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Difference That Differences Make: Adolescent Diversity and Its Deregulation

NCJ Number
M D Levine
Date Published
85 pages
This report examines adolescent diversity on many levels, including the sources of variation, the mediating influence of neurodevelopmental variation, the adolescent performance experience, and the elements of readiness for adulthood.
Sources of variation among adolescents involve an array of biological predispositions, cultural origins, family backgrounds, temperaments, and levels of physical health. Adolescents also differ from one another regarding the degree of success of gratification they have experienced during the first 16 years of their lives. Their prior educational exposures and successes influence self-esteem, motivation, and ambition. Adolescents have been exposed to varying role models in the family, in the community, and in school, and they vary in the critical life experiences they have had. Some sources of variation are mediated by neurodevelopmental phenomena. The neurodevelopmental functions include selective attention, memory, language, simultaneous/sequential processing and production, higher order cognition, neuromotor function, and social skill. Given the wide variation among adolescents in their preparation for integration into work, family, and citizenship, schools must adopt a more pluralistic view of education, based upon an understanding of differences among adolescents. Policymakers must appreciate that the cultivation rather than the denial of such differences is utterly critical to the maintenance of a productive adult society composed of diversely talented collaborating citizens, each of whom offers a unique repertoire of products and services. 57 references.