Overcoming the odds? Adolescent development in the context of urban poverty

Ana Mari Cauce, Angela Stewart, Melanie Domenech Rodriguez, Bryan Cochran, Joshua Ginzler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Adolescence, a time of rapid biological, emotional, and social changes, brings with it a heightened developmental risk (McCord, 1997). This risk may be highest for adolescents growing up in poverty within our country's inner cities. In addition to the normative stress of adolescence, poor inner-city youth face multiple stressors and adversities including crowded housing, poor-quality schools, inadequate nutrition, and the presence of violence and drugs in their neighborhoods (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999). These factors, in turn, have been linked to a host of negative outcomes (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan, 1997; Gorman-Smith & Tolan, this volume). Nonetheless, some inner-city youth survive these circumstances, overcoming adversity to become productive members of society. This chapter will highlight research that helps us understand the dynamic process of risk and resilience during this difficult transition in an even more difficult context. We begin this chapter with a definition of adolescence and urban poverty and then lay out a rationale for focusing on two outcomes, school achievement and dropout and behavior problems of an internalizing or externalizing nature. We then identify salient factors that increase vulnerability or protective processes for youth growing up in urban poverty. We end with a discussion of resilience, emphasizing the limits of resilient adaptation and implications of this for theory and research on resilience, as well as for interventions that may better the lives of these vulnerable youth.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResilience and Vulnerability
Subtitle of host publicationAdaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780511615788
ISBN (Print)0521001617, 9780521807012
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


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