particularly infancy and early childhood. Over the past 30 years, the study of adolescence has exploded with breakthroughs that have pushed thinking about interactions among the complex systems that affect adolescents—from the endocrine system to the social peer group—forward at a dizzying pace. Researchers and practitioners are now exploring important connections among these complex systems, examining the impacts of different social environments on the development of biological systems and psychological processes. Similarly, many scientists are studying the relationships between certain biological factors and the motivations, impulses, and social behaviors of young people. The diversity of specialized fields and theoretical frameworks that have emerged in these studies has generated interest in the development of an integrated overview to provide more cohesion within the field and also to improve understanding of the implications of findings. But, despite past calls for interdisciplinary research (e.g. Millstein et al., 1999), the creation of a comprehensive synthesis of research that draws on very different intellectual traditions has remained persistently elusive.
The development of a comprehensive review of research on adolescence depends in large part on the perceived need for such a synthesis and the extent to which different research fields as well as policy and practice would benefit from such an effort. To address these issues, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, through the Board on Children, Youth, and Families, held a two-day workshop in September 2005.
The workshop was designed as an opportunity for an interdisciplinary group to explore the different strands of research that contribute to understanding adolescence. In the brief time available, the group was not asked to address the entire range of issues related to adolescent health and development, but rather to provide an initial explanation of issues that a longer term study might address. The workshop planners began with the proposition that understanding the complex phenomenon of adolescence demands widely different theoretical and methodological perspectives.
In planning the workshop, the program committee developed a framework to identify the multiple settings and research disciplines that encompass the fields of adolescent science. Recognizing that one workshop could not address all fields within this framework, the committee sought to focus on a selected set of research domains that could provide the basis for examining interactions and processes within a transdisciplinary paradigm that cuts across individual fields of research. The planners had particular interest in highlighting scientific breakthroughs, as well as interventions that