Fulfilling the Promise of Adolescence: Applying Developmental Knowledge to Create Systems Change


  • Dara Shefska National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Emily P. Backes National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine




adolescence, education, health, child welfare, justice


Adolescence—beginning with the onset of puberty and ending in the mid-20s—is a distinct developmental period marking the transition between early childhood and adulthood. Although adolescence is now understood as a period of exceptional learning and growth, it is still frequently characterized as a time of increased risk and vulnerability. This mischaracterization of adolescence, combined with the deeply rooted societal inequities, has left the promise of adolescence unrealized for too many youth. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine entitled The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth explores the socio-behavioral and neurobiological science of adolescence and provides recommendations for how this science can be applied by youth-serving systems. This paper outlines the principles of adolescent development identified in the report and details 5practices that can be implemented by youth-serving practitioners to promote positive adolescent development and ameliorate disparities in adolescent outcomes.


Author Biography

Dara Shefska, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine



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