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Posted on April 24th, 2014, by

Adolescent Development: Perspectives and Frameworks is a profound review on how adolescent needs are currently understood and approached in the specialized literature and by several international organizations like the United Nations Organization and others. These approached are summarized and thoroughly examined, compared and contrasted in order to find out the best solutions and make up general recommendations for further research as well as treating adolescents in practice. This discussion paper has been written for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as the problems of childhood and adolescence have always been a zone of acute attention, and numerous programs and projects are being developed to do away with the wide spread problems children and adolescents face. Therefore, the author of the report, Kalpana Bhandarkar, aimed at assessing current situation and at spreading useful knowledge among UNICEF staff. Each year new studies are made and new perspectives are revealed, the situation is not stable, that is why there is an urgent need to keep the hand on the pulse and to investigate the state of the problem with current generation. The strategies that were effective twenty years ago can hardly be effective with modern children, and that is the main reason such research is extremely needed. Another aim of the review is to stimulate further discussion and research in order to provide conceptual clarity and programmatic guidance for working with adolescents and young people (Bhandarkar 2006, iii).

For that aim, the author dwells on the question who adolescents are and explains the category through the definition of transition period for which certain changes (biological, psychological, and social) are typical. It is stressed that there are different definitions of the age limits of this period and points at the reference of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), according to which this limits are from ten to nineteen years. At the same time, the World Programme of Action for Youth equals the terms adolescence and youth and here the age is defined as from fifteen to twenty four.

Further, it is stressed that there are three stages in adolescent period (early, middle and late), and each of the stages has its own distinctive features. In the early adolescence (10-13 years), a person develops concrete thinking abilities, explores decision-making processes, develops sexual interest and experiments with new patterns of behavior. In the middle stage, a person moves to abstract thinking, develops a sense of identity, holds more influence and develops sexual interest further. Risk-taking is also typical for this stage. In the late adolescence, reasoning skills are developed further, sense of identity is established more fully, further schooling takes place and assessment of risks occurs.

What is more, gender differences are also reviewed, but rather shortly. In fact, no item is scrutinized deeply, and the report overall looks like notes for further studies, and questions for these further studies are identified, not answered.

It goes without saying that the report under consideration can be useful not only for the staff of the UNICEF, but it can also be helpful for social workers, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and other specialists who are professionally connected with the social group adolescents. A lot of beneficial data can be imported from this report and its conclusions can becomes a well-structured basis for further research. Although the benefits are obvious, the paper also has its limitations. The analysis is generally based on the studies conducted in developed studies, while the recommendations were to be made for the adolescents in the developing countries first of all. The author herself admits these limitations, but also provides explanation for that fact. She complains that unfortunately there are not many studies from the developing countries, while there are always differences in cultural and historical contexts, backgrounds, environments, and all the differences can influence the way adolescents should be approached. However, the author does not offer any programs to overcome this information gap, probably because she did not see her task in providing such solutions. On the other hand, it is also stressed that it is necessary to organize and stimulate cooperation with local universities and agencies in developing countries in order to get enough information and to stimulate progressive changes. The obvious benefit of this report is the logic model framework through which the approaches of United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Population Fund, International Labour Organization, Pan American Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund are compared and contrasted. The author criticizes their approaches in a constructive manner, highlighting the strengths and drawbacks of each, and comes to the conclusion that the most effective approach needed to serve the preventive and developmental needs of adolescent s is one that is holistic in its design (Bhandarkar 2006, 17). In this way, the report Adolescent Development: Perspectives and Frameworks is rather general by nature, but can be successfully used as a step to further implications.

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