A Study of Interactions: Emerging Issues in the Study of Adolescence: A Workshop Summary


Summarizing the major themes discussed at a September 2005 workshop, this report provides an initial overview of key findings from different fields of research on adolescence and highlights fundamental processes that shape adolescent health and development.

Over the past 30 years, the study of adolescence has exploded with breakthroughs that have pushed thinking about interactions among the complex biological, behavioral, and social systems that affect adolescents -- from the endocrine system to social peer groups. This field is informed by human development, pediatrics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, psychiatry, molecular biology, endocrinology, neuroscience and many other fields. All contribute to the research and have produced a wide range of findings. What is lacking are opportunities to integrate and connect research from multiple fields and examine their implications for policy and practice.

The National Academies' Board on Children, Youth, and Families convened this workshop as a first step in launching a broader synthesis of studies of adolescence. The workshop participants included an interdisciplinary group of researchers who met at last fall to explore the different strands of research in adolescence. The report addresses the issues raised in their discussions of goals for the field's future and describes the presenters' thoughts on the feasibility of launching an in-depth contextual study that could more firmly establish important connections among the many fields of study concerned with adolescence. The workshop and summary report are sponsored by the Office of Adolescent Health in the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Policy makers, educators, community health specialists and others concerned with the life challenges facing adolescents look for ways to use scientific findings to better serve young people and their families. This report takes an important step toward the creation of a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary synthesis of adolescent research.