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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
capacities, values, attitudes, etc. and (2) current experiences set the stage for future capacities, values, attitudes, etc. Consequently, we need to think about development as occurring over time with experiences in the present being critical for both current well-being and preparation for the future.
Looking at development from this general perspective makes especially salient the need for families, schools, and communities to provide developmentally appropriate and enriching experiences throughout childhood and adolescence in order to both foster well-being and ensure adequate preparation for the transition to adulthood. Without such a guiding framework, programs will not necessarily be designed to provide the kinds of experiences necessary to ensure that adolescents will be fully prepared for becoming effective and fully functional adults. Many researchers, theoreticians, service practitioners, and policy makers see this as especially true in today’s increasingly complex and technological society.
Several other aspects of this model are important to understand. First, although the model suggests that there is a natural sequence in which each individual handles these developmental tasks, the specific challenges listed as typical of the different stages are actually operative throughout the life span. People are always dealing with each of these tasks. Second, nevertheless, due to both biological changes at the individual level and social changes imposed by the larger groups in which individuals reside, particular tasks are likely to become more salient at specific periods of life. The exact sequence in which these tasks emerge will depend on characteristics of both the individual and the social setting in which the individual is developing.
For example, Erikson proposed that confronting the challenge of personal identity formation occurred during adolescence and young adulthood and prior to confronting the challenge of intimacy. This ordering of tasks is probably most true for white American males. Other groups may have a different normative ordering. The exact ordering of the relative salience of the tasks should differ across cultural groups. Such variations need to be taken into account in designing programs for youth from different cultural groups. But what is likely to be more universal is the proposal that individuals both acquire new skills and needs and are confronted with new roles and responsibilities over the course of their life histories. The interaction of both of these types of changes moves individuals through stages such as those depicted in Table A-1. Finally, as noted above, given the cumulative nature of development,