Feature

Although lawyers, dentists, social workers and other professionals frequently count children among their clientele, they often have little, if any, training in adolescent development or how best to communicate with the 10- to 18-year-old set. APA's new publication, "Developing Adolescents: A Reference for Professionals," was designed with these professionals in mind.

The booklet synthesizes the latest research-based information on basic, healthy adolescent development--which is often inaccessible to laypeople without access to scientific journals--says Andrea Solarz, PhD, manager of the Public Interest Directorate's Healthy Adolescents Project.

"The publication is brief but has breadth," says Solarz, who produced the 42-page booklet. "We hope that it's something that professionals will keep handy at their desks."

Providing the basics on how to communicate with and understand adolescents is a running theme of the booklet, which also emphasizes prevention and addresses the fact that adolescents "develop along different timelines in different ways," says Solarz. Topics include:

  • Adolescent physical development, which covers puberty and sexual development, physical appearance and body image.

  • Adolescent cognitive development, which addresses cognitive abilities and skills.

  • Adolescent emotional development, which addresses developing a sense of identity, emotional intelligence and group differences in emotional development.

  • Adolescent social development, which covers peer relations, family relationships, school, work and community.

  • Adolescent behavioral development, which discusses risk-taking and protective factors and resilience.

The booklet also includes an extensive reference list for readers who want additional information on a subject.

"Developing Adolescents" is an outgrowth of APA's six-year participation with Partners in Program Planning for Adolescent Health (PIPPAH), an initiative funded by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau's Office of Adolescent Health to enhance the ability of a broad spectrum of professional practitioners to address health issues of adolescents. APA and other members of the multidisciplinary partnership--including the American Bar Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Nurses Association, American Dietetic Association and American Medical Association (AMA)--collaborated on activities to promote adolescent health. APA's participation with PIPPAH ended in September.

"Early on [during PIPPAH meetings], we talked about the reality that some people don't particularly like to work with adolescents--including some psychologists--because they don't know quite what to do with them," says Jacquelyn Gentry, PhD, APA's director of public interest initiatives. Participants kept saying "it would be nice to know what's realistic to expect from adolescents, and APA felt the booklet was something appropriate" to develop, she says.

Professional organizations have already begun requesting the publication. For example, Mike Ambrose, communications director for the Children's Dental Health Project--which participates in PIPPAH as a representative of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry--plans to distribute the online version of "Developing Adolescents" to a diverse group of national dental organizations. "It'll definitely be a great foundation of the work we're doing in raising the awareness and the capacity of the dental community to start working with adolescents and looking at positive youth development," he says. "It will give pediatric dentists and the dental community a firm background in the whole issue."

Psychologist Missy Fleming, PhD, program director of child and adolescent health for the AMA, plans to inform physicians of the booklet through the AMA Web site and the Society for Adolescent Medicine's newsletter.

"Physicians are well-versed in the physiological and biomedical aspects of development....However looking at young persons in the context of their lives and focusing on the assets, not the deficits, is something of a new approach," she says. "The publication will be useful [to physicians] because of its breadth, focus on normal development, and its attention to resiliency," she says.

Further Reading

To order "Developing Adolescents," contact the Public Interest Directorate at the APA address; e-mail; Web site. Single copies are free.