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January/February 2017Vol. 17, No. 10Framework for Improving Adolescent Well-Being

From the ages of 14 to 25, young people experience tremendous growth physically, cognitively, and emotionally. For this reason, this stage of adolescence leading into early adulthood can be a time of possibility as well as a time when youth are most vulnerable to their environment and susceptible to at-risk behavior. A new policy and practice brief by the Youth Transition Funders Group (YTFG) examines what roles and to what extent youth-serving systems (i.e., education, work force, and justice systems) have in supporting the well-being of young people; offers a framework for well-being involving families, communities, funders, and policymakers; and, finally, provides recommendations on how to support our youth during this critical time in their lives.

YTFG proposes a framework centered on six domains of well-being:

  • Cognitive Development—Focuses on giving every youth, regardless of race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status, the opportunity for intellectual growth through education opportunities
  • Social and Emotional Well-Being—Focuses on building self-esteem and encouraging healthy relationships with others
  • Mental Health and Wellness—Focuses on preparing youth and teaching them coping skills for life situations they will experience as they grow into adulthood
  • Physical Health—Focuses on giving youth opportunities to participate in healthy activities and teaching them about facets of health pertaining to nutrition, exercise, and sexual health
  • Safety—Focuses on ensuring that youth are safe from violence, abuse, and neglect
  • Economic Well-Being—Focuses on preparing youth to be able to sustain themselves as adults through steady employment, proper education, and exposure to a variety of career options

The 11 recommendations for supporting these six domains follow an integrated approach involving families, individuals, and advocates, which encourage them to support and empower youth as they explore their prospects for their future. YTFG also recommends that those in the position to change policies and procedures make Federal, State, and local laws that best enable youth to build and sustain their sense of well-being.

Investing to Improve the Well-Being of Vulnerable Youth and Young Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice is available at (2 MB).