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This book takes a cultural approach to adolescent development, presenting information from a wide variety of cultures, within the United States and around the world. Covering a wider age range than most books, it discusses adolescents to emerging adults, providing readers with an extensive and lively exploration of how young people change as they develop. History of adolescence in Western cultures<59> biological foundations of puberty<59> cultural, social and psychological responses the puberty<59> cognitive development<59> cultural beliefs and socialization<59> adolescents and gender<59> the self<59> family relationships<59> friends and peers<59> dating, love, and sexuality<59> school<59> work<59> media<59> problems. For psychologists or anyone else interested in adolescent development.
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Adolescence is a fascinating time of life, and for most instructors it is an enjoyable topic to teach. For many students taking the course, it is the time of life they have just completed or are now passing through. Learning about development during this period is a journey of self-discovery for them, in part. Students who are many years beyond this period often enjoy reflecting back on who they were then, and they come away with a new understanding of their past and present selves. What students learn from a course on adolescence often confirms their own intuitions and experiences, and sometimes contradicts or expands what they thought they knew. When it works well, a course on adolescence can change not only how students understand themselves, but also how they understand others and how they think about the world around them. For instructors, the possibility the course offers for students' growth of understanding is often stimulating. My goal in writing this textbook has been to assist instructors and students in making illuminating connections of understanding on this dynamic and complex age period.
This is a first edition textbook so it may be useful to outline the features that distinguish it from existing textbooks. I wrote this book with the intention of presenting a fresh conception of the field of adolescence—a conception reflecting what I believe to be the most promising and exciting new currents. There are four essential features of the conception that guided this book: (1) a focus on the cultural basis of development; (2) an extension of the age period covered to include "emerging adulthood" (roughly ages 18 to 25), as well as adolescence; (3) an emphasis on historical context; and (4) an interdisciplinary approach to theories and research. The Cultural Approach
In teaching courses on adolescence, from large lecture classes to small seminars, I have always brought a considerable amount of research from other cultures into the classroom. My education as a postdoctoral student at the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago included a substantial focus on anthropology. Learning to take a cultural approach to development greatly expanded and deepened my own understanding of adolescence, and I have seen the cultural approach work this way for my students as well. Through an awareness of the diversity of cultural practices, customs, and beliefs about adolescence, we expand our knowledge of the range of developmental possibilities. We also gain a greater understanding of adolescent development in our own culture by learning to see it as only one of many possible paths.
Taking a cultural approach to development means infusing discussion of every aspect of development with a cultural perspective. I present the essentials of the cultural approach in the first chapter, and it serves as a theme throughout the book. Each chapter also includes a Cultural Focus box in which an aspect of development in a specific culture is explored indepth—for example, adolescents' family relationships in India, Germany's apprenticeship program, and media use among young people in Nepal.
My hope is that students will learn not only that adolescent development can be different depending on the culture, but also how to think culturally—that is, how to analyze all aspects of adolescent development for their cultural basis. This includes learning how to critique research for the extent to which it does or does not take the cultural basis of development into account. I provide this kind of critique at numerous points throughout the book. Emerging Adulthood
Not only is adolescence an inherently fascinating period of life, but we are also currently in an especially interesting historical moment with respect to this period. One distinguishing feature of adolescence in our time is that it begins far earlier than it did a century ago, because puberty begins for most people in industrialized countries at a much younger age. Yet, if we measure the end of adolescence in terms of taking on adult roles such as marriage, parenthood, and stable full-time work, then adolescence also ends much later than it has in the past because many people postpone these transitions until at least the mid-twenties. My own research over the past few years has focused on development among young Americans from their late teens through their mid-twenties, including Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and Whites. I have concluded on the basis of this research that this period is neither adolescence nor adulthood, nor even "young adulthood." In my view, the transition to adulthood has become so prolonged that it constitutes a separate period of the life course in industrialized societies lasting about as long as adolescence.
Thus, a second distinguishing feature of the conception guiding this textbook is that the age period covered includes not only adolescence but also "emerging adulthood"—the period extending from the late teens through the mid-twenties. In a recent paper in American Psychologist (Arnett, 2000a), I presented a theory of emerging adulthood, conceptualizing it as a period characterized by instability and by exploration of possible life directions in love, work, and worldviews. I describe this theory in some detail in the first chapter of this book, and use it as the framework for discussing emerging adulthood in the chapters that follow. Since there is not nearly as much research on emerging adulthood as there is on adolescence, the balance of material in each chapter tilts quite strongly toward adolescence. However, each chapter contains material that pertains to emerging adulthood. The Historical Context
Given the differences between adolescence now and adolescence in the past, knowledge of the historical context of development is crucial to a complete understanding of adolescent development. Students will have a richer understanding of adolescent development if they are able to contrast the lives of young people in the present with the lives of young people in other times. Toward this end, I provide historical material in each chapter. Each chapter also contains a Historical Focus box that focuses on young people's development during a specific historical period—for example, adolescents' family lives during the Great Depression, the "Roaring Twenties" and the rise of youth culture, and work among British adolescents in the 19th century.
The emphasis on the historical context of development is especially important now with the accelerating pace of cultural change that has taken place around the world in recent decades due to the influence of globalization. In economically developing countries, the pace of change in recent decades has been especially dramatic, and young people often find themselves growing up in a culture that is much different than the one their parents experienced in their own adolescence. Globalization is a pervasive influence on the lives of young people today, in ways both promising and troubling, and for this reason I have made it one of the unifying themes of the book. An Interdisciplinary Approach
The cultural approach and the emphasis on historical context are related to a fourth distinguishing feature of the conception offered in this book—the interdisciplinary approach to theories and research. Psychology and education are naturally represented abundantly because these are the disciplines where the most research on adolescent development takes place. However, I also integrate materials from a wide range of other fields. Much of the theory and research that is the basis for a cultural understanding of adolescence comes from anthropology, so anthropological studies are strongly represented. Students often find this material fascinating because it effectively challenges their assumptions about what they expect adolescence to be like. Interesting and important cultural material on adolescence also comes from sociology, especially with respect to European and Asian societies, and these studies find a place here. History is notably represented for providing the historical perspective discussed above. Other disciplines drawn from include psychiatry, medicine, and family studies.
The integration of materials across disciplines means drawing on a variety of research methods. The reader will find many different research methods represented here from questionnaires and interviews to ethnographic research and biological measurements. Each chapter contains a Research Focus box, in which the methods used in a specific study are described in detail. Chapter Topics
My goal of presenting a fresh conception of young people's development has resulted in chapters on topics not represented as strongly in most other textbooks. Most textbooks include a discussion of moral development, but this textbook has a chapter on cultural beliefs (Chapter 4), including moral development, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and a discussion of individualistic and collectivistic beliefs in various cultures. This chapter provides a strong basiAbout the Author:
JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. He has also taught at the University of Virginia, Oglethorpe University, and the University of Missouri, and he has been a Visiting Scholar at the Center on Adolescence at Stanford University. He was educated at Michigan State University (undergraduate), the University of Virginia (graduate school), and the University of Chicago (postdoctoral studies). His research interests are in risk behavior in adolescence, media use in adolescence, and a wide range of topics in emerging adulthood. Currently, he serves on the Editorial Board of Journal of Youth and Adolescence and Youth & Society. He lives in University Park, Maryland, with his wife, Lene Jensen, and their infant twins, Paris and Miles.
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