What do you think of when you imagine an adolescent? Although some people picture a helpful, well-functioning young person, others envision a gangly, awkward, brooding, and troublesome individual. Even parents and teachers sometimes bemoan the changes that occur as their children move into and through adolescence. Elementary school-age children are seen as cute, cooperative, and ready to learn. In contrast, adolescents are often seen as problems waiting to happen. Until recently, researchers shared this view. Historically, this period of life was labeled by developmental scientists as a time of storm and stress (Arnett, 1999). Although we now know that most young people pass into and through adolescence with few major problems, some find this a very difficult period of life (Arnett, 1999; Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1989; Eccles et al., 1993; Moffitt, 1993; Rutter and Smith, 1995).
Many developmental scientists, policy makers, and practitioners working with youth believe that enhancing the lives of adolescents with positive opportunities and experiences could reduce the likelihood and magnitude of these problems (e.g., Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1989; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 1998a; Dryfoos,