Summer 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB1

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Adolescents and Their Families


Patricia Tanner Nelson
Family and Child Development Specialist
Cooperative Extension
University of Delaware - Newark

(Please refer to the article, "Research + Volunteers = Success,"by Nelson, Keith, Hoopfer, and Covert, on page 14 for further information on this subject.)

Staff working with adolescents and their families will be interested in two new Extension resources: The Michigan Early Adolescent Survey and The MAPP Project.

Keith and Hoopfer directed The Michigan Early Adolescent Survey. The project was a crosssectional survey of 304 early adolescents and their families. An earlier article in this issue describes the selection, training, and evaluation of the 80 volunteers who interviewed the youth and their families, focusing on the developmental needs and interests of the early adolescents.

Among the findings, the researchers suggest that:

  • In the years between 10 and 14, most people experience the second greatest period of growth in their lives.
  • About one-fifth of the youth in the study said when they're troubled they talk with neither parent.
  • Parents say they need help in teaching their children important skills in five areas: computers, working with the elderly, learning about other cultures, leadership, and communication.
  • Youth groups and clubs can play a vital role in helping early adolescents develop essential competencies. Parents most value these contributions to youth development: social skills, subject-matter knowledge and skills, personal skills, and self-esteem.
  • Most youth prefer to learn new activities as part of a group.

For a copy of this report, contact your state 4-H program leader or Joanne Keith, Project Leader, Cooperative Extension Service, Michigan State University, College of Human Ecology, Room 203, East Lansing, Michigan 48824.

The second resource, The MAPP(Model for Analyzing and Planning Programs) Project, should be available in your county right now. This project was a cooperative effort of family life specialists nationwide, and was directed by James Van Horn, family sociology specialist for Pennsylvania State University's Cooperative Extension. This extensive compilation summarizes research findings and programming resources for families throughout the lifespan. It includes a section on "Families with Adolescents."

A few of the research highlights in this section include:

  • High adolescent self-esteem is often associated with a positive perception of parents.
  • Parents' interest in the child's welfare appears to be a primary factor in encouraging the youth's positive self-esteem. Parents continue to express concern about their competence in raising children. Those who feel the least competent tend to be mothers of adolescents, who indicate a need for more information on how to deal effectively with the adolescent's growing need for independence, and how to cope with the teen's volatile emotions and moods.
  • For many families, adolescence is the most stressful stage in the lifecycle. The major resources found in families who cope well in this stage are skills in: (1) positive communication, (2) conflict management, (3) active problem solving, and (4) financial management.

If you'd like to borrow a copy of The MAPP Project, check with your county home economist or state family life specialist.

Extension professionals are in a unique position to help meet the educational needs of adolescents and their families. Both The Michigan Early Adolescent Survey and The MAPP Project should be welcome additions for providing programming insights and resources for Extension staff.