Marti, Stice, & Springer, 2010; Tull & others, 2012). Early initiation of sexual activity is associated with the use of cigarettes and alcohol, the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs, lower grades, dropping out of school, and delinquency (Harden & Mendle, 2011). Delinquency is related to early sexual activity, early pregnancy, substance abuse, and dropping out of school (Pedersen & Mastekaasa, 2011). As many as 10 percent of adolescents in the United States have been estimated to engage in all four of these problem behaviors (for example, adolescents who have dropped out of school are behind in their grade level, are users of heavy drugs, regularly use cigarettes and marijuana, and are sexually active but do not use contraception). In 1990, it was estimated that another 15 percent of high-risk youth engage in two or three of the four main problem behaviors (Dryfoos, 1990). Recently, this figure increased to 20 percent of all U.S. adolescents (Dryfoos & Barkin, 2006).
A review of the programs that have been successful in preventing or reducing adolescent problems found these common components (Dryfoos, 1990; Dryfoos & Barkin, 2006):
1. Intensive individualized attention.  In successful programs, high-risk adolescents are attached to a responsible adult who gives the adolescent attention and deals with the adolescent’s specific needs. This theme occurs in a number of programs. In a successful substance-abuse program, a student assistance counselor is available full-time for individual counseling and referral for treatment.
2. Community-wide multiagency collaborative approaches.  The basic philosophy of community-wide programs is that a number of different programs and services have to be in place. In one successful substance-abuse program, a community-wide health promotion campaign has been implemented that uses local media and community education, in concert with a substance-abuse curriculum in the schools.
3. Early identification and intervention.  Reaching younger children and their families before children develop problems or at the onset of their problems is a successful strategy. One preschool program serves as an excellent model for the prevention of delinquency, pregnancy, substance abuse, and dropping out of school. Operated by the High/ Scope Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Perry Preschool has had a long-term positive impact on its students. This enrichment program, directed by David Weikart, serves disadvantaged African American children. They attend a high-quality two-year preschool program and receive weekly home visits from program personnel. Based on official police records, by age 19, individuals who had attended the Perry Preschool program were less likely to have been arrested and reported fewer adult offenses than a control group did. The Perry Preschool students also were less likely to drop out of school, and teachers rated their social behavior as more competent than that of a control group who had not received the enriched preschool experience (High/ Scope Resource, 2005).