Gutman, L. M., Peck, S. C., Malanchuk, O., Sameroff, A. J. & Eccles, J. S. (2017) Moving Through Adolescence: Developmental Trajectories of African American and European American Youth. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 82(4), pp. 10197
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This is a very large, longitudinal study of NORMATIVE development from ages 12-20. We may see it as Pollyanna-ish in its positivity in the face of the grim realities that we are so aware of. I think it’s a good, thought-provoking report on what is possible in a normative (rather than clinical) sample. It is part of a larger project called MADICS (Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study). In general the question addressed is whether adolescence is a period of heightened risk, relative to other developmental stages. The results are more positive than we might think, but there are reminders of the unjust world that African-American adolescents face, in their higher anger reports. There are also significant results by SES independent of race: more depression for lower SES adolescents.
In this monograph, we investigate the developmental trajectories of a predominantly middle‐class, community‐based sample of European American and African American adolescents growing up in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Maryland, United States. Within risk‐protection and positive youth development frameworks, we selected developmental measures based on the normative tasks of adolescence and the most widely studied indicators in the three major contexts of development: families, peer groups, and schools. Using hierarchical linear growth models, we estimated adolescents’ growth trajectories from ages 12 to 20 with variation accounted for by socioeconomic status (SES), gender, race/ethnicity, and the gender by race/ethnicity interaction. In general, the results indicate that: (a) periods of greatest risk and positive development depended on the time frame and outcome being examined and (b) on average, these adolescents demonstrated much stronger evidence of positive than problematic development, even at their most vulnerable times. Absolute levels of their engagement in healthy behaviors, supportive relationships with parents and friends, and positive self‐perceptions and psychological well‐being were much higher than their reported angry and depressive feelings, engagement in risky behaviors, and negative relationships with parents and peers. We did not find evidence to support the idea that adolescence is a time of heightened risk. Rather, on average, these adolescents experienced relatively stable and developmentally healthy trajectories for a wide range of characteristics, behaviors, and relationships, with slight increases or decreases at different points in development that varied according to domain. Developmental trajectories differed minimally by SES but in some expected ways by gender and race/ethnicity, although these latter differences were not very marked. Overall, most of the young people navigated through their adolescence and arrived at young adulthood with good mental and physical health, positive relationships with their parents and peers, and high aspirations and expectations for what their future lives might hold.
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