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This growing emphasis on young people in policy and programming arenas has drawn attention to gaps in our knowledge regarding the situation of adolescents in developing countries as well as to how various transitions to adulthood are changing in light of globalization. More young people than ever—more than 1.5 billion youth ages 10 to 24 in developing countries—are experiencing the transition to adulthood during a time of unprecedented global change. Responding to the need for more informed policy making, the National Academies convened a multidisciplinary expert group—the Panel on the Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries—to assess how transitions to adulthood are changing for young men and women in developing countries, and what the implications of those changes are for the design of programs that affect young people. Specifically, the panel was asked to:

  • document the situation and status of adolescents and young adults in developing countries;

  • ascertain the changes that are occurring in the nature, timing, sequencing, and interrelationships of the various transitions to adulthood in developing countries;

  • assess the knowledge base regarding the causes and consequences of these changes;

  • identify the implications of this knowledge for policy and program interventions affecting adolescent reproductive health; and

  • identify research priorities that are scientifically promising and relevant for integrating adolescent research and policy.

In answering these broad questions, the panel was forced to face several difficult theoretical and empirical questions. In part this was inevitable because of the enormity of the subject and the diversity of contexts and experiences of youth in many varied contexts. Where the existing literature was found to be deficient and data to answer particular questions were known to be available, the panel decided to commission a series of background papers to provide more focused treatment of certain issues and greater detail on which the panel report could build. The panel’s report entitled Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries contains its main findings, analyses, and conclusions. This companion volume contains revised versions of the best of these background papers that the panel commissioned along the way.

Because these studies were selected to fill unique gaps in the existing literature, they should not be taken to constitute a comprehensive collection of all potentially relevant topics related to transitions to adulthood in developing countries. In the panel report, many more such topics are indicated at the end of each chapter for which research is still needed. Nevertheless,

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