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America's Disconnected Youth: Toward a Preventive Strategy

NCJ Number
Douglas J. Besharov
Date Published
327 pages
These 12 papers present research findings on the reasons why some youths ages 16-23 years are not in school, working, or married for at least 6 months in any calendar year; the papers suggest ways to build on a system that is already established to create an environment that promotes youth development and opportunity.
The volume includes several papers presented at a policy conference held in May 1996 and sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. The introduction notes that the common characteristic of school dropouts; graduates who become involved in drug abuse, crime, or both instead of gainful employment; and unmarried adolescent parents who spend years on welfare is that they spend a crucial period of their lives disconnected from the broader society. Individual papers argue that youthful disconnectedness is widespread, that disconnectedness is most visible in the contemporary inner city, that youth disconnected for brief periods do not seem to suffer serious social or economic problems, and that youth disconnected in 3 or more years suffer long-term social and economic problems. Additional papers explore the impact of family and church on achievement, explain the important role of supportive schools, argue that career-oriented education can have multiple positive effects on students, and recommend that individual schools develop explicit missions about the skills their graduates are expected to have acquired and the ways in which they will teach those skills. Further papers focus on various approaches to engaging students during afternoon hours and long summer breaks, current youth development programs, and preventive interventions based on strong relationships between youth and adults. Figures, tables, and chapter notes and reference lists