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Developmental trajectories and ecological transitions: A two-step procedure to aid in the choice of prevention and promotion interventions



The confluence of two different types of transitional processes is explored: human development and normative ecological transitions. There are periods of greater vulnerability than others in the developmental life course as well as particular normative ecological transitions that are more disruptive than others. When there is a confluence of developmental vulnerability and a disruptive ecological transition, a “turning point” in development may ensue. This can take the form of an opportunity for growth and development or a developmental mismatch. Consequently, such turning points may represent opportune times and places at which to launch prevention/promotion programs. A two-step analytic procedure, nomothetic analyses followed by idiographic analyses, is described and illustrated to test the utility of this framework. First, these issues are illustrated using the self-esteem trajectories of low-income, urban public school students making a normative school transition to a junior and senior high school. Second, new data are presented on the early adolescent self-esteem trajectories and their association with long-term psychopathology. Third, the significance of this two-step procedure is discussed in regard to several normative ecological transitions that are common when older adolescents make the developmental transition into adulthood (e.g., into full-time employment, marriage).Work on this article was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH43084) and the Carnegie Corporation (B4850) awarded to Edward Seidman, J. Lawrence Aber, LaRue Allen, and Christina Mitchell. We express appreciation to the adolescents and schools whose cooperation made this study possible.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Edward Seidman, William T. Grant Foundation, 570 Lexington Avenue, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10022; E-mail:


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