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Trouble-Free Teens?

Trouble-Free Teens?A Tufts child development professor is working on a six-year study with the goal of determining the ingredients that turn an adolescent into a well-adjusted adult.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.26.05] Despite popular notions of moody teens and the trials of transitioning to adulthood, a team of researchers led by Tufts’ Richard Lerner is reevaluating these conclusions and finding that most teenagers make their way through adolescence relatively unscathed. With this understanding at hand, the research team is cooking up the recipe for successfully transitioning from teen to adult.

"Research shows that most young people go through adolescence having good relationships with their parents, adopting attitudes and values consistent with their parents' and end up getting out of the adolescent period and becoming good citizens," Richard Lerner, professorof child development and the Bergstrom Chair of Applied Developmental Science at Tufts, told Newsweek.

Initial findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development were published in the February 2005 issue of The Journal of Early Adolescence. The team is comprised of Tufts researchers, graduate and undergraduate research assistants, with an advisory board drawing from several fields and institutions.

In the course of their six-year longitudinal study, Lerner and his colleagues have identified "the 5 Cs," a set of interconnected traits that they say carries teenagers through adolescence without major setbacks: competence, confidence, connection, character and caring.

"For example, competence refers not just to academic ability but also to social and vocational skills. Confidence includes self-esteem as well as the belief that you can make a difference in the world," Newsweek reported.

With these five characteristics in place, a sixth "C" called contribution (or civic engagement) can result, Newsweek reported.

Lerner told the magazine that his study was the first in which researchers had effectively measured the effect of these characteristics on successfully maturation. The goal of the study – which ends next year – is to find a way to quantify the "5 Cs" and develop educational efforts that promote them.

"Parents and sometimes kids themselves often talk about positive development as the absence of bad," says Lerner. "What we're trying to do is present a different vision and a different vocabulary for young people and parents."

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