Reasons to invest in adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2002 Dec;31(6 Suppl):136-52. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(02)00486-x.


Purpose: 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.

Approach: 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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Crime / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Investments
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology