Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook


Edited by: Richard M. Lerner, Francine Jacobs & Donald Wertlieb

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  • The SAGE Program on Applied Developmental Science

    Consulting Editor

    Richard M. Lerner

    The field of Applied Developmental Science has advanced the use of cutting-edge developmental systems models of human development, fostered strength-based approaches to understanding and promoting positive development across the life span, and served as a frame for collaborations among researchers and practitioners, including policymakers, seeking to enhance the life chances of diverse young people, their families, and communities. The SAGE Program on Applied Developmental Science both integrates and extends this scholarship by publishing innovative and cutting-edge contributions.


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    In the last decades of the twentieth century and in the first years of the present one, the nations of the world experienced a myriad of social problems, some old, some new, but all affecting the lives of vulnerable children, adolescents, adults, families, and communities. Many scholars and practitioners sought to address these issues through preventing their occurrence. Others—a growing proportion—sought to supplement if not supplant prevention with promotion, with attempts to enhance human development by focusing on the strengths of people and the assets of their communities.

    With either prevention or promotion approaches to improving the life chances of children, families, and communities, but especially in regard to promotion, scholars have combined dynamic, developmental systems theories of human development with a range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies to address—through research and policy and program applications—the continuing and the contemporary issues affecting the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Together, these issues speak to the need to establish, maintain, and enhance civil society.

    This work has reflected and furthered growing interest in applied developmental science (ADS). Indeed, over the last two decades, increasing numbers of developmental scientists from diverse disciplines have come to identify themselves professionally as applied developmental scientists as partners in building civil society. Joining under this umbrella are colleagues from allied disciplines and specialties in the biological, psychological, social, and behavioral sciences and the helping professions, all sharing the goals and the vision found in ADS, that is, in the use of scientific knowledge about human development to improve the life chances of the diverse infants, children, adolescents, adults, families, and communities of the world.

    In order to both reflect the state of these arts and sciences pertinent to applied developmental science and to extend further the burgeoning vision within scholarship and program and policy applications relevant to enhancing positive development among children, their families, and their communities, we edited in 2003 the Handbook of Applied Developmental Science: Promoting Positive Child, Adolescent, and Family Development Through Research, Policies, and Programs, a four-volume work encompassing about 100 chapters (Lerner, Jacobs, and Wertlieb, 2003). The vision we sought to further in the Handbook is predicated on a belief that infants, children, adolescents, and families have significant strengths and capacities for healthy lives, and that all people possess individual and ecological assets that can be actualized to create their well-being. Such well-being involves having a healthy start in life, living in a safe environment, receiving an education that results in marketable skills, having the opportunity to participate in community life, and living free from prejudice and discrimination. Well-being is marked by individuals who manifest caring and compassion, competence, confidence, positive connections to others, and character. Such individuals, and the families and communities that support them, may be said to be thriving.

    Owing to the favorable response to the Handbook by scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and students, the present textbook was developed to represent the essential theoretical ideas, research areas, and lessons from practice found across the four volumes. Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook was organized by selecting, in collaboration with members of the audience using the Handbook, a set of chapters from the four volumes that reflect the breadth of applied developmental science and, as well, depth of scholarship in a select but representative sample of the work ongoing in this field. The goal in organizing this text was, therefore, to inform graduate students about the foundational ideas in applied developmental science, to provide them with several key instantiations of the research-program and policy perspectives in the field, and to convey the positive vision of human strength, and the potential for promotion of healthy development across thelife span, that marks all facets of the application of developmental science (and that was present across all volumes of the Handbook).

    It is useful here to comment more fully about the positive, strength-based conception of human behavior inherent in the field of applied developmental science.

    The Positive Human Development Perspective

    The positive psychology movement engaging many contemporary scholars, for example, in the January 2000 issue of the American Psychologist, edited by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, is one instance of the positive human development perspective. However, the positive psychology movement is but one example of a much broader paradigm shift in the field of human development, one that has decades-long roots in developmental science and in the profession of youth development program practice.

    For too long, traditions in the behavioral sciences and the helping professions have focused on the negative aspects of human behavior and development; for example, risk, disorders, pathology, and people's problems, deficits, and weaknesses. Positive psychology, as well as the independent but conceptually consonant ideas that have arisen under the labels of “positive youth development,” “child well-being,” “community youth development,” “developmental assets,” and “thriving,” replace these deficit-oriented approaches by articulating the power of strength-based approaches.

    Accordingly, the contributions of colleagues involved in the area of positive psychology are consistent with the now more than decade-long commitment of organizations such as the National 4-H Council and the International Youth Foundation to the promotion of community youth development or to positive infant, child, and adolescent development. This latter work represents commitments of the practitioner and philanthropic communities, respectively, to the growing stress on enhancing the positive features and well-being of the world's young people. Similarly, this emphasis is reflected in the work of Search Institute, which seeks to facilitate the alignment of the individual and ecological assets of communities in order to promote thriving among infants, children, and adolescents. The accomplishments of these groups as well as scores of other contributors to applied developmental science are presented in the Handbook. The work of many of these organizations are represented in Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook.

    The growing interest in the promotion of positive development offers scholars, practitioners, and policymakers a new and exciting range of theoretical ideas, data sets, programming strategies, evaluation methods, and policy options. However, no graduate textbook has organized this scholarship in a manner that, within one semester, graduate students could access. The Handbook was aimed at being comprehensive in its treatment of applied developmental science orientations to programs and policies for children, adolescents, and families. In turn, this textbook provides a specification of the foundation of the field, some of its current and key instantiations of state-of-the-art research and programs dimensions, and some predictions about where the field will be headed during the first decades of the twenty-first century.

    We see the publication of Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook as a particularly timely event, given the character of the challenges facing infants, children, adolescents, and families at the dawn of this new millennium and the importance of training a new cohort of scholars and practitioners with the vision and methodological tools needed for the application of developmental science to the promotion of positive human development.

    Such training, we believe, is vital for both science and society. Each year, as the world's repository of natural resources declines, its population of children increases by 100 million. How, in the year 2020, will the more than one billion additional children be fed, clothed, and housed? How will their energy needs will be met? How will the world's economies grow the hundreds of millions of jobs required so that these young people are able to contribute effectively and productively to their own well-being and to the well-being of their families and communities? Finally, how will we manage to reduce the marginalization of young people that still occurs—in the United States and around the globe—so that all young people may thrive as engaged citizens of a single, interconnected, civil society. The chapters in Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook offer analyses and proposals for addressing some of these concerns and for building our global civil society.

    If we aspire not only to prevent problems of behavior and development in the world's infants, children, and adolescents but also to promote positive life outcomes and to further social justice and civil society, the scope and complexity of the science that informs application must be greatly enhanced. While the challenge for policy and programs is enormous, no less of a challenge exists for science. This challenge is especially true in relation to the now predominant theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding human life; that is, those perspectives framed by developmental systems models. These approaches conceptualize and study human behavior and development as a process involving integrated and changing relations among the biological, psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, physical, ecological, and historical variables comprising human life. The agenda for the application of developmental science that is framed by such models is to conduct scholarly activities in a manner and with timeliness that provide the highest quality scholarship with a content and an ethical sensibility that efficiently and effectively meet diverse and complex community needs.

    As illustrated by the contributions in Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook, key items in this agenda include the following:

    • Developing change- and context-sensitive measures of child well-being or thriving, and of the individual and community assets that promote positive development among diverse infants, children, and adolescents
    • Designing and implementing program evaluations that (a) identify program effects when they occur, (b) improve the day-to-day quality of a program, and (c) empower program participants and other stakeholders to bring to scale and sustain effective programs
    • Serving the community through the use of such tools of “outreach scholarship” as needs assessment, asset mapping, issues identification, technical assistance, consultation, continuing education and training, demonstration research, and participatory action research
    • Leveraging the resources of higher education institutions to engage proactively in partnerships with community institutions, involving, for instance, (a) community-collaborative research, program design, implementation, and evaluation; (b) joint economic development, business/industry partnerships, and neighborhood revitalization; and (c) undergraduate service learning and graduate/professional training within the context of collaborations with the not-for-profit/nongovernmental organization (NGO) sector and the governmental sector of the community
    • Engaging policymakers and funders through dissemination about (a) the effectiveness of community programs promoting child well-being; (b) the impact of current policies on child well-being and positive development; and (c) the potential of possible policy innovations for enhancing child well-being and positive development

    In short, there is a vast and interrelated set of research, program, and policy actions that are being taken by the individuals and institutions involved in the process of fostering generations of healthy children. In civil society, all citizens are part of this collaborative network. Existing institutional, professional, and youth-serving organizational groups are developing innovative ideas and bold action agendas to address the challenges faced by today's and tomorrow's children. In addition, new concepts are being articulated and new and promising individual and collective efforts are being created and honed to address these challenges. It is useful to describe how Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook conveys this exciting and important work.

    An Overview of the Text

    Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook is divided into four sections that reflect the range of scholarship and application included in the Handbook. The first section of the text, “Foundations of Applied Developmental Science,” provides an introduction to the historical development of applied developmental science and to the current theoretical, methodological, and substantive architecture of the scientific and professional efforts to develop policies and programs that promote positive child, adolescent, and family development. The chapters in this section serve as a conceptual frame for the organization of the entire text, and underscore a central theme in current scholarship and application: the need to develop policies and programs that appropriately treat the bidirectional (or, in other terms, reciprocal, dynamic, or systemic) relations among diverse individuals and their diverse contexts.

    In addition, this section underscores another level of relation that is central in understanding the distinct developmental trajectories involved in diverse and mutually influential person ← →5 context relations. This level is the bidirectional linkage that exists between theory and application involved in the promotion of positive infant, child, and adolescent development.

    Accordingly, the second section of the text focuses on “Enhancing Individual ← →5 Context Relations” through enacting work that integrates theory and application. The focus in the chapters in this section is on the relations children and adolescents have with their families and schools and, in turn, the importance of studying the child ← →5 context relation within a ecological system that ranges from the community level to culture and history, and includes policies, programs, and service systems aimed at both prevention and the promotion of positive human development.

    The final two sections of the text discuss these instances of contextual support of human development. Chapters in the third section of the text, “Strengthening Policies and Programs,” focus on issues pertinent to capitalizing on the human developmental system both to address (a) the risks to healthy development that exist across the first two decades in the lives of infants, children, and adolescents; and, in turn, (b) the opportunities that exists to use the assets of infants, children, adolescents, and their communities to promote positive development. These opportunities are discussed in regard to promoting positive infant, child, and adolescent, and family development through the ways in which (a) programs are designed and implemented; and (b) public policies are engaged to create, bring to scale, and sustain an effective child and family agenda.

    The chapters in the last section of the text, “Enhancing Service Systems,” discuss the ways in which public child- and family-serving systems may foster healthy development. These systems range from those that focus on individuals and families, to those that seek to alter the educational, living environments, and economic contexts (e.g., through welfare reform or philanthropy) of human development. The chapters illustrate well that the design, implementation, and evaluation of infant-, child-, adolescent-, and family-serving programs and policies occur in many settings and involve the actions of numerous agents and institutions of civil society.

    In sum, across the sections and chapters of Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook readers are provided with the information to understand the theoretical and methodological foundations of applied developmental science; to understand why and how research derived from the strength-based, positive human development approach may enhance the individual ← →5 context relation; to draw conclusions about the character of current child and family programs and policies, and in some cases, the strength of the research base that supports particular initiatives; and to understand the role of and challenges to service systems aimed at improving the lives of individual, families, and communities. Necessarily, then, the figure/ground of the discussions across the text shift, as each contributor—apart from the specific focus of his or her work—considers the breadth of the dynamic, developmental system, and of the actions and institutions within it, to promote positive human development.


    There are numerous people to thank in regard to the preparation of Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook. First and foremost we are indebted to the contributors to the text and, of course, to the larger Handbook from which their chapters were drawn. Their scholarship and dedication to excellence and social relevance in developmental science and its application enabled this work to be produced and serve as a model of how scholarship may both contribute to knowledge and the positive development of people across their life spans.

    Our colleagues and students at Tufts University and at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development were great resources to us in the development of this volume. We thank Jennifer Davison, Managing Editor, and Katherine Connery, Assistant Editor, within the Editorial Office of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, for their expert editorial support and guidance. James Brace-Thompson, our editor at Sage Publications, was a constant source of excellent advice, encouragement, and collegial support, and we are pleased to acknowledge our gratitude to him.

    Finally, we deeply appreciate the love and support given to us by our families during our work on Applied Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook. They remain our most cherished developmental assets and we gratefully dedicate this book to them.

    —R. M. L.
    —F. J.
    —D. W.
    Lerner, R. M., Jacobs, F., & Wertlieb, D. (Eds.). (2003). Applying developmental science for youth and families: Historical and theoretical foundations. Volume 1 of Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs. Editors: Richard M.Lerner, FrancineJacobs, and DonaldWertlieb. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Jacobs, F., Wertlieb, D., & Lerner, R. M. (Eds.). (2003). Enhancing the life chances of youth and families: Public service systems and public policy perspectives. Volume 2 of Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs. Editors: Richard M.Lerner, FrancineJacobs, and DonaldWertlieb. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Wertlieb, D., Jacobs, F., & Lerner, R. M. (Eds.). (2003). Promoting positive youth and family development: Community systems, citizenship, and civil society. Volume 3 of Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs. Editors: Richard M.Lerner, FrancineJacobs, and DonaldWertlieb. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Lerner, R. M., Wertlieb, D., & Jacobs, F. (Eds.). (2003). Adding value to youth and family development: The engaged university and professional and academic outreach. Volume 4 of Handbook of applied developmental science: Promoting positive child, adolescent, and family development through research, policies, and programs. Editors: Richard M.Lerner, FrancineJacobs, and DonaldWertlieb. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Author Index

    About the Editors

    Richard M. Lerner is Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and Director of the Applied Developmental Science Institute in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts 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, and the American Psychological Society. Prior to joining Tufts, he was on the faculty and held administrative posts at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Boston College, where he was the Anita L. Brennan professor of education and the director of the Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships. During the 1994–1995 academic year, he held the Tyner eminent scholar chair in the human sciences at Florida State University. He is the author or editor of 59 books and more than 380 scholarly articles and chapters. He edited Volume 1, on Theoretical Models of Human Development, for the fifth edition of the Handbook of Child Psychology. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science. He is known for his theory of, and research about, relations between life span human development and contextual or ecological change. He has done foundational studies of adolescents' relations with their peer, family, school, and community contexts and is a leader in the study of public policies and community-based programs aimed at the promotion of positive youth development.

    Francine Jacobs, Ed.D., is Associate Professor at Tufts University, with a joint appointment in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. Her research and teaching interests are primarily in the area of child and family policy—child welfare and protection, child care and early childhood education, family support, and community-based initiatives—and in program evaluation. During her time at Tufts, she has been the principal investigator for numerous grants, with projects ranging from coordinating an early childhood community planning process in Boston to developing an evaluation process for state family preservation programs. Her current project is a multiyear evaluation of a universal home visiting program for teen mothers, Healthy Families Massachusetts. In addition to her teaching and research, she has served on several advisory committees for child and family service organizations and research studies and was recently a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Family and Work Policies. She graduated from Brandeis University and received her master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. Prior to joining the Tufts faculty in 1986, she directed two early childhood programs and was the associate director and director of research at the Harvard Family Research Project. She also maintained an active program evaluation practice, consulting for numerous organizations on the planning and conduct of evaluation activities. She has lectured and written extensively about program evaluation and about child and family policy. Her two coedited volumes, Evaluating Family Programs and More Than Kissing Babies: Current Child and Family Policy in the United States, focus on these areas.

    Donald Wertlieb, Ph.D., is Professor and former Chairman of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. He is an applied developmental scientist with a background in clinical-developmental and pediatric psychology. His major research interests are understanding the complex processes by which children and families cope with stressors such as marital separation and divorce and chronic illness. In addition to his basic research, he conducts program evaluations of community partnerships and other collaborations. He was recently funded by the National Cancer Institute to develop a multimedia interactive health education curriculum aimed at preventing drug, alcohol, and nicotine abuse by young people. He served on the steering group of the National Forum on the Future of Children and Families and was president of the Society of Pediatric Psychology (1996–1999), a professional membership organization of about 1,000 scholars and practitioners committed to the improvement of health care research and services for children and families. He has been interim chairman of the Department of Education at Tufts and a lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine and Health Policy at Harvard Medical School. His undergraduate education and first master's degree are from Tufts. He is a graduate of the Clinical and Community Psychology Program at Boston University. Prior to joining the Tufts faculty, he served on the faculty of the Judge Baker Guidance Center.


    • J. Lawrence Aber
    • New York University
    • MaryLee Allen
    • Children's Defense Fund
    • William Blackwell
    • Massachusetts Department of Education
    • Martin J. Blank
    • Institute for Educational Leadership
    • Marc H. Bornstein
    • National Institute of Child Health and
    • Human Development
    • Rachel G. Bratt
    • Tufts University
    • Brett V. Brown
    • Child Trends
    • Natasha Cabrera
    • University of Maryland
    • Mary I. Campa-Muller
    • Cornell University
    • Jeffrey Capizzano
    • Urban Institute
    • Jana H. Chadhuri
    • Tufts University
    • Susan S. Chuang
    • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    • Virginia Diez
    • Tufts University
    • John Eckenrode
    • Cornell University
    • Celia B. Fisher
    • Fordham University
    • Melissa Ganley
    • National PTA
    • Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff
    • University of Michigan
    • Jane E. Gillham
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Penny Hauser-Cram
    • Boston College
    • Angela Howell
    • Boston College
    • Charles Izzo
    • Cornell University
    • Sheri DeBoe Johnson
    • Institute for Educational Leadership
    • Sharon Lynn Kagan
    • Columbia University
    • Alan Martin
    • Michigan State University
    • Susanne Martinez
    • Planned Parenthood Federation of America
    • Hariette P. McAdoo
    • Michigan State University
    • Jacquelyn McCroskey
    • University of Southern California
    • Jayanthi Mistry
    • Tufts University
    • Kristin Moore
    • Child Trends
    • Charles A. Nelson
    • University of Minnesota
    • Michelle J. Neuman
    • Columbia University
    • C. Cybele Raver
    • University of Chicago
    • Robert G. Schwartz
    • Juvenile Law Center
    • Martin E. P. Seligman
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Bela Shah
    • National League of Cities
    • Andrew J. Shatté
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Lonnie R. Sherrod
    • Fordham University
    • Matthew Stagner
    • Urban Institute

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