Childhood and Adolescence in Society: Selections from CQ Researcher


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    Annotated Contents

    Global Issues
    Rescuing Children: Is the Global Community Doing Enough?

    The numbers are grim: Every day more than 25,000 children under age 5 — the equivalent of 125 jetliners full of youngsters — die from hunger, poverty or easily preventable illnesses, such as diarrhea and malaria. Millions of others are abandoned, trafficked into prostitution, forced into armed conflict or used as child laborers — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. While governments and nongovernmental organizations struggle to help, aid cutbacks due to the world economic crisis could trigger 200,000–400,000 additional child deaths each year. Meanwhile, experts and policy makers disagree over how best to combat AIDS among children, and whether more foreign aid would do more harm than good. Others question whether the United States should ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States is the only nation besides Somalia that hasn't adopted the treaty.

    Child Soldiers: Are More Aggressive Efforts Needed to Protect Children?

    Since the mid-1990s, the world has watched in horror as hundreds of thousands of children and young teenagers have participated in nearly 50 wars, mostly in Africa and Asia. Children as young as 5 or 6 have served in combat, and thousands of abducted young girls were forced into sexual slavery. Some terrorist groups even strap explosive-rigged vests onto children and send them off as suicide bombers. Others have been recruited, sometimes forcibly, into the official armed forces or paramilitary units of several dozen countries. U.N. treaties prohibit the use of child soldiers, and the Security Council “names and shames” persistent violators. But only four former guerrilla commanders have been convicted by international tribunals, and some human-rights advocates urge more aggressive prosecution of perpetrators. However, some peace negotiators say threats of prosecution can obstruct cease-fire negotiations and prolong the fighting. In the U.S., where children under 18 serve in the military in non-combat roles, Congress is considering laws to combat the use of child soldiers overseas.

    Violence and Bullying
    Youth Violence: Are “Get Tough” Policies the Best Approach?

    Several recent violent crimes by youths, including the vicious beating death of a Chicago honor student by a mob of teenagers, have sparked a new look at urban youth violence. Despite a steep overall drop in youth crime in recent years, researchers say many urban areas continue to be plagued by homicide and other violence involving young offenders. Some experts say tougher sentencing laws and a greater focus on parental responsibility are the best ways to fight the violence, while others argue for more federal money for social programs and anti-violence efforts. In some cities, collaborative approaches involving police, educators, community leaders and neighborhood groups are aimed at pressing youths to forsake violence while offering them a path toward redemption. Meanwhile, two competing proposals are being considered on Capitol Hill, and major foundations are funding programs to help youths in trouble.

    Cyberbullying: Are New Laws Needed to Curb Online Aggression?

    Child advocates say a growing epidemic of “cyberbullying”—the use of computers, cell phones, social-networking sites and other technology to threaten or humiliate others—is putting young people at risk, sometimes with deadly consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled “electronic aggression” an “emerging public-health problem.” Court precedents on school discipline and students' First Amendment rights provide limited guidance to educators grappling with the emerging world of cyber communication, especially transmissions originating off school grounds. Nonetheless, many states and school districts are taking strong steps aimed at curbing cyber abuse. In Congress, bills to provide new funding for online-safety programs have been introduced, but conflicts have arisen over how federal money for such efforts should be spent.

    Domestic Violence: Do Teenagers Need More Protection?

    On a typical day in the United States, three women are murdered by their spouses or partners, and thousands more are injured. While men are also victims of domestic violence, women are at least five times more likely to suffer at the hands of a loved one. Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are most at risk. The victims include teens who are abused by their parents as well as young parents who assault each other or their children. Moreover, teen-dating violence touches more than 30 percent of young men and women. The good news is that domestic violence against women has dropped dramatically in recent years. Now Congress has just approved a measure that advocates say will provide much-needed funding to try to stop domestic violence before it starts. Meanwhile, some fathers'-rights and conservative groups say too many domestic-violence programs demonize men, promote a feminist agenda and do not try hard enough to keep families together.

    Bullying: Are Schools Doing Enough to Stop the Problem?

    The nation received a shocking wake-up call about bullying when investigators revealed that the Columbine killers and other school shooters had been repeatedly bullied by classmates. On a typical school day today three out of 10 American youngsters are involved in bullying as perpetrators, victims or bystanders, and an estimated 160,000 children skip school for fear of being harassed. Bullied students are more prone to suicide, depression and poor school performance; bullies have a far higher likelihood of committing crimes as adults. At least 16 states have passed laws requiring schools to provide anti-bullying programs, but many states and school districts have been slow to act. Their reluctance may stem in part from opposition by conservative Christians, who argue that anti-bullying legislation and programs aimed at reducing sexually oriented teasing promote homosexuality and impinge on Christian students' freedom of speech.

    Child and Adolescent Rights
    Student Rights: Have Courts Gone Too Far or Not Far Enough?

    The Supreme Court introduced a new era in public education in the United States in 1969 by declaring that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Four decades later, state and federal court dockets are dotted with suits by students or parents challenging disciplinary decisions and school policies and practices. The Supreme Court, which has upheld random drug testing of students, is currently considering whether an Arizona school district violated a teenaged girl's rights by strip-searching her because of what proved to be an unfounded accusation that she was carrying a prescription-strength pain reliever. Student-speech cases often pose difficult issues as administrators, principals and teachers seek to reconcile students' free-speech rights with the need to prevent disruption, maintain discipline and protect rights of teachers and other students. In recent years, judges appear to be giving more deference to schools — a trend applauded by many educators but criticized by student-rights advocates.

    Juvenile Justice: Are Sentencing Policies Too Harsh?

    As many as 200,000 youths charged with crimes today are tried in adult courts, where judges tend to be tougher and punishments harsher — including sentencing to adult prisons. But with juvenile crime now on the decline, youth advocates are seizing the moment to push for major changes in iron-fisted juvenile justice systems nationwide. Above all, they want to roll back harsh state punishments — triggered by the crack cocaine-fueled crime wave of the late 1980s and early '90s — that sent thousands of adolescents to adult courts and prisons. Many prosecutors say the get-tough approach offers society the best protection. But critics say young people often leave prison more bitter and dangerous than when they went in. Moreover, recent brain studies show weak impulse control in young people under age 18, prompting some states to reconsider their tough punishments. Prosecutors respond that even immature adolescents know right from wrong.

    Child Welfare Reform: Will Recent Changes Make At-Risk Children Safer?

    The U.S. child welfare system is designed to protect the nation's children, but in recent years it has been rocked by horror stories of children who were physically and sexually abused and even murdered. More than 900,000 children were maltreated in 2003 — and some 1,300 died. But a nationwide reform movement offers hope for the future. Welfare agencies across the country are focusing more on keeping families together and quickly moving the nation's 500,000 foster children into permanent homes. Although the foster care rolls are dropping, unadopted foster teens still must struggle with a lonely transition to adulthood after leaving the system. No state program has passed a federal review, but states are hitting improvement targets in follow-up checks. Meanwhile, social workers continue to complain that they are underpaid and overworked. And Congress is divided over a Bush administration plan that would give states more flexibility in using federal funds but end the guarantee of federal support for every foster child.

    Social Issues
    Teen Pregnancy: Does Comprehensive Sex-Education Reduce Pregnancies?

    After dropping steeply for a decade-and-a-half, America's teen birth rate began edging upwards in the past few years. Analysts aren't sure whether the trend will last and say there are numerous causes. A significant factor, however, is a drop-off in contraceptive use that began in the early 2000s, as better HIV/AIDS treatments diminished fear of the disease. In 2009, the Obama administration ended the Bush administration policy of federally funding only sex-education programs with abstinence until marriage as the primary focus. Instead, most funding will now go to programs that have been demonstrated in large, randomized trials to be effective for pregnancy prevention. Critics say the plan will unfairly eliminate funding for abstinence programs, which they contend have not been adequately evaluated by researchers and are the only ones that consistently teach the value of committed relationships.

    Teen Spending: Are Teenagers Learning to Manage Money Wisely?

    Teenage American consumers spent a mind-boggling $159 billion last year on everything from movies and French fries to clothes and iPods. Experts say teens are spending more than ever before because they have more to spend. About 10 percent of teens have credit cards, nearly twice that number have debit cards and about 20 percent get money simply by asking their parents for it. Consumer advocates — as well as rappers and professional football players — say kids aren't learning how to use “plastic” wisely. In fact, parents themselves are setting poor examples. Credit card loan delinquencies are at record levels, while Americans' saving rate is at an all-time low. Critics say the credit card industry is too aggressive in marketing to younger and younger kids. The Bush administration and some members of Congress are pushing for more financial-literacy courses earlier in schools. Meanwhile, only a few states require schools to teach personal finance.

    Teen Driving: Should States Impose Tougher Restrictions?

    More teenage drivers are involved in car crashes every year — and more are killed — than any other age group. And the number of deaths is rising, even though overall fatalities of teen drivers and passengers have decreased substantially in the last 25 years. Still, some 6,000 teens die in accidents annually — more than 15 a day. Teens are the least likely age group to use seat belts and the most likely to drink and drive. Moreover, the presence of teenage passengers strongly increases the risk that a teen driver will crash, as does driving at night or on weekends. Graduated driver licensing programs have helped bring down teen crash statistics in many states, but safety experts and advocates say more needs to be done, including imposing tougher limits on teen driving. Some say driver education programs are ineffective; others argue that state laws need to be better enforced. Almost all agree, however, that parents need to be more involved in training and monitoring teenagers behind the wheel.

    Youth Suicide: Should Government Fund More Prevention Programs?

    This year, about 2,800 young people will kill themselves, including about 1,600 in the emotionally volatile 15-to-19-year-old age group. Suicidal tendencies are so common that about one in five high school students seriously considers suicide. To reduce the teen suicide rate, mental health experts say it is vital to identify and treat at-risk youngsters. But suicidal youths are difficult to identify. Some experts worry that talking about suicide may actually exacerbate the problem. Others point to studies indicating antidepressant drugs, increasingly prescribed for children, may trigger suicide in certain cases. Meanwhile, limited government funds have been allocated for the problem, few schools have screening or counseling programs and many states lack comprehensive suicide-prevention plans.


    Are new laws needed to curb cyberbullying? Are “get tough” policies the best approach to addressing youth violence? Do teens need more protection from domestic violence? These questions — and many more — are at the heart of the study of childhood and adolescence in society. How can instructors best engage students with these crucial issues? We feel that students need objective, yet provocative examinations of these issues. This collection aims to promote in-depth discussion, facilitate further research and help readers formulate their own positions on crucial issues. Get your students talking both inside and outside the classroom about Childhood and Adolescence in Society.

    This first edition includes thirteen key reports by CQ Researcher, an award-winning weekly policy brief that brings complicated issues down to earth. Each report chronicles and analyzes executive, legislative, and judicial activities at all levels of government.

    CQ Researcher

    CQ Researcher was founded in 1923 as Editorial Research Reports and was sold primarily to newspapers as a research tool. The magazine was renamed and redesigned in 1991 as CQ Researcher. Today, students are its primary audience. While still used by hundreds of journalists and newspapers, many of which reprint portions of the reports, the Researcher's main subscribers are now high school, college and public libraries. In 2002, Researcher won the American Bar Association's coveted Silver Gavel award for magazine excellence for a series of nine reports on civil liberties and other legal issues. Researcher staff writers — all highly experienced journalists — sometimes compare the experience of writing a Researcher report to drafting a college term paper. Indeed, there are many similarities. Each report is as long as many term papers — about 11,000 words — and is written by one person without any significant outside help. One of the key differences is that writers interview leading experts, scholars and government officials for each issue.

    Like students, staff writers begin the creative process by choosing a topic. Working with the Researcher's editors, the writer identifies a controversial subject that has important public policy implications. After a topic is selected, the writer embarks on one to two weeks of intense research. Newspaper and magazine articles are clipped or downloaded, books are ordered and information is gathered from a wide variety of sources, including interest groups, universities and the government. Once the writers are well informed, they develop a detailed outline, and begin the interview process. Each report requires a minimum of ten to fifteen interviews with academics, officials, lobbyists and people working in the field. Only after all interviews are completed does the writing begin.

    Chapter Format

    Each issue of CQ Researcher, and therefore each selection in this book, is structured in the same way. Each begins with an overview, which briefly summarizes the areas that will be explored in greater detail in the rest of the chapter. The next section chronicles important and current debates on the topic under discussion and is structured around a number of key questions, such as “Should the federal government do more to combat domestic violence?” or “Are schools and governments doing enough to prevent youth suicide?” These questions are usually the subject of much discussion among practitioners and scholars in the field. Hence, the answers presented are never conclusive but detail the range of opinion on the topic.

    Next, the “Background” section provides a history of the issue being examined. This retrospective covers important legislative measures, executive actions and court decisions that illustrate how current policy has evolved. Then the “Current Situation” section examines contemporary policy issues, legislation under consideration and legal action being taken. Each selection concludes with an “Outlook” section, which addresses possible regulation, court rulings, and initiatives from Capitol Hill and the White House over the next five to ten years.

    Each report contains features that augment the main text: two to three sidebars that examine issues related to the topic at hand, a pro versus con debate between two experts, a chronology of key dates and events and an annotated bibliography detailing major sources used by the writer.


    We wish to thank many people for helping to make this collection a reality. Tom Colin, managing editor of CQ Researcher, gave us his enthusiastic support and cooperation as we developed this edition. He and his talented staff of editors and writers have amassed a first-class library of Researcher reports, and we are fortunate to have access to that rich cache. We also wish to thank our colleagues at CQ Press, a division of SAGE and a leading publisher of books, directories, research publications and Web products on U.S. government, world affairs and communications. They have forged the way in making these readers a useful resource for instruction across a range of undergraduate and graduate courses.

    Some readers may be learning about CQ Researcher for the first time. We expect that many readers will want regular access to this excellent weekly research tool. For subscription information or a no-obligation free trial of CQ Researcher, please contact CQ Press at or toll-free at 1-866-4CQ-PRESS (1-866-427-7737).

    We hope that you will be pleased by this edition of Childhood and Adolescence in Society. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future editions. Please direct comments to Chris Cardone, Acquisitions Editor, SAGE Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, or

    —The Editors of SAGE


    • Thomas J. Billitteri is a CQ Researcher staff writer based in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, who has more than 30 years' experience covering business, nonprofit institutions and public policy for newspapers and other publications. He has written previously for CQ Researcher on “Domestic Poverty,” “Curbing CEO Pay” and “Mass Transit.” He holds a BA in English and an MA in journalism from Indiana University.
    • Marcia Clemmitt is a veteran social-policy reporter who previously served as editor in chief of Medicine & Health and staff writer for The Scientist. She has also been a high-school math and physics teacher. She holds a liberal arts and sciences degree from St. John's College, Annapolis, and a master's degree in English from Georgetown University. Her recent reports include “Climate Change,” “Health Care Costs,” “Cyber Socializing” and “Prison Health Care.”
    • John Felton is a freelance journalist who has written about international affairs and U.S. foreign policy for nearly 30 years. He covered foreign affairs for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report during the 1980s, was deputy foreign editor for National Public Radio in the early 1990s and has been a freelance writer specializing in international topics for the past 15 years. His most recent book, published by CQ Press, is The Contemporary Middle East: A Documentary History. He lives in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
    • John Greenya is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C., who has written for The Washington Post, The New Republic, The New York Times and other publications. He teaches writing at George Washington University and is the author of several books, including Silent Justice: The Clarence Thomas Story and P.S. A Memoir, written with the late Pierre Salinger. He holds an AB in English from Marquette University and an MA in English literature from The Catholic University.
    • David Hosansky is a freelance writer in Denver who specializes in environmental issues. He previously was a senior writer at CQ Weekly and the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, where he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His recent Researcher reports include “Invasive Species” and “Food Safety.”
    • Kenneth Jost graduated from Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author of the Supreme Court Yearbook and editor of The Supreme Court from A to Z (both CQ Press). He was a member of the CQ Researcher team that won the 2002 ABA Silver Gavel Award. His recent reports include “Democracy in the Arab World” and “Religious Persecution.”
    • Peter Katel is a CQ Researcher staff writer who previously reported on Haiti and Latin America for Time and Newsweek and covered the Southwest for newspapers in New Mexico. He has received several journalism awards, including the Bartolomé Mitre Award for coverage of drug trafficking from the Inter-American Press Association. He holds an AB in university studies from the University of New Mexico. His recent reports include “The New Philanthropy” and “War in Iraq.”
    • Robert Kiener is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in the London Sunday Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Time Life Books, Asia Inc. and other publications. For more than two decades he lived and worked as an editor and correspondent in Guam, Hong Kong, England and Canada and is now based in the United States. He frequently travels to Asia and Europe to report on international issues. He holds a MA in Asian Studies from Hong Kong University and an MPhil in International Relations from Cambridge University.
    • Pamela M. Prah is a CQ Researcher staff writer with several years previous experience at, Kiplinger's Washington Letter and the Bureau of National Affairs. She holds a master's degree in government from Johns Hopkins University and a journalism degree from Ohio University. Her recent reports include “War in Iraq,” “Methamphetamines” and “Disaster Preparedness.”
    • Tom Price is a Washington-based freelance journalist who writes regularly for CQ Researcher. Previously he was a correspondent in the Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau and chief politics writer for the Dayton Daily News and The Journal Herald. He is the author of two Washington guidebooks, Washington, D.C., for Dummies, and the Irreverent Guide to Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone and other periodicals. He earned a BS in journalism at Ohio University.
    • William Triplett covered science and the arts for such publications as Smithsonian, Air & Space, Nature, Washingtonian and The Washington Post before joining the CQ Researcher staff. He also served as associate editor of Capitol Style magazine. He holds a BA in journalism from Ohio University and an MA in English literature from Georgetown University. His recent reports include “Search for Extraterrestrials” and “Broadcast Indecency.”
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