it has introduced new kinds of international conflicts and problems such as rising inequality, social polarization, and the demise of the nation-state (see, for example, Lechner and Boli, 2000; Milanovic, 2003; Wade, 2004). Some authors have even argued that young people who are “outside” the global economy and culture may be better off in some ways; they may maintain stronger family and community ties or be less likely to be exposed to risky behaviors.

Regardless of how the globalization debate is finally resolved, one thing is clear: as broad global forces transform the world in which the next generation will live and work, the choices that today’s young people make or others make on their behalf will facilitate or constrain their success as adults. Old expectations regarding employment or life experiences are not valid any more. Furthermore, the transition to adulthood is no longer just a matter of familial and individual choices but is greatly shaped by global contexts, increased contact across cultures and geographical space, and the repercussions that are associated with multiple and simultaneous events across countries. And the traditional values and norms that informed and influenced these choices in the past may not lead to the best decisions in the changing global context in which adolescents find themselves. Arnett (2002) has argued that young people worldwide now develop a bicultural identity that integrates their local identity with new elements derived from their exposure to and interpretation of global culture.

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce a conceptual framework that traces the effect of broad global changes on the process of transition from childhood to young adulthood in developing countries. It describes the most important elements and discusses the diversity of adolescent experience across regions and the suitability of the framework across the developing world as a whole. A special effort is made to note the similarities and differences that young people face in different regions of the world as well as the differences between men and women and among different socioeconomic groups.


Figure 2-1 presents the conceptual framework that the panel has adopted to guide our efforts and structure the report. Although the focus of concern is on young people in developing countries and their entry into adult status in their own societies, the perspective of the framework is that much of what happens to them, and indeed what constitutes their daily experience, is shaped by the contexts of their lives. As the figure shows, context has been divided into three analytic levels. Most remote of these is changing global context (Box A), next is changing national context (Box B), and the most immediate or proximal context is changing local community

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