Research identifies 'golden threads' that can help design better programs for adolescents

The Age of Opportunity, a webinar focused on how adolescent research can shape more effective interventions on gender equality.

WASHINGTON — Creating programs that will help address the critical needs of adolescents around issues of gender equality, health, and more is no easy feat. But a new study that bridges the fields of biological development and cognitive or behavioral development offers some insights into how teens think that may help.

The study, commissioned by Girl Effect, an organization that works to empower girls, looks at the distinct stages of adolescence and how boys and girls develop differently at each stage. It also identified several “golden threads,” or common themes, that are true across many different contexts and informed by cognitive and behavioral science.

For example, in early adolescence, boys and girls lack the ability to plan ahead, a factor that is important to acknowledge when addressing preventative interventions in particular. In addition, in early adolescence, boys and girls take more risks, and peer pressure or peer recognition has greater influence on early to mid adolescence, particularly for boys.

Devex explored these and other key findings from the report and how to apply the findings to build better development programs, particularly those focused on gender equality and health, during a webinar on Tuesday.

The webinar, which you can watch in full above, featured Robert Blum — senior professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and the director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, and the report’s author — and Katherine Nichol, the director of gender at Girl Effect, and Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli, who leads the adolescents and at-risk populations team in the department of reproductive health and research at the World Health Organization.

The full study findings will be published later this fall. You can request the report by reaching out to Girl Effect.

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