This was followed in 1992 by A Matter of Time, a Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development report that observed that individuals develop through connection with a variety of people and systems. The report underscored the broad theoretical and empirical support for the essential role of community programs in promoting young people’s healthy development (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1992). It also stressed: (1) the growing need for such programs, given the complexity of life in the United States and the growing ambiguity about how best to prepare for a rapidly changing adult landscape, and (2) the paucity of high-quality community programs, especially for youth living in high-risk neighborhoods.

Numerous other reports and books have stressed the growing complexity of adolescent development. Not that long ago, adolescence ended somewhere between 18 and 22—at which point young adults moved into the labor market, married, and began their families. As recently as the 1960s, the transition into adulthood in most Western industrialized countries (particularly in the United States and Canada) was well defined for most social class groups. Adolescents finished high school and either went to college or into the labor market or the military. People generally married and began families in their early 20s. People were thus usually launched into adulthood by their early 20s, and there were only a limited number of fairly well-defined pathways from adolescence into adulthood (Arnett, 2000b).

This is no longer the case (Brown and Corbett, in press; Arnett, 2000b; Mortimer and Larson, 2002). Rapid demographic, sociocultural, and labor market changes have extended adolescence well into the 20s. The median age for marriage and childbearing has moved up to the late 20s. Both the length of time and numbers of youth involved in some form of postsecondary education have increased dramatically. Finally, the heterogeneity of passage through this period of life has exploded. There is no longer a small, easily understood set of patterns for the transition to adulthood. The future job market is unclear because it is changing so rapidly; youth are being advised to expect as many as four quite different occupational careers. The likelihood of today’s youth moving into jobs similar to those held by their parents or other adult mentors has decreased substantially over the last 50 years, as has the likelihood that they will live in the same communities in which they grew up, and the likelihood that they will form a permanent intimate partnership with one other person and raise a family with that person (Elder and Conger, 2000; Giddens, 1990, 1992; Gleick, 1999; Larson, in press).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement