skills necessary to successfully manage their lives in a very complex social system; and the importance of community programs being interconnected with each other, with families, and with other youth-serving institutions and programs in the community.


In this section we present a provisional list of eight features of daily settings that are important for adolescent development. This list is based partly on theories of positive developmental processes and partly on empirical research on the many types of settings that youth experience— families, schools, neighborhoods, and community programs. We have also drawn on lists of features created by other scholars and practitioners (e.g., American Youth Policy Forum, 1997; Benson, 1997; Connell et al., 2000; Dryfoos, 1990; Gambone and Arbreton, 1997; Lipsitz, 1980; McLaughlin, 2000; Merry, 2000; Roth and Brooks-Gunn, 2000; Zeldin et al., 1995). Table 4–1 is a summary of the eight features. In assessing the evidence for these eight characteristics, we relied on the most recent peer-reviewed literature reviews (e.g., those published in the 1998 Handbook of Child Psychology, edited by William Damon, 1997; the recent Annual Reviews for psychology, sociology, and anthropology; the major review journals in each of these fields as well as recent articles published in the major peer-reviewed journals in these fields). Instead of a lengthy list of citations following each conclusion, we cite representative articles and reviews.

Two qualifications need to be kept in mind. First, we emphasize that this list is provisional: it is based on the current research base, thus it is likely to have omitted features important to various cultural groups. Second, the boundaries between features are often quite blurred. This list, then, is only a step on the path toward formulating a more comprehensive framework; more research needs to be done. Although we describe these as features of settings, this is really shorthand for saying that they are features of the person’s interaction with the setting. Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) have decried a recent tendency for scholars to discuss the setting without the child and to discuss the child without the setting. We want to avoid encouraging these shortcomings. It is the experience of the adolescent-in-setting—the processes of interaction—that is critical to development. When adolescents walk in the door, it is not what they see that is important, but rather it is how they become engaged.

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