New Resource Aims to Align Terms and Concepts Related to Adolescent Development

Posted March 31, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A new tool helps define terms related to positive youth development

The research orga­ni­za­tion Child Trends has launched an online resource offer­ing sci­ence-based def­i­n­i­tions for terms and con­cepts relat­ed to ado­les­cent development.

The tool, fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, seeks to estab­lish a com­mon under­stand­ing for terms used by prac­ti­tion­ers, grant writ­ers, pro­gram man­agers and oth­ers who serve young people.

Entries include: dis­con­nect­ed youth,” trau­ma-informed care,” social cap­i­tal,” restora­tive prac­tices” and metacog­ni­tion.”

Estab­lish­ing com­mon def­i­n­i­tions for key terms and con­cepts is vital for indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions serv­ing youth and young adults,” says Kristin Moore, a senior schol­ar and past pres­i­dent of the non­prof­it Child Trends. We hope this resource helps indi­vid­u­als in var­i­ous sec­tors — includ­ing those in edu­ca­tion, phil­an­thropy, work­force devel­op­ment and direct ser­vices — avoid con­fu­sion and enhance under­stand­ing of their respec­tive fields.”

The resource includes a three-part glos­sary of term. These sec­tions are:

  1. con­texts, which describe the eco­nom­ic, edu­ca­tion­al, social and fam­i­ly cir­cum­stances in which youth and young adults are raised or cur­rent­ly live in;
  2. inter­ven­tions, or the approach­es and mea­sures used in pro­grams to sup­port young peo­ple; and
  3. out­comes, the poten­tial men­tal, social and health results of var­i­ous inter­ven­tions, or the career-skills or edu­ca­tion­al gains made.

Each def­i­n­i­tion ends by high­light­ing relat­ed resources and research. For instance, the entry for devel­op­men­tal assets” defines the term as the pos­i­tive sup­ports and strengths that young peo­ple need to suc­ceed,” and shares a link to the Search Insti­tute, a non­prof­it that has devel­oped a frame­work about the subject.

The tool also offers exam­ples that illus­trate how cer­tain inter­ven­tions can help youth and young adults achieve a range of pos­si­ble outcomes.

We want­ed this tool to go beyond being a dic­tio­nary or glos­sary,” says Han­nah Lan­tos, a research sci­en­tist in youth devel­op­ment at Child Trends. We want­ed it to be a one-stop source for resources and research about key terms and con­cepts around youth and young adult devel­op­ment. And we want­ed it to pro­vide prac­ti­tion­ers with an under­stand­ing of how they can use these con­cepts in their day-to-day work.”

Child Trends iden­ti­fied the terms and con­cepts through a year-long research project. The non­prof­it inter­viewed pro­fes­sion­als and stake­hold­ers from var­i­ous youth-serv­ing orga­ni­za­tions, reviewed more than 70 web­sites relat­ed to the field, and stud­ied lit­er­a­ture on ado­les­cent development.

Estab­lish­ing a com­mon under­stand­ing and hav­ing a tool that pro­vides so many resources in one place can help prac­ti­tion­ers who serve youth and young adults strength­en their pro­gram­ming,” says Alli­son Ger­ber, a senior asso­ciate at the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. We hope that this tool helps peo­ple see the con­nec­tions between key con­cepts and prac­tices and explore the strate­gies that they can use to bol­ster their exist­ing approaches.”

Learn how one orga­ni­za­tion is using ado­les­cent devel­op­ment research in its programs

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