The Charge to the Committee

The Committee on Youth Development convened a workshop on January 25, 1996, to examine the research in the fields of youth development and neighborhood influences. Thirty individuals from academic research centers, government agencies, and private foundations concerned with youth development programs participated in the workshop. They met in Washington, D.C., to review recent research findings, highlight promising venues for further exchange of knowledge about and experience with social setting interactions involving adolescents, and examine the implications of this knowledge and expertise for use in the design and evaluation of a broad range of public and private youth initiatives.

Three key questions provided a framework for organizing the workshop:

  • (1)  

    What new conceptual models are shaping studies of the community factors that influence the trajectories of youth development?

  • (2)  

    What issues need to be resolved to design more accurate measures of the strengths and limitations of community resources and better assessments of their impact on youth outcomes?

  • (3)  

    What mechanisms could better enable researchers and service providers to exchange knowledge and expertise about social setting factors that influence programs that serve youth?

The participants examined what is known about the types of supports that produce positive outcomes for youth, critical components and services within neighborhoods that make a difference in youth outcomes, and strategies by which research knowledge and practitioner experience can be integrated to improve the



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--> The Charge to the Committee The Committee on Youth Development convened a workshop on January 25, 1996, to examine the research in the fields of youth development and neighborhood influences. Thirty individuals from academic research centers, government agencies, and private foundations concerned with youth development programs participated in the workshop. They met in Washington, D.C., to review recent research findings, highlight promising venues for further exchange of knowledge about and experience with social setting interactions involving adolescents, and examine the implications of this knowledge and expertise for use in the design and evaluation of a broad range of public and private youth initiatives. Three key questions provided a framework for organizing the workshop: (1)   What new conceptual models are shaping studies of the community factors that influence the trajectories of youth development? (2)   What issues need to be resolved to design more accurate measures of the strengths and limitations of community resources and better assessments of their impact on youth outcomes? (3)   What mechanisms could better enable researchers and service providers to exchange knowledge and expertise about social setting factors that influence programs that serve youth? The participants examined what is known about the types of supports that produce positive outcomes for youth, critical components and services within neighborhoods that make a difference in youth outcomes, and strategies by which research knowledge and practitioner experience can be integrated to improve the

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--> design and evaluation of community initiatives serving youth. The participants paid particular attention to comprehensive strategies of neighborhood change and community development that could improve outcomes for youth, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Such strategies include the creation of empowerment zones, community schools, gang prevention efforts, and programs that serve runaway or delinquent youth—see, for example, the gang prevention program announced by the Administration for Children and Families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1994). In developing this summary report, the committee drew on the workshop and a small group of research studies that were included as background readings for the workshop participants. A comprehensive review of the literature on social settings and youth development was not included within the scope of this project. Many areas of relevant research—such as research on the biological processes of adolescent development, studies that offer in-depth and comparative descriptions of different minority cultures, and studies of processes of community organization and development—were not included in the one-day workshop. Statements in this report regarding the quality or findings of the research literature on social settings are derived from the workshop and committee discussions rather than from a thorough synthesis of the appropriate research literature.