The basic process of adolescent development involves changing relations between the individual and the multiple levels of the context within which the young person is embedded. Variation in the substance and timing of these relations promotes diversity in adolescence and represents sources of risk or protective factors across this life period. The key risk factors of the contempory American adolescent period are discussed. Behavioral risks involve drug, alcohol, and substance use and abuse; unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, and teenage parenting; school underachievement, failure, and dropout; and delinquency, crime, and violence. Poverty among youth exacerbates these risks. The features of youth programs effective in preventing the actualization of risk or in promoting positive adolescent development are discussed, as are the characteristics of public policies that may enhance the life chances of the diverse youth of America and the world.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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