Adolescent Wellness: Current Perspectives and Future Opportunities in Research, Policy, and Practice

Teenagers on a city street review paperwork.

Advances in neuroscience and developmental science offer new opportunities for improving how policymakers, practitioners, and others can harness the energy and excitement of adolescents to help them shape not only their own lives, but the lives of future generations as well.

 

This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report draws from the views and ideas of 25 adolescent development experts about the most critical issues in adolescent wellness, gaps in research, translation of research into policy and practice, and opportunities for learning and action.

Key Findings

  • The variety of contexts and environments in which adolescents live and which play important roles in shaping their daily experiences and their trajectories;

  • Advances in neuroscience have altered understanding of how young people develop, the malleability of their brain systems, and implications for their health and well-being;

  • The existing and significant body of prevention and intervention research points to effective strategies for promoting growth and maturation;

  • How public policy and the systems that control the lives of young people—education, criminal justice, mental health, child welfare—can encourage or impede healthy development; and

  • Challenges in translating research into policy and practice, and the disturbing implications of failing to overcome those challenges.

Conclusion

Researchers, policymakers, practitioners, parents, teachers, and funders stand at a crossroads in determining our nation’s approach to adolescence. The traditional view holds that the adolescent years comprise a difficult phase to be endured and survived. But a newer path considers adolescence to be an important time to nurture, guide, and support our youth to live the healthiest lives possible.

About this Learning Report

The collective work of adolescent development experts offers hope and support for a future inspired and powered by the energy, imagination, and resourcefulness of the next generation and generations to follow.