This book of readings can be used to supplement a textbook in an undergraduate course on adolescent development or as a foundation of readings for a graduate course. I assembled and edited this book as a companion to my textbook Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (2001, Prentice Hall), but it should also work well as a companion to other textbooks. The readings cover a broad range of topics found in most textbooks, from biological and cognitive development to relationships with family and friends to young people's experiences with school, work, and media, among other topics.
A good textbook provides students with a credible, well-informed, and comprehensive overview of afield, but even the best textbook must translate and paraphrase research rather than present it directly. To understand how scholarship in a field is conducted, it is important for students to read original theoretical and research papers. This book contains 27 papers to inform students of the range of scholarship currently taking place on development from age 10 to 25.
The principles that determined the selection of the papers here were similar to those that guided my writing of the textbook: take a cultural approach, include emerging adulthood (roughly age 18 to 25) as well as adolescence, and draw from a variety of disciplines. Taking a cultural approach allows students to see what adolescents are like in different parts of the world. This approach is intended to inspire readers to examine their assumptions about the "natural" course of development in adolescence and also analyze the assumptions sometimes made by scholars on adolescence. In my experience, students are fascinated by learning about how different adolescence can be from what they have experienced themselves, and their understanding is expanded by this knowledge.
Emerging adulthood is also included because doing so reflects the profound changes that took place in the nature of "adolescence" in the twentieth century. In that time span, puberty moved about 2 years earlier in the life course of people in industrialized, societies so that most young people now show the first physical changes of puberty at age 10 to 12. Meanwhile, since 1950 the typical age of entering marriage and parenthood has risen steeply; it is now in the late twenties in every industrialized country.
In my view, the age range of 10 to 25 is too broad, and the changes that take place during that period too vast, to be considered one developmental period of adolescence. I have proposed emerging adulthood as a separate period, different from adolescence but not fully adult. I included material on emerging adulthood in my textbook, and this book of readings contains several selections that pertain to this age period, including a theoretical framework for understanding it (Reading 1.3). Students enjoy readings on this age period, in part because for many of them it is a period they are in themselves or have passed through recently.
The readings are taken from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, and education. I believe it is important to draw from all these disciplines, because each has information and insights to offer that contribute to a whole portrait of adolescence and emerging adulthood. Drawing from a variety of disciplines also means representing a variety of methods, including questionnaires, text analysis, interviews, and ethnographies. My goal was to present a broad view so that students learn about many different ways that scholarship in the field is conducted.
In selecting the readings, then, I sought to represent a variety of different cultures, to represent scholarship on emerging adulthood as well as adolescence, and to draw from numerous disciplines. In addition, I sought readings that were written clearly and with a minimum of arcane terminology so that they could be digested by students. I avoided articles that simply reviewed an area of the field, because students get enough of that in their textbooks. I did, however, include theoretical articles, which go beyond reviewing an area to add new ideas, and articles that combine theory and research.
One theme that was part of my textbook but is not part of this book of readings is a historical approach. I was not able to include readings from different eras of research on adolescence and still have room for a variety of cultures, emerging adulthood as well as adolescence, and a variety of disciplines. Thus, with the exception of one reading by G. Stanley Hall and the two readings on cognitive development, all the readings are from works that have been published since 1990, most have been published since 1995, and nearly one-fourth were published in 1999 or 2000. Together, the readings should provide students with an understanding of how scholarship on adolescence and emerging adulthood is conducted now, in our time.
I edited each reading, some more extensively than others. Some had to be trimmed considerably because the original length was much too great to fit comfortably into a book of readings. Some contained extensive statistical analyses that few students would be able to follow. In general, I avoided editing that would change the style or the wording of the readings. Instead, I tried to choose readings that were already written in a lively and accessible way.
Each reading contains a brief introduction in which I provide background information and describe the key points of the reading. Following each reading is a series of Thinking Critically questions. The purpose of these questions is to encourage students to analyze the validity of the material in the readings, to consider hypothetical questions, and to apply the material to their own lives and their own society. Instructors may wish to use these questions to initiate class discussions or as questions for student essays.
I wish to thank the many colleagues who sent papers to me in response to my request for material to consider for this book. Although I was not able to use them all, I read and benefited from each, gaining knowledge of the current scholarship taking place in each area. I hope any scholar who has a paper that may be suitable for this book will send it to me to consider for future editions. I would also like to acknowledge the following reviewers: Karen G. Howe, The College of New Jersey; Mary Ann Manos, Bradley University; Virginia Navarro, University of Missouri-Saint Louis; and Merryl Patterson, Austin Community College.
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
University Park, Maryland