The paths adolescents take from childhood into adulthood are shaped by broad demographic, institutional, and technological forces. In the next century, these societal forces may affect adolescent experience in ways that facilitate and enhance youth's preparation to become healthy adults or in ways that leave youth unprepared, even handicapped, for adulthood. Knowledgeable projections about how adolescent experience and preparation for adulthood are likely to be transformed in the future are vital for shaping agendas for research; for alerting educators, policy makers, and practitioners to new realities; and for formulating thoughtful responses to emerging dilemmas. This volume focuses on key societal phenomena that will influence the experience of adolescence in the future: demographic and economic trends, innovations in information technology, and alterations in key social institutions including those concerned with education, work, health care, and criminal justice.
Some ominous societal changes of the 21st century are addressed. Rapid population growth in some regions of the world induce crowding, environmental degradation, and resource scarcity that jeopardize investment in the next generation. In other regions where populations have stabilized or are shrinking, large aging cohorts compete with smaller and less powerful younger cohorts for resources. Across the world, technological and occupational changes have produced widening income gaps between “information workers” and low skill workers, with strong implications for the resources available to children in the succeeding generation.
Other quite promising societal changes are foreseen in these chapters.