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Adolescents at RiskPrevalence and Prevention$
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Joy G. Dryfoos

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195072686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195072686.001.0001

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Introduction: Hypotheses and Theories

Introduction: Hypotheses and Theories

(p.3) 1 Introduction: Hypotheses and Theories
Adolescents at Risk

Joy G. Dryfoos

Oxford University Press

Many children are growing up in the United States today without a hope of enjoying the benefits that come with adulthood. They are not learning the skills necessary to participate in the educational system or to make the transition into the labor force. They cannot become responsible parents because they have limited experience in family life and lack the resources to raise their own children. The gap between achievers and nonachievers is expanding. A new class of “untouchables” is emerging in our inner cities, on the social fringes of suburbia, and in some rural areas: young people who are functionally illiterate, disconnected from school, depressed, prone to drug abuse and early criminal activity, and eventually, parents of unplanned and unwanted babies. These are the children who are at high risk of never becoming responsible adults. There is growing concern in this nation about the future status and work potential of these high-risk youth. This concern has been heightened in direct proportion to the awareness that at least one-quarter of future labor force requirements will not be met unless these ill-equipped young people are helped. We cannot say that their problems are being ignored. The press and television are full of stories dramatizing the difficulties of young people, and hundreds of local, state, and national conferences address these issues and make recommendations about amelioration. There are literally thousands of programs addressed to preventing or ameliorating various problem behaviors. In fact, each problem area (e.g., school achievement, drugs, pregnancy, delinquency, suicide, mental health) has its own specialized constitutency, meetings, publications, and “gurus.” One might well ask, if all of these resources are being used to combat the separate problems, why is the status of high-risk youth deteriorating? An array of explanations can be offered in response to this critical question. Success is elusive because the programs as interventions are too fragmented and weak to have enough impact. They do not create change either in the individuals who exhibit the behavior or in the institutions responsible for the environment in which the behavior is learned.

Keywords:   Antecedents, Causal factors, Ecological framework, Predisposing factors, Program evaluation, Region

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