what influences whether young people stay on healthy, productive pathways or move onto more problematic, and potentially destructive ones as they pass through this important life stage.
Many theorists have proposed systematic ways to think about the developmental challenges, opportunities, and risks of this period of life. Historically, most prominent among these was Eric Erikson (1968). Integrating adolescence into his more general life-span model of development (see Appendix A), he suggested that the specific challenges for children between ages 10 and 18 are: developing a sense of mastery, identity, and intimacy. Others have expanded these challenges to include autonomy, sexuality, and achievement (e.g., Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1989; Havinghurst, 1972). In many cultural groups, these challenges translate into the following more specific tasks: (1) changing the nature of the relationship between young people and their parents so youth can take on a more mature role in the social fabric of their community (among white Americans this change often takes the form of greater independence from parents and greater decision-making power over one’s own current and future behavior; in other cultures, this change can take the form of greater responsibility for family support and increased participation in family decision making; in all cultures this change typically results in starting one’s own family and becoming integrated into the mainstream adult community); (2) exploring new personal, social, and sexual roles and identities; (3) transforming peer relationships into deeper friendships and intimate partnerships; and (4) participating in a series of experiences and choices that facilitate future economic independence and interdependence.
As made clear by many scientists interested in adolescence, each of these tasks is played out in an increasingly complex set of social settings and in both cultural and historical settings (e.g., Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 1998; Cairns and Cairns, 1994; Eccles et al., 1993; Elder, 1998; Elder and Conger, 2000; Elliott, et al., 1996; Erikson, 1968; Jessor and Jessor, 1977; Lerner and Galambos, 1998; Moffitt, 1993; Rutter and Smith, 1995; Steinberg and Morris, 2001). Optimal progress on each of these tasks depends on the psychosocial, physical, and cognitive assets of the individual, the social supports available to the individual, and the