America's Youth in Crisis: Challenges and Options for Programs and Policies


Richard M. Lerner

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    You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that all is not well on the home front. Appalling statistics on child and youth welfare portend terrible suffering—daily portraits in the press of homicidal children and homeless, hungry babies translate the numbers into real people. But the general public does not just get up in the morning highly motivated to address social issues. Most are focused on their own welfare, worrying about their own kids, maintaining their own relationships, and keeping their taxes down. They have little insight into how those misery statistics affect the quality of their lives and the lives of generations to come.

    Fortunately, within the general population resides a growing body of human resources people, both professionals and volunteers, who want to confront the statistics and the causes behind them and reshape this nation. Richard Lerner is one of those reshapers. I am delighted that he has built on my work and the work of my colleagues to develop an agenda for integrating research and outreach.

    Although he generously refers to me as a scholar, I describe myself as an angry old activist. In my view, the purpose of research is to inform action, and the role of the university is to produce practitioners of many varieties who can implement that action. As this book suggests, enough research currently exists to initiate planned responses to the interrelated problems of families, schools, and communities. And if researchers can be lured into program evaluation and operational research, we could move faster and better.

    The real test for all of our theories lies out in the field, in the diverse American communities. We know now that human service workers must move away from their concentration on changing individual behaviors and tackle the challenges involved in institutional change. Richard Lerner describes what I call my obsession with full-service schools, the model that combines, in one setting, quality education and support services (everything needed in that community to help children, adolescents, and families “make it”). This concept is based on the premise that neither kind of intervention—educational nor social—will be successful without the other.

    In all parts of the country, the consensus is that more comprehensive and powerful programs are required. Communities need help in arriving at that shared vision of new institutional arrangements, technical assistance with putting all the pieces together, and long-term support that will ensure institutionalization of demonstrations and real change in the life chances for children and their families.

    We are all in this together. Land-grant universities are in a unique position to bridge the gap between research and practice. The extension service researches into every community in America and has the potential for bringing together local leaders, agencies, parents, youth, and media to shape and act on that vision. This book should guide those endeavors, sensitizing practitioners to respond to critical needs, charging researchers to focus on relevant issues, and challenging universities to integrate curricula and produce real leaders for the future.



    Refreshing—even amazing!—to find a distinguished academic scholar who is not content with producing research that meets the scrutiny of peers and is published in the best journals in the field. Rather, his satisfaction must come from seeing his research and that of his colleagues and peers applied in the formation of an agenda and effective action plan for the nation's children and adolescents. If he can lead by example and attract other scholars to risk joining him in applied research, outreach, and evaluation, then we have a legitimate chance of responding in time to a huge and growing crisis in this country—the vast underrealization of the potential of our children and the concurrent growing jeopardy of our nation and society as we have known it.

    Richard Lerner understands that our children, adolescents, families, and communities and society are growing in complexity and diversity, due to the confluence of many forces. And he has risked candidly criticizing his profession for having focused its research attention largely on White, middle-class children and adolescents, resulting in a theoretical and a practical knowledge gap between existing data and the needs of the nation's diverse youth and families. If he can capture the attention and engage the talents of his peers, the gap can be closed in time to make use of the data in addressing our crisis.

    With comprehensive data, Richard Lerner has demonstrated that “the breadth and depth of the problems besetting our nation's youth, families, and communities exist at historically unprecedented levels.” And he has articulated the most effective route to applying ourselves in creative action for the positive development of our children and adolescents. He has identified that we must focus our energies on local communities—engaging the total community to overcome turf barriers and build comprehensive, integrated, sustainable community-based programs.

    4-H has supported the publication of this book because it represents a hope for engaging the scholars of academic communities, in land-grant universities and elsewhere, to focus their research on addressing the real-world problems of today's diverse children, adolescents, and families. If they begin to do so, 4-H and other youth development education programs will finally have a relevant body of knowledge undergirding the work they undertake on behalf of children and adolescents.

    We must commit ourselves to holistic systems in support of positive youth development at the community level. Richard Lerner articulates the critical need for doing so, the specific, collaborative role academic scholars can play, and the enormous potential societal benefit from giving this our highest priority.

    RichardJ.Sauer, President and CEO National 4-H Council


    For about 180 days of the year, roughly 1,125 kids around the town I live in come to school. Each day, every boy and girl of that 1,125 makes decisions. They, including myself, make decisions that, whether they know it or not, affect them. The decisions could affect what happens in a day, week, year, or life.

    It's hard for kids my age to relate to what adults write. Either you won't understand it, or you don't want to. That's why, when I was asked to write this foreword, I thought it would be an opportunity to get my perspective and those of many other people's across. So, instead of reading a book about kids written by all adults, the views of a 14-year-old will be consolidated with adults' views.

    Even though my school is pretty much safe, there still are drugs, there still is violence, and there still are dropouts (to name a few problems). Peer pressure and acceptance are major forces in these categories. If we were rid of those two forces, dropouts, drugs, and violence would be a problem of dwindling importance.

    But in reality, they will always be there. As I said earlier, choices are made every day. Kids choose what group to be categorized with. In my opinion, one of the most important things in my life and the lives of kids my age is being accepted by our peers. It ranks higher on some people's priority list than others. Some people will do things like try drugs or cut class to be accepted. It works. It may sound stupid. It is.

    You can also think of it like this. There are two kinds of problems. A short-term problem like “Who should I ask to the dance?” can be resolved by using a short-term solution. A long-term problem can and will affect the rest of your life. They are best resolved with a long-term solution. We screw up when we use a short-term solution for a long-term problem. A long-term problem could be something like deciding to smoke—“Some popular kids are going to the mall; they'll probably like me if they see me smoking; should I do it?” Short-term solution—“If I only do it once they'll like me; I won't do it again; I won't get caught.” Before deciding, what you should do is ask yourself, “How will this hurt me in the long run?”

    This is only an example of what might occur. Each day, kids in the United States are probably faced with similar decisions. I have taken my school as an example. There are many other schools. Some are much better. A lot are much worse. There are worse situations that I know happen. You can go back to the first thing I said: Each and every kid makes decisions, ones from the simplest thing like, “Should I go to my next class?” to a decision that could affect their life.

    Before kids have the responsibility of making their own decisions, we need to know how to judge making them. I hope that this book will help kids deal with these issues.

    JustinS.Lerner, Okemos, MI


    Don't children usually grow up healthy and fine? Don't they usually emerge intact from their early “growing pains?” Yes and no. While it is certainly true that many turn out well, with or without great difficulty in mid-passage, it is also true that far too many are experiencing the formidable but preventable burdens of ignorance, illness, suffering, failure, humiliation, and lost opportunities. For instance, the evidence indicates that about one adolescent in four is in really serious trouble, such as pregnancy, drug use, dropping out of school, depression and suicide. We lag well behind the other advanced democracies in preventing infant mortality; during the eighties, twenty nations did better. Measures of educational achievement—in reading, math, and science—reveal that our children badly fail to meet the standards of other technically advanced nations. In short, a variety of indices indicate that we are suffering heavy casualties during the years of growth and development, and these casualties not only are tragic for the individuals but also bear heavy cost for American society.

    DavidA.Hamburg (1992, p. I)1

    America is hanging over a precipice. Unless dramatic and innovative action is taken soon, millions of our nation's children and adolescents—the human capital on which America must build its future—will fall into an abyss of crime and violence, drug and alcohol use and abuse, unsafe sex, school failure, lack of job preparedness, and feelings of despair and hopelessness that pervade the lives of children whose parents have lived in poverty and who see themselves as having little opportunity to do better, that is, to have a life marked by societal respect, achievement, and opportunity.

    The waste of our children's lives continues, seemingly unabated, each year. Indeed, I believe that the breadth and depth of the problems besetting our nation's youth, families, and communities exist at historically unprecedented levels. Moreover, even if one believes that his or her own children are not engaged directly in high-risk behaviors, and even if one's own family is not poor, few people consider themselves or their children immune from such dangers as random violence; few believe that their communities or businesses can continue to prosper if the economic competitiveness of the American economy rests on cohorts of youth wherein drug and alcohol use and abuse, school failure and dropout, delinquency and crime, and teenage pregnancy and parenting are increasingly more prototypic occurrences. As such, it is not just some youth that are at risk, or just some communities that face the problems of losing much of their next generation. It is all of America's children, all our children, that are at risk.

    The loss of so much of our young generations is needless. There is increasing evidence that effective means exist about how to prevent the actualization of the numerous behavioral risks confronting our nation's youth and many of the sequelae of persistent and pervasive poverty. Scholars and child advocates such as Joy Dryfoos, Lisbeth Schorr, David Hamburg, Rick Little, and Marian Wright Edelman remind us that considerable information is available, both in America and internationally, about how to design and deliver programs that will prevent the development of problem behaviors among youth and/or promote positive youth development.

    However, the presence of this knowledge is not sufficient in and of itself to eliminate the problems facing our nation's youth. I believe that four additional points must be addressed.

    First, and foremost, America must commit itself to developing a comprehensive and integrative youth development policy. As persuasively argued by Karen J. Pittman and Shepherd Zeldin (1994), this policy must be directed to the promotion of positive youth development, more so than even to prevention and, certainly, more so than to deterrence or remediation.

    Second, then, and ideally within the context of this national youth development policy, resources must be available for sustaining programs shown, through appropriate evaluations, to be effective. Moreover, these resources must be used to increase the capacity of community members themselves to sustain these programs and to create community-wide, comprehensive, and integrative services that enhance the life chances of their children, adolescents, and families.

    Third, communities must learn from each other. Although effective programs are ones that fit with the values and mores of a specific community, each time that a community wishes to institute a program promoting youth abstinence in sex or drug and alcohol use, a program enhancing engagement in safe sexual practices, a youth violence prevention program, or a program promoting school achievement, it need not start from scratch. Rather, we should seek to replicate or extend knowledge of effective programming in one community to other communities with similar interests or needs. Communities will benefit from knowledge about what are the best practices potentially available to them to address issues of concern about children and adolescents.

    Fourth, then, we must bring university personnel into more effective collaborations with communities. Faculty associated with research and outreach or extension have the expertise to generate and disseminate knowledge about the best practices available; how replication may be achieved; how to evaluate—in a community-collaborative and program-formative manner—the youth programs in a given community; and how to ascertain, or “map,” the assets and strengths present in a community, that is, the individual and institutional resources that may be useful in building and sustaining a specific program in a particular community.

    I recognize, of course, that none of these four points will be easy to achieve. Indeed, as a member of a university faculty and, especially, given at this writing my almost two decades of experiences in land-grant universities, I am especially aware of the problems that must be addressed for universities to enter into long-term and truly collaborative partnerships with communities.

    For instance, research and extension faculty do not typically collaborate with each other. Thus research and outreach have not ordinarily been integrated activities within American universities. In addition, community-collaborative research is not highly valued or rewarded in our nation's universities. Indeed, the ethos within many universities—even land-grant institutions—is to pursue academic agendas determined primarily by disciplinary concerns.

    The problems of communities become salient, then, when they can be translated into the language of a discipline and when such translation can be coupled with, first, grant support for basic research or for a demonstration project and, typically, second, the potential for the publication of an article or a book. Unfortunately, however, when the funds in the grant are spent, when the demonstration project is over, or when sufficient information for the article or book is obtained, it is all too often the case that the university's and/or the faculty member's “interest” in the community problem also comes to an end.

    This approach by universities and research faculty to participating in addressing the problems confronting our nation's children and adolescents has failed America. Indeed, the lack of a sustained and a genuine commitment to collaboratively addressing the problems of our nation's communities—as the communities, and not the professoriate define them—has led to a growing disaffection among the American public toward its universities. As Ernest L. Boyer (1990, 1994), of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has noted, the American public increasingly sees universities and their professoriate to be elitist and societally disengaged. There is a growing question in the minds of many citizens about the wisdom of continuing to financially support institutions that have the potential to address community problems but, from the vantage point of the community, are not doing so.

    When I take off my “hat” as professor and researcher and don my role as community member, as husband, and as father, I must admit that I too feel frustrated about the lack of adequate knowledge generation, knowledge transmission, and knowledge application aimed at addressing in a collaborative manner the needs of our communities, that is, aimed at outreach. I am concerned that the skills of researchers are not being more deeply integrated with the skills of university extension or other outreach colleagues for better knowledge generation and transmission to occur. And I too, quite frankly, feel that if universities are not going to be a greater part of the solution to the problems facing America's diverse youth, families, and communities, their access to public financial support should be sharply curtailed.

    I choose to believe, however, that the current general character of universities' roles in addressing community-defined problems of children and adolescents is not a necessary or inevitable one. Indeed, as Boyer (1994) has noted, along with a tradition in America of university disinterest in community problems, there has also been a tradition—exemplified by the vision of land-grant institutions but, as well, present in non-land-grant state universities and colleges and, in some cases, private institutions—of a university devoted to addressing the practical problems of American life. Accordingly, if we can capitalize on the latter tradition, we may be able to create a means to bring universities into sustained collaborations with communities, with the diverse citizens, agencies, and institutions that will need to enter into coalitions if we are to adequately promote the positive development of our nation's youth.

    One way to “capture the hearts” of American academics is to “capture their minds.” I believe that if an intellectually sound, innovative, and useful model of scholarship can be presented to the professoriate—a model that promotes the integration of research and outreach, researchers and extension colleagues, and university and community—the probability of community-collaborative academic engagement with the problems besetting America's children and adolescents would be substantially enhanced.

    The goal of this book, and indeed of much of my career over the past two decades, is to present such a model and, more important, to use the model as a means to understand both the problems of America's children and adolescents and the potential to promote positive youth development through policies and programs. Termed developmental contextualism, this model provides a theoretical frame for viewing the development of children and adolescents as occurring in relation to the specific features of their actual, ecologically valid context, that is, their specific family, neighborhoods, society, culture, physical environments, and even the particular point in history within which they live. Developmental contextualism sees human development as occurring, then, within a systematically changing and complex (that is, multilevel) system; as such, children and adolescents as much influence their contexts—for example, children as much affect their parents—as their contexts (their parents) influence them.

    Developmental contextualism leads, then, to descriptions, of both the problems and the potential for healthy development of America's children and adolescents, that are associated with these bidirectional relationships between youth and their contexts. Moreover, to explain development, one must also turn to the system of relations between youth and their contexts. And, to test these explanations, one must change something about the actual context within which youth live. These changes constitute both experimental manipulations designed to test theoretical ideas about the variables that influence the course of human development and interventions aimed at changing for the better the life paths of children and adolescents. Depending on the level of organization involved in these contextual manipulations/interventions, we may label these planned changes into the course of human life as either policies or programs. Thus, when we evaluate the efficacy of these interventions in regard to the changes in the human life course associated with them, we are learning something about the adequacy of particular policies and programs to effect desired changes among children and adolescents, and we are learning something very basic about how human development occurs through changing relations between the developing person and his or her actual context. In other words, within developmental contextualism there is a synthesis of basic, theory-testing research and the applied scholarship associated with program and policy design, delivery, and evaluation.

    Using developmental contextualism as a frame for both reviewing the dimensions of the contemporary crisis of America's children and adolescents and capitalizing on the potential for positive development present in the diverse youth, families, and communities of our nation, I propose an agenda for integrating research and outreach. Moreover, building on the seminal work of Dryfoos, Schorr, and Hamburg, I use developmental contextualism to discuss both the features of successful prevention and development-enhancing programs for youth, and the principles that seem to be key in the design and implementation of such programs. Based again on the scholarship of Dryfoos, I illustrate the features and principles of successful youth programs by discussing the concept of full-service schools.

    In addition, I discuss how the developmental contextual approach to integrating research and outreach can be used to assist universities in becoming productive partners in community coalitions aimed at addressing the problems and potentials of children and adolescents. In this context, I focus on the changes in the cultures of both the academic campus and the community that will need to occur for effective and sustained university-community partnerships to be developed. However, I recognize that creation of the conditions affording such cultural changes will rest on the development of innovative academic and social policies, ones aimed, respectively, at providing incentives for universities to collaborate with communities and at establishing an integrative and comprehensive national youth policy.

    In sum, then, my hope is that this book will increase awareness of both the problems besetting our nation's youth, families, and communities and, more important, I believe, the potentials that exist for positive youth development—potentials that may be actualized if there is an adoption of an integrative agenda of research, policy engagement, and program design, delivery, and evaluation. Moreover, it is my hope that this book will stimulate increases in the quantity and quality of collaborations among university research and extension colleagues and the diverse communities of our states and nation. I believe that such collaborations will be the essential feature of a new national agenda for our nation's children and adolescents, one pulling us all back from the precipice of generational destruction and enabling America to take a major step toward fulfilling the vision of the Children's Defense Fund, that is, to create a nation wherein “we will leave no child behind.”


    There are always numerous people and institutions to thank in regard to the preparation of a book. In the case of this book, this debt seems to be especially true. First, I am grateful to my colleagues at National 4-H for asking me to prepare this book, providing constructive feedback throughout the process, and having the patience and good spirits to sit through several presentations of the ideas. Thus the support and assistance of Richard J. Sauer, President of National 4-H Council, Wendy Wheeler, Project Leader, National 4-H Council, and Nancy L. Valentine, National 4-H Program Leader, Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture are gratefully acknowledged and deeply appreciated.

    The generosity of several foundations and their commitment to America's youth, families, and communities also enabled this work to be initiated and completed. I am grateful to the support provided by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund for its support of the National 4-H activities of which this book is a part; the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for supporting many of the activities of the Institute for Children, Youth, and Families at Michigan State University, activities that allowed several of the ideas presented in this book to be developed, refined, and implemented; and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for supporting major instances of the outreach scholarship that is occurring at the Institute for Children, Youth, and Families, that is, the sort of scholarship called for within this book.

    If my work at the Institute for Children, Youth, and Families has enabled me to develop the ideas I present in this book—and indeed it has this stimulation has occurred because of the superb colleagues and excellent students I have been fortunate to have, both at the institute and across the Michigan State University campus. Thus I am grateful to L. Annette Abrams, Mary L. Andrews, Jes Asmussen, Carla L. Barnes, Jenny T. Bond, Jeanne A. Brickman, Timothy S. Bynum, Domini Castellino, Alina R. Chacon, Linda K. Chapel, Robert L. Church, Kenneth E. Corey, George Cornell, Stephen C. Curtin, Hiram Davis, Marylee Davis, James Dearing, W. Patrick Dickson, Clayton C. Dowling, James Dye, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Melissa A. Freel, Robert J. Griffore, Oran Hesterman, Leah Cox Hoopfer, Rick C. Hula, Daniel Ilgen, Steven Kaagan, David J. Kallen, Joanne G. Keith, Karen Klomparens, Jack H. Knott, Marjorie J. Kostelnik, Harriette P. McAdoo, John L. McAdoo, Marvin H. McKinney, John Metzler, Julia R. Miller, John B. Molidor, Charles W. Ostrom, Julie F. Parks, Daniel F. Perkins, Penelope Peterson, Celeste Sturdevant Reed, Lee Anne W. Roman, Lorilee Sandmann, Lawrence B. Schiamberg, Vernal Seefeldt, Harvey Sparks, Linda Spence, Linda Stanford, Christine Stephens, Carl S. Taylor, Patterson A. Terry, Charles Thompson, James Tiedje, Linda Beth Tiedje, Francisco A. Villarruel, James C. Votruba, William B. Weil, and Bruce E. Wilson for all their stimulation, support, and collaboration. I want to especially thank the colleagues who provided me with their comments about this book: Domini Castellino, Robert L. Church, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Joanne G. Keith, Jacqueline V. Lerner, Julia R. Miller, Charles W Ostrom, Daniel F. Perkins, Nancy L. Valentine, Francisco A. Villarruel, and Wendy Wheeler.

    I believe that it is because Michigan State has made a university-wide commitment to integrating research and outreach for children, adolescents, and families and has created a campus climate that promotes both consideration and implementation of the integrative ideas presented in this book that the institute has been able to initiate and make progress in the agenda for community-collaborative research and outreach discussed in this book. Here the vision, values, energy, creativity, and leadership of James C. Votruba, Vice Provost for University Outreach; Julia R. Miller, Dean of the College of Human Ecology and Chair of the institute's Executive Board of Deans; Gail L. Imig, Director, MSU Extension; Robert L. Church, Assistant Vice Provost for University Outreach; Leah Cox Hoopfer, Program Director, Children, Youth, and Family Programs; and Frank A. Fear, Chair of the Provost's Committee on University Outreach have been vital to the progress of the institute and, as well, to the creation at Michigan State of a model of university-community collaboration aimed at promoting the healthy development of children and adolescents.

    Moreover, the commitment to outreach scholarship and its vision for children, adolescents, and families that exist among the members of the institute's Executive Board of Deans have made essential contributions to the development of the agenda of the institute. Thus I am grateful for the wisdom and collegiality of William S. Abbett, Dean, College of Human Medicine; Erwin P. Bettinghaus, Dean, College of Communication Arts and Sciences; Marilyn Rothert, Dean, College of Nursing; Kenneth E. Corey, Dean, College of Social Science; Joe T. Darden, Dean, Urban Affairs Programs; Carole Ames, Dean, College of Education; Percy A. Pierre, Vice President for Research; Fred L. Poston, Dean, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Douglas L. Wood, Dean, College of Osteopathic Medicine; Julia R. Miller, Dean, College of Human Ecology; James C. Votruba, Vice Provost for University Outreach; Gail L. Imig, Director, MSU Extension; and Arnold Revzin, Assistant Vice President for Research.

    I have also been fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn a great deal from the community collaborators with whom I have had the privilege to work during my time at Michigan State. I am grateful to all of these fine people. They have taught me not only what a university might contribute to the lives of children, adolescents, families, and the communities it serves but also how much a university can learn from the communities with which it collaborates. In particular, I would like to extend my special thanks to Camille Abood, Attorney, Abood, Abood, & Rheamue; Velma Allen, Director, Community Affairs, Mott Children's Health Center; James F. Anderton, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Summit Holdings Corporation; Vernice Davis Anthony, Director, Michigan Department of Public Health; Pam Barckholtz, Saginaw Community Mental Health; Antonio Benavides, Executive Director, Cristo Rey Community Center; Robert G. Berning, President, Capital Area United Way; Connie Binsfeld, Lt. Governor, State of Michigan; Barbara Bowman, Vice President for Academic Programs, Erikson Institute; Jeanne A. Brickman, Children, Youth, and Family Programs, Michigan State University; Norman A. Brown, President, W. K. Kellogg Foundation; Andrea Colliar, Department of Public Health; Dolores Cook, MSU Board of Trustees; Elizabeth Dilley, Executive Director, Grand Rapids Education Foundation; Chris Fedewa, Lansing Mayor's Committee on Children, Youth, and Families; Joel Ferguson, Chair, MSU Board of Trustees; Cele Gerber, Director, Michigan Capitol Girl Scouts Council; Dorothy Gonzales, MSU Board of Trustees; William G. Gonzales, President and CEO, Butterworth Hospital; Michael G. Harrison, Circuit Court Judge, Ingham County Circuit Court; James K. Haveman, Director, Michigan Department of Mental Health; Randall Hekman, Executive Director, Michigan Family Forum; David Hollister, Mayor, City of Lansing; Chris Holman, Publisher, Greater Lansing Business Monthly; Robert Ivory, President, Michigan United Way; Gene Keilitz, United Way of Michigan; Kathleen L. Kissman, Assistant Director, Michigan State University Alumni Association; Judith Lindsay, Codirector, Perinatal Outreach Program, Butterworth Hospital; Rick R. Little, Secretary General, International Youth Foundation; Hanmin Liu, President, United States-China Educational Institute; Cyndi Mark, Children, Youth, and Family Program, Michigan State University; Aretha Marshall, Executive Director, Middle Level Education, Detroit Schools; Donna Massie, Department Head, Developmental Assessment and Collaborative Care, Mott Children's Health Center; Russell G. Mawby, Chairman and CEO, W. K. Kellogg Foundation; Jack K. Mawdsley, Program Director, W. K. Kellogg Foundation; Paul McConaughy, Vice President, Research and Communications, Capital Area United Way; Jean McDonald, Chair, Ingham County Board of Commissioners; Larry Meyer, Vice Chairman and CEO, Michigan Retailers Association; Gerald H. Miller, Director, Michigan Department of Social Services; Joseph S. Moore, Codirector, Perinatal Outreach Program, Butterworth Hospital; Michael Murphy, Pastor, St. Stephens Community Church; Carol M. O'Laughlin, Program Director, International Youth Foundation; Donald Owens, Judge of Probate, Ingham County Probate Court; Beverly Pacynski, Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District; Douglas M. Paterson, Chief, Division of Child and Adolescent Health; Roy E. Peterson, President, Mott Children's Health Center; Lana Pollack, State Senator, 18th District; John Pollard, Executive Director, Black Child and Family Institute, Lansing; William L. Randall, Chairman Emeritus, First Bank-Milwaukee; James Ray, Assistant Superintendent, Flint Community Schools; Dorothy Reynolds, President, Flint Community Foundation; Nanette Reynolds, Director, State of Michigan, Department of Civil Rights; Ethel Rios de Betancourt, President, Puerto Rico Community Foundation; Osvaldo Rivera, Acting Dean, Student Affairs, Macomb Community College; Kent Roberts, Youth and Family Coordinator, Sturgis Community Youth and Family Agency; Barbara Roberts Mason, Founder and President of the Black Child and Family Institute and Member, Michigan Board of Education; Theresa C. Robinson, Project Coordinator, Beecher 102 Teen Health Center, Beecher, Michigan; Thomas Rutledge, Department Head, Behavior, Mott Children's Health Center; Barbara J. Sawyer-Koch, MSU Board of Trustees; Shelly Schadewald, Project Coordinator, Michigan Abstinence Partnership; Karen Schrock, Chief, Center for Substance Abuse Services; Donald Shebuski, Ingham Intermediate School District; Paul Sheehan, Executive Director, Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health; John D. Shingleton, MSU Board of Trustees; Leonard W. Smith, President, Skillman Foundation; Debbie Stabenow, State Senator, 24th District, State of Michigan; J. Mark Sullivan, Executive Director, Michigan 4-C Association; Betty Tableman, Director, Prevention Services; Bob Traxler, MSU Board of Trustees; Willard Walker, Lansing Associate of Black Organizations; Robert E. Weiss, MSU Board of Trustees; Judson Werbelow, Attorney, Dickenson, Wright, Moon, VanDusen & Freeman; H. Stephen Williams, Vice President, Clinical Affairs, Mott Children's Health Center; Winston Williams, National African American Youth Leadership Council; James Wotring, Michigan Interagency Family Preservation Coordinator; and Terri D. Wright, Chief, Bureau of Child and Family Services.

    There is another group of academic and community colleagues to whom I owe a special debt: the members of the institute's Visiting Committee. These colleagues—Kathryn E. Barnard, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Program, University of Washington; Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Director, Teachers College, Columbia University; Erik P. Butler, President, Bay State Skills; David L. Featherman, President, Social Science Research Council; Michael Huberman, Visiting Professor, Harvard Graduate Education and Senior Research Associate, New England Laboratory for School Improvement; Michael E. Lamb, Chief, Section of Social and Emotional Development, NICHD; David Magnusson, Chair, Psykologiska Institutionen; Edward L. Palmer, President, World Media Partners; Karen J. Pittman, Vice President and Director, Center for Youth Development and Policy Research; Richard J. Sauer, President, National 4-H Council; Ranier K. Silbereisen, Professor at the University of Jena, Germany; Graham B. Spanier, Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Chair of the ICYF Visiting Committee; and Bennie Stovall, past Executive Director of Detroit Children's Aid Society—lend their expertise and wisdom to enhancing the institute's programs of outreach scholarship. I am very grateful for all their efforts on behalf of the institute.

    Finally, neither the institute nor the university nor the communities of our state, nation, and world could succeed in their attempts to promote a new vision of outreach scholarship unless the leadership of Michigan State University was deeply committed to this goal. Michigan State is fortunate to have as its President, M. Peter McPherson, and as its Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Lou Anna Kimsey Simon. These leaders have both the vision and administrative skills to forge for Michigan State a new path: the creation of a community-collaborative, outreach university. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with them in this endeavor, and I am deeply appreciative of the personal and administrative support they have given to the institute and to me.

    As will be evident to the readers of this book, numerous scholars from outside of Michigan State University contributed immensely to the ideas I present. I am grateful to all of them for the important and stimulating work they have produced. In particular, I want to acknowledge my great debt to Joy G. Dryfoos, Lisbeth B. Schorr, David A. Hamburg, Rick Little, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and the Children's Defense Fund and its President, Marian Wright Edelman. Their scholarship is central to the information presented in this book, and their advocacy for children and adolescents represents a call to conscience for all of America.

    I also want to thank the several other colleagues who, over the years, have helped me elaborate and refine the ideas associated with the developmental contextual and university-community collaborative perspectives that frame this book. Thus I am grateful to Paul B. Baltes, Richard Birkel, Marc Bornstein, Ernest L. Boyer, Orville G. Brim, Jr., Urie Bronfenbrenner, Geraldine Brookins, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Nancy A. Busch-Rossnagel, Stella Chess, Anne Colby, William Damon, John DiBiaggio, Roger A. Dixon, Patricia L. East, Glen H. Elder, Jr., Doris Entwistle, David L. Featherman, Celia B. Fisher, Donald H. Ford, Nancy Galambos, Gilbert J. Gottlieb, Gary Greenberg, John W. Hagen, Beatrix A. Hamburg, Stuart T. Hauser, Donald J. Hernandez, E. Mavis Hetherington, Donald F. Hultsch, Francine H. Jacobs, Jasna Jovanovic, Jerome Kagen, Bernard Kaplan, Claire B. Kopp, Sam J. Korn, Kurt Kreppner, Deanna Kuhn, Michael E. Lamb, Kathleen Lenerz, Jacqueline V. Lerner, Michael Lewis, John L. McKnight, Vonnie McLoyd, Paul H. Mussen, Willis F. Overton, Marion Perlmutter, Karen J. Pittman, Hayne W. Reese, Arnold J. Sameroff, K. Warner Schaie, T. C. Schneirla, John E. Schulenberg, David K. Scott, Diane Scott-Jones, Lonnie R. Sherrod, Graham B. Spanier, Margaret Beale Spencer, Ruby Takanishi, Ethel Tobach, Alexander Thomas, Jonathan Tubman, Fred Vondracek, Seymour Wapner, Valora Washington, Michael Windle, Sheldon H. White, Sherry Willis, and Robert A. Zucker. In addition, I want to especially express my sincere gratitude to Joy G. Dryfoos, Richard J. Sauer, and Justin S. Lerner for their graciousness in writing forewords to this book.

    Finally, but most important, I am grateful for my own children, adolescents, and family. The love and support I receive from my wife, Jacqueline, and from Justin, Blair, and Jarrett provide my energy, motivation, and hope. It is to them that this book, and all my efforts on behalf of youth and families everywhere, are dedicated.


    1. This quote and quotes in following chapters from Today's Children: Creating a Future for a Generation in Crisis, by D. A. Hamburg, 1992, New York: Times Books, copyright © 1992 by Dr. David Hamburg are reprinted with permission of Times Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

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    Name Index

    About the Author

    Richard M. Lerner is Professor of Family and Child Ecology, Psychology, Pediatrics and Human Development, and Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. He is the Director of the Institute for Children, Youth, and Families at Michigan State University. A developmental psychologist, he received a Ph.D. in 1971 from the City University of New York. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology. The author or editor of 30 books and more than 200 scholarly articles and chapters, he is known for his theory of and research about relations between human development and contextual or ecological change. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

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