In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Adolescence and Youth

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Handbooks
  • Journals
  • Youth Studies
  • Youth Policy
  • Youth Work

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section

Childhood Studies Adolescence and Youth
Helena Helve
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0047


Social science and humanistic research has focused mainly on young people in the United States and western Europe. In the early 21st century, however, researchers throughout the world are increasingly engaged in topics relevant to youth globally. Theories and methodologies of youth research have become indistinguishable from those of its core disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, developmental and social psychology, educational sciences, anthropology, ethnology, medicine, criminology, political science, demography, and history. The International Sociological Association (ISA) established a specialized branch research committee on youth sociology and youth research (RC34) in 1975 as an international interdisciplinary network and meeting place for youth issues in general. Research on adolescence has been done in developmental psychology and life-course sociology, and there have been important contributing areas in the biomedical sciences, including adolescent medicine. In the 1970s, the main interest of developmental scientists were adolescents ages ten to twenty, including the considerable physical and physiological changes of puberty, a time when the interdependency of biology and cognitive abilities, social relationships, and motivations of adolescents is formed. In postmodern conceptions of development, the importance of adolescence has grown in the broader field of developmental scientists and applied developmental scientists. The approaches are from different perspectives in the fields of psychology, sociology, education, youth and family studies, social work, medicine, psychiatry, criminology, and nursing. All different aspects of youth—the social and cultural construction of youth, youth as a state of being, a distinct category of subjectivity and identity, a form of cultural expression, a stage of life, an element of social-cultural capital, and a socioeconomic resource—are specific issues for youth and research on adolescence and youth.

General Overviews

It is not always clear what the terms “youth” and “adolescence” mean. Cultural analysis of youth-related phenomena has long been used in the social sciences (Brake 1985, Willis 1977). In Anglo-American literature (e.g., Tyyskä 2001), there are separate categories for “young adolescents” (ten to fourteen), “teens” (fifteen to nineteen), and “young adults” (twenty to twenty-four). The term “teen” means thirteen to nineteen years of age. The term “tweens” was introduced in the 1990s to refer to young people aged ten to twelve. Some approach youth in relational terms, with reference to the social processes whereby age is socially constructed, institutionalized, and controlled in historically and culturally specific ways (Furlong and Cartmel 2007, Wyn and White 1997). Côté and Allahar 1994 examines the traditional biological, psychiatric, and psychological constructions of adolescence, providing sociological explanations including functionalist, subcultural, postmodernist, and political economy models, with a multifaceted approach tending to rely on the political economy model, drawing at times on the psychological approach of Erikson’s identity theory. Arnett (Arnett 2004; Arnett, et al. 2011) has suggested that what was generally referred to as late adolescence and postadolescence is “emerging adulthood.”

  • Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through the Twenties. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    This book presents key features of the stage of emerging adulthood. It is a relevant text for anyone who wants to understand Western and especially American youth.

  • Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen, Marion Kloep, Leo B. Hendry, and Jennifer L. Tanner. Debating Emerging Adulthood: Stage or Process? New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199757176.001.0001

    This book gives more recent perspectives on the debates of emerging adulthood for developmental psychologists and students in the field, as well as for anyone interested in the theories of youth and adolescence.

  • Brake, Mike. Comparative Youth Culture: The Sociology of Youth Cultures and Youth Subcultures in America, Britain, and Canada. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203408940

    The key academic text analyzing youth in the framework of youth cultures and subcultures.

  • Côté, James E., and Anton Allahar. Generation on Hold: Coming of Age in the Late Twentieth Century. Don Mills, ON: Stoddart, 1994.

    This interdisciplinary book examines the problems that youths encounter in coming of age in Western industrial societies. The authors’ analysis, using the social psychology of identity formation, draws heavily on the work of Erik Erikson (Identity [New York: Norton, 1968]).

  • Furlong, Andy, and Fred Cartmel. Young People and Social Change: New Perspectives. 2d ed. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2007.

    A strong contribution to the study of contemporary youth. It is relevant for students and academics in social sciences and youth studies. First edition (titled Young People and Social Change: Individualization and Risk in Late Modernity) published in 1997.

  • Tyyskä, Vappu. Long and Winding Road: Adolescents and Youth in Canada Today. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2001.

    A comprehensive synthesis of Canadian research on adolescents and youth. This is a key text of the most important findings of a generation of research in the adolescence and youth studies field, including an examination of the significance of gender, race, and ethnicity.

  • Willis, Paul E. Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. Farnborough, UK: Saxon House, 1977.

    This book, authored by a leading British cultural theorist, is one of the key texts in the field of youth research. Willis conducted a series of interviews and observations within a school, with the aim of discovering why “working class kids get working class jobs.”

  • Wyn, Johanna, and Rob White. Rethinking Youth. London: SAGE, 1997.

    This book is a provocative critique of the conceptions of youth, dealing with the problems experienced by young people in a rapidly changing world. It is a relevant study for academics and students in youth studies and sociology. Canadian edition published in 2011.

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