Frontiers in Theory-Predicated Research in Youth Development: A Commentary

Richard M. Lerner


The field of youth development sits at the frontier of new opportunities for research and practice. These opportunities are enabled by innovations in theory and in theory-inspired research methods. Framed by relational developmental systems metatheory, dynamic systems models of youth development emphasize that every young person has the potential to change positively by aligning specific individual strengths and contextual resources that, together, can optimize the life paths of a young person. The methods linked to these theoretical models combine to help identify the specific links between an individual and his or her context that may maximize thriving across the adolescent decade. The evidence derived from theory-predicated use of these methods may be used to create innovations in youth development programs and policies that promote lives of personal thriving and social contribution among the diverse young people of our world.


dynamic systems theory; relational developmental systems metatheory; developmental methodology; idiographic change; specificity principle

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