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Adolescent wellbeing

Adolescent wellbeing

Despite great strides in improving overall child well-being, progress has been slower in key areas of adolescent vulnerability, including exposure to violence, early marriage and school completion, especially among adolescent girls. The Lancet Commission ‘Our Future’ (2016) has examined the rapidly changing social and structural determinants of adolescent well-being and their implications on health promotion and prevention work.  It stresses the importance of adolescence as a critical period of formative growth that affects well-being across the life course. Although evidence is building in some domains of adolescent’s lives, greater understanding of the transition to adulthood and how different underlying factors interact is needed in order to inform the basis for effective programming and policy. The need to incorporate consideration of different structural factors into programme design is gaining support, yet there is still little guidance on systematic evidence-based approaches to employ in practice.

The Adolescent Research Programme is advancing global understandings of adolescent well-being in selected countries and themes by defining the drivers of well-being outcomes (‘causes and consequences’) and examining effective policy and programme interventions (‘what works’).

Research Priorities 2014 – 2018
• Rigorous evidence generation on structural and social determinants of adolescent wellbeing across sectors and throughout the life course.
• Understanding formal institutions, systems and policy processes as well as social and cultural norms affecting behaviours and policy implementation.
• Analytical focus on age and gender gaps to shed light on the main drivers of adolescent vulnerability.

Global Research Partnership
Together with UK Department of International Development, Italy, SIDA, UNICEF as well as US Department of Labour, the Oak Foundation, and others, the global research partnership is working with multiple national governments and institutions to improve understandings of various dimensions of adolescents’ lives.
The programme is linked to the Gender and Adolescence Global Evidence initiative. It leverages UNICEF’s programme technical capacity as well as networks of regional and country offices and implementing partners in low and middle income countries.
Drawing on multi –disciplinary research expertise, the UNICEF programme has produced cutting edge research that explores what works to improve outcomes for adolescents.
Quality evidence is having impact - informing effective policy and interventions in focus countries and beyond.

Publications

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 16
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 16

The Adolescence Research Digest is a quarterly publication of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti. It synthesizes the latest research evidence, resources and news related to adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a critically sensitive period in terms of growth and maturity with many rapid transitions about which too little is currently known. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 15
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 15

The Adolescence Research Digest is a quarterly publication of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti. It synthesizes the latest research evidence, resources and news related to adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a critically sensitive period in terms of growth and maturity with many rapid transitions about which too little is currently known. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 14
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 14

The Adolescence Research Digest is a quarterly publication of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti. It synthesizes the latest research evidence, resources and news related to adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a critically sensitive period in terms of growth and maturity with many rapid transitions about which too little is currently known. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Adolescent girls’ potential to disrupt the gender socialization process: Evidence from Plan International UK’s longitudinal cohort study, ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’
Publication

Adolescent girls’ potential to disrupt the gender socialization process: Evidence from Plan International UK’s longitudinal cohort study, ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’

This brief discusses findings from Plan International UK’s ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’ report, which explores factors in adolescent girls’ lives across Benin, Togo and Uganda that may influence them to ‘accept’ or ‘disrupt’ the gender socialization process. The brief focuses on one of a handful of qualitative longitudinal studies addressing the challenges of gender norms in low- and middle-income country settings, providing crucial evidence in these countries to address Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality.
2018 Results Report
Publication

2018 Results Report

In 2018, significant gains were made in generating evidence to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children, build organizational capacity to conduct and use quality, ethical research on children, and set a foundation as an important convening centre for expert consultation on next-generation ideas on children. 2018 marks the first year the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti is reporting on the progress of research under the new UNICEF Strategic Plan (2018-2021). This plan is the first to clearly delineate the role of research and evidence as one of the eight priority change strategies for children. This report therefore is an account of the first year of work to generate critical evidence to inform programmes, policies and advocacy for children and young people around the world
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 12
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 12

The Adolescence Research Digest is a quarterly publication of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti. It synthesizes the latest research evidence, resources and news related to adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a critically sensitive period in terms of growth and maturity with many rapid transitions about which too little is currently known. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Resumen Innocenti de Investigación sobre la Adolescencia 13
Publication

Resumen Innocenti de Investigación sobre la Adolescencia 13

Resumen trimestral que destaca las noticias y recursos más significativos de la investigación sobre el bienestar de los adolescentes durante los tres últimos meses.
Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 1
Publication

Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 1

This research brief is one of a series of five briefs which provide an overview of available evidence shown in the Campbell Collaboration-UNICEF Mega-Map on the effectiveness of interventions to improve child welfare in low- and middle-income countries. These briefs summarize evidence as mapped against the five goal areas of UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, although it is anticipated that they will also be useful for others working in the child well-being space. This brief provides an overview of the available evidence related to interventions to ensure every child survives and thrives.
Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 2
Publication

Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 2

This research brief is one of a series of five briefs which provide an overview of available evidence shown in the Campbell Collaboration-UNICEF Mega-Map on the effectiveness of interventions to improve child welfare in low- and middle-income countries. These briefs summarize evidence as mapped against the five goal areas of UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, although it is anticipated that they will also be useful for others working in the child well-being space. This brief provides an overview of the available evidence related to interventions to ensure every child learns.
Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 3
Publication

Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 3

This research brief is one of a series of five briefs which provide an overview of available evidence shown in the Campbell Collaboration-UNICEF Mega-Map on the effectiveness of interventions to improve child welfare in low- and middle-income countries. These briefs summarize evidence as mapped against the five goal areas of UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, although it is anticipated that they will also be useful for others working in the child well-being space. This brief provides an overview of the available evidence related to interventions to ensure every child is protected from violence and exploitation.
Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 4
Publication

Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 4

This research brief is one of a series of five briefs which provide an overview of available evidence shown in the Campbell Collaboration-UNICEF Mega-Map on the effectiveness of interventions to improve child welfare in low- and middle-income countries. These briefs summarize evidence as mapped against the five goal areas of UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, although it is anticipated that they will also be useful for others working in the child well-being space. This brief provides an overview of the available evidence related to interventions to ensure every child lives in a safe and clean environment.
Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 5
Publication

Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 5

This research brief is one of a series of five briefs which provide an overview of available evidence shown in the Campbell Collaboration-UNICEF Mega-Map on the effectiveness of interventions to improve child welfare in low- and middle-income countries. These briefs summarize evidence as mapped against the five goal areas of UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, although it is anticipated that they will also be useful for others working in the child well-being space. This brief provides an overview of the available evidence related to interventions to ensure that every child has an equitable chance in life.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 11
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 11

A quarterly research digest highlighting the most important news and resources in adolescent well-being over the last three months.
Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and Its Impact on Global Policy
Publication

Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and Its Impact on Global Policy

Of 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today, 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. These adolescents not only face many challenges but also represent a resource to be cultivated through educational opportunities and vocational training to move them toward economic independence, through initiatives to improve reproductive health, and through positive interpersonal relationships to help them avoid risky behaviors and make positive decisions about their futures. This volume tackles the challenges and promise of adolescence by presenting cutting-edge research on adolescent social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical development; promising programs from different countries to promote adolescents’ positive development; and policies that can advance adolescents’ rights within the framework of international initiatives, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Sustainable Development Goals, which are guiding the international development agenda through 2030. This volume seeks to provide actionable strategies for policymakers and practitioners working with adolescents. Disconnects between national-level policies and local services, as well as lack of continuity with early childhood responses, present a significant challenge to ensuring a coherent approach for adolescents. Increasingly, adolescent participation and demands for rights-based approaches are seen and often unfortunately conflated with violence. This volume adopts a positive framing of adolescence, representing young people as opportunities rather than threats, and a valued investment both at individual and societal levels, contributing to a positive shift in discourses around young people.
The Long-term Effect of Humanitarian Emergencies on Adolescents: Existing evidence, gaps and considerations for research and practitioners
Publication

The Long-term Effect of Humanitarian Emergencies on Adolescents: Existing evidence, gaps and considerations for research and practitioners

This short paper grew out of discussions at a two-day research workshop focused on famines and adolescents. It explores some of what we do and do not know about the impacts of humanitarian situations on adolescents’ lives. Adolescents and their specific capacities and vulnerabilities have tended to be overlooked in the design and implementation of humanitarian responses, including in social protection and further components of such responses. This paper seeks to bring these questions to the attention of researchers, policy makers and practitioners in order to address identified priority gaps; build on existing knowledge; invest in better evidence generation; and include adolescents in research and response efforts in meaningful ways. Such improvements to humanitarian responses would assist in developing more inclusive efforts that consider all ages in the child’s life-course; aim for more sustainable well-being outcomes and help meet core commitments to children in these settings.
The Intricate Relationship between Chronic Undernutrition, Impaired Linear Growth and Delayed Puberty: Is ‘catch-up’ growth possible during adolescence?
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The Intricate Relationship between Chronic Undernutrition, Impaired Linear Growth and Delayed Puberty: Is ‘catch-up’ growth possible during adolescence?

Chronic undernutrition is characterized by long-term exposure to food of insufficient quality and inadequate quantity, including restricted intake of energy, protein, fat, micronutrients, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Physiologically, in a state of chronic food insufficiency, the human body conserves energy by prioritizing essential metabolic processes resulting in impaired linear growth and delayed reproductive maturation. Consequently, height can theoretically be considered a measure of an individual’s cumulative health and nutrition. Therefore, a deviation from the ‘normal’ height relative to one’s age represents a deviation from one’s optimal growth and, potentially, the presence of other issues. Similarly, the delayed onset of puberty is another common physiological response to food insufficiency, often accompanying impaired linear growth. Chronic undernutrition can arise from chronic disease, congenital abnormalities and insufficient food intake. In this review, we will explore the hypothesis of CUG during adolescence, given the relationship between impaired linear growth and the delayed onset of puberty in children suffering from chronic undernutrition due to a lack of sufficient quality and quantity of food.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 10
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Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 10

A quarterly research digest highlighting the most important news and resources in adolescent well-being over the last three months.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 9
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 9

A quarterly research digest highlighting the most important news and resources in adolescent well-being over the last three months.
Realizing an Enabling Environment for Adolescent Well-being: An inventory of laws and policies for adolescents in South Asia
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Realizing an Enabling Environment for Adolescent Well-being: An inventory of laws and policies for adolescents in South Asia

The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity - A compendium
Publication

The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity - A compendium

In 2016, UNICEF hosted The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity, a symposium that brought together experts in adolescent neuroscience to discuss this emerging science and how we can apply it to support all adolescents – but especially those already facing risks to their well-being, including poverty, deprivation, conflict and crisis. The articles in this compendium elaborate on some of the ideas shared at the symposium. Together, they provide a broad view of the dynamic interactions among physical, sexual and brain development that take place during adolescence. They highlight some of the risks to optimal development – including toxic stress, which can interfere with the formation of brain connections, and other vulnerabilities unique to the onset of puberty and independence. They also point to the opportunities for developing interventions that can build on earlier investments in child development – consolidating gains and even offsetting the effects of deficits and traumas experienced earlier in childhood.
Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 8
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest on Adolescence 8

A quarterly research digest highlighting the most important news and resources in adolescent well-being over the last three months.
Child Privacy in the Age of Web 2.0 and 3.0: Challenges and opportunities for policy
Publication

Child Privacy in the Age of Web 2.0 and 3.0: Challenges and opportunities for policy

We live in an information society, where the flow of information in the virtual environment is unprecedented. Web 2.0 platforms – and recently Web 3.0 platforms and the Internet of Things (IoT) – represent an important step forward in enhancing the lives of both adults and children everywhere, by combining greater efficiencies with a wide availability of new tools that can boost individual creativity and collective production. This new environment has exposed adults and children to fresh challenges that deserve special attention, especially those surrounding privacy. The main objective of this paper is to address the challenges posed to child privacy online and the impact that these challenges might have on other rights such as freedom of expression, access to information and public participation. To do this, the paper first analyses the current (and foreseen) threats to child privacy online and the various approaches adopted by government and/or the private sector to tackle this issue. The paper also examines whether children’s perspectives and needs are considered in international debates on technology regulation, including in regard to the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. It then contextualizes the protection of privacy (and data protection) in relation to other fundamental rights in the online environment, arguing that in most cases this interaction is rather positive, with the enforcement of the right to privacy serving to protect other rights. The paper concludes by proposing some policy recommendations on how to better address the protection of children’s online privacy. These objectives are achieved through literature review and analysis of legal instruments.
Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence No.7
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence No.7

This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the last three months. This edition includes compelling research, resources, news and events that address the issue of adolescent health from many perspectives.
Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence 6
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence 6

This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the last three months. This edition includes compelling research, resources, news and events that address the issue of gender from many perspectives.
Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries
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Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries

This Report Card offers an assessment of child well-being in the context of sustainable development across 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Adolescents’ Mental Health: Out of the shadows. Evidence on psychological well-being of 11-15-year-olds from 31 industrialized countries
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Adolescents’ Mental Health: Out of the shadows. Evidence on psychological well-being of 11-15-year-olds from 31 industrialized countries

Mental health is increasingly gaining the spotlight in the media and public discourse of industrialized countries. The problem is not new, but thanks to more open discussions and fading stigma, it is emerging as one of the most critical concerns of public health today. Psychological problems among children and adolescents can be wide-ranging and may include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive conduct, anxiety, eating and mood disorders and other mental illnesses. Consistent evidence shows the links between adolescents’ mental health and the experience of bullying. Collecting internationally comparable data to measure mental health problems among children and adolescents will provide important evidence and stimulate governments to improve psychological support and services to vulnerable children.
Children’s Involvement in Housework: Is there a case of gender stereotyping? Evidence from the International Survey of Children's Well-Being
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Children’s Involvement in Housework: Is there a case of gender stereotyping? Evidence from the International Survey of Children's Well-Being

Evidence from national studies in developed and developing countries suggests that girls spend more time on housework. The most common explanation relates to behaviour modelling as a mechanism of gender role reproduction: children form habits based on parental models. This brief shows that participation in household chores is an essential part of children’s lives. There is a common pattern of a gender gap between boys’ and girls’ daily participation in housework across a diverse range of socio-economic and cultural contexts in 12 high-income countries. The persistence of this gap points to gender stereotyping – a form of gender role reproduction within a family that potentially can reinforce inequalities over the life-course.
Is University Education More Important for a Boy than for a Girl? Social approval of unequal educational opportunity across 21 countries
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Is University Education More Important for a Boy than for a Girl? Social approval of unequal educational opportunity across 21 countries

The attitudes that we hold are shaped and nurtured by society, institutions, religion and family; they involve feelings, beliefs and behaviours and represent a form of judgement. These attitudes and values define the power relations, dynamics, opportunities and choices between men and women, boys and girls. Societies vary significantly in the scale of egalitarian attitudes and beliefs related to gender roles and opportunities in education, politics, the family, and the workforce. Progress towards more egalitarian gender values is crucial for achieving gender equality among children and young people, which in turn is a pre-condition for sustainable development.
Sustainable Development Goal 1.2: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union
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Sustainable Development Goal 1.2: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union

The new universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for “reducing at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions” by 2030.
Improving the Methodological Quality of Research in Adolescent Well-being
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Improving the Methodological Quality of Research in Adolescent Well-being

This brief introduces the methodological series Conducting Research with Adolescents from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), outlining key research themes, intervention types, and their associated methodological implications. It highlights adolescence as a critical phase within the life course and a period of biological and social transition that is itself undergoing change. It makes the case that new understandings from neuroscience have important implications for programming; addressing social and structural determinants is crucial to improving adolescent well-being; inter-sectoral and comprehensive multi-component action is required, as is matching action to need; and gender and equity should always be considered in research, programmes and policy.
Data and Indicators to Measure Adolescent Health, Social Development and Well-being
Publication

Data and Indicators to Measure Adolescent Health, Social Development and Well-being

This brief focuses on quantitative data and indicators to measure adolescent health, social development and well-being. It covers: the principles of good indicator definition; common use of indicators; examples of indicators for adolescent health and social development; existing global data to describe - and populate indicators of - adolescent health and social development; and how to improve data collection efforts.
Inclusion with Protection: Obtaining informed consent when conducting research with adolescents
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Inclusion with Protection: Obtaining informed consent when conducting research with adolescents

Written primarily for UNICEF staff, funders of research, policy-makers, ethics committee members and researchers, this brief intends to provide principles and approaches to the common challenges in conducting research with adolescents. It emphasizes the value of research with adolescents and discusses at length the importance of balancing inclusion and protection, concluding with a set of ethical ground rules and recommendations for research with adolescents and examples on how to apply them.
Research with Disadvantaged, Vulnerable and/or Marginalized Adolescents
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Research with Disadvantaged, Vulnerable and/or Marginalized Adolescents

Disadvantaged, vulnerable and/or marginalized adolescents (DVMAs) are individuals aged 10–19, who are excluded from social, economic and/or educational opportunities enjoyed by other adolescents in their community due to numerous factors beyond their control. This brief summarizes the health and well-being inequities experienced by DVMAs and the need for research with this group. It reviews the challenges and barriers to their inclusion in research; shares practical implications and best practices for their inclusion in research; and addresses ethical challenges and approaches to research with DVMAs.
Adolescent Participation in Research: Innovation, rationale and next steps
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Adolescent Participation in Research: Innovation, rationale and next steps

Undertaking youth-led participatory action research is an increasingly popular approach to advancing adolescent engagement and empowerment. This research - led by adolescents themselves - promotes social change and improves community conditions for healthy development. This brief reviews the theoretical and empirical rationales for youth-led participatory action research, its key principles, phases, practical implications and ethical issues.
How to Measure Enabling and Supportive Systems for Adolescent Health
Publication

How to Measure Enabling and Supportive Systems for Adolescent Health

Enabling and protective systems for adolescents are the family, peers and the education and legal systems. In addition to research that focuses on individual adolescents, it is also important for researchers to consider measuring social determinants when conducting research on adolescent well-being. This brief reviews the key concepts of social and structural determinants of health and the methodological issues related to their measurement in adolescence.
Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence 5
Publication

Innocenti Research Digest: Adolescence 5

This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the previous three months. Key themes in this latest edition include: the new UN General Comment on the Rights of the Child during adolescence; the risks refugee and migrant children face on the central Mediterranean migration route; and the work of the Know Violence in Childhood: Global Learning Initiative, established as a collective response by individuals from multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations and funding agencies concerned about the global impact of violence in childhood and the need for investment in effective violence prevention strategies. The Digest offers News, Upcoming Events, Resources and Latest Research.
Methodologies to Capture the Multidimensional Effects of Economic Strengthening Interventions
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Methodologies to Capture the Multidimensional Effects of Economic Strengthening Interventions

The economic status of households can and does affect the health and well-being of adolescents. To address the intersection between economic deprivations and broader development goals, including health and well-being, governments, aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to include economic strengthening interventions as part of their core programming. This brief presents strategies for examining the multidimensional effects of economic strengthening interventions with a specific focus on the health and well-being of adolescent beneficiaries, highlighting research gaps and opportunities.
Gender Socialization during Adolescence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Conceptualization, influences and outcomes
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Gender Socialization during Adolescence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Conceptualization, influences and outcomes

This paper sets out to provide a conceptual understanding of the gender socialization process during adolescence, its influences and outcomes, and practical suggestions on how to use this knowledge in the design of policies and programmes to improve gender equality.
Does Keeping Adolescent Girls in School Protect against Sexual Violence? Quasi-experimental Evidence from East and Southern Africa
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Does Keeping Adolescent Girls in School Protect against Sexual Violence? Quasi-experimental Evidence from East and Southern Africa

Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread globally. In their lifetime, one in three women will experience intimate partner physical or sexual violence and 7 per cent will experience forced sex by someone other than an intimate partner.
Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 4
Publication

Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 4

This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the previous three months. Key themes in this latest edition include adolescents in humanitarian contexts. The sections cover News, Upcoming Events, Resources and Latest Research to help practitioners keep informed and up-to-date in the field of working with young people.
Factors Associated with Good and Harsh Parenting of Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents in Southern Africa
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Factors Associated with Good and Harsh Parenting of Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents in Southern Africa

This working paper presents findings from the analyses of two different observational studies of caregiver-pre-adolescent and caregiver-adolescent dyads.
Global Kids Online Research Synthesis, 2015-2016
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Global Kids Online Research Synthesis, 2015-2016

The international community has recognized the importance of internet access for development, economic growth and the realization of civil rights and is actively seeking ways to ensure universal internet access to all segments of society. Children should be an important part of this process, not only because they represent a substantial percentage of internet users but also because they play an important part in shaping the internet.
Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 3
Publication

Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 3

This quarterly digest synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the previous three months. Key themes in this latest edition include gender socialization and youth-led social change, and includes impressive examples of adolescents coming together to challenge predominant norms and assumptions around gender identities. The sections cover News, Upcoming Events, Resources and Latest Research to help practitioners keep informed and up-to-date in the field of working with young people.
Measuring Adolescent Well-being: National Adolescent Assessment Cards (NAACs)
Publication

Measuring Adolescent Well-being: National Adolescent Assessment Cards (NAACs)

Advocacy and action for adolescents have been hampered by the lack of a concrete results framework that can be used to describe the state of the world’s adolescents and serve as a basis for goals and targets. In order to fill this gap, UNICEF, in collaboration with key partners, is facilitating the development of an outcome-based framework that incorporates the key dimensions of an adolescent’s life and a proposed set of globally comparable indicators that will provide a common platform to track the progress of adolescent development and well-being. The domains that have been selected for measurement are: health and well-being, education and learning, safety and protection, participation, transition to work.
Initial Research Findings on Adolescent Well-being from the Office of Research – Innocenti
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Initial Research Findings on Adolescent Well-being from the Office of Research – Innocenti

This research programme aims to advance global understanding of social and structural determinants of adolescent well-being. The multi-donor research programme on social and structural determinants of adolescent well-being is working with national government partners, academics, think tanks, and institutions to improve understanding of various dimensions of adolescents’ lives. The programme is producing cutting-edge research that explores what works to improve outcomes for adolescents. Quality evidence can then inform effective policy and interventions for young people.
Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 2
Publication

Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 2

This quarterly digest syntheses the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the previous three months. In this issue of the Adolescence Research Digest we highlight the results of the ground-breaking Lancet Commission on adolescent health and wellbeing, which were presented in London in May and Washington in June. The Digest also includes the lasts news, upcoming events, resources and the latest high profile research studies on adolescent well-being and health. Additional readings are also listed. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Adolescents at Risk: Psychosomatic health complaints, low life satisfaction, excessive sugar consumption and their relationship with cumulative risks
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Adolescents at Risk: Psychosomatic health complaints, low life satisfaction, excessive sugar consumption and their relationship with cumulative risks

Adolescence is a time of transitions when experimentation, risk taking and active peer interactions can be viewed as a part of the development process. Yet, for some groups of young people with reported poor psychosomatic health, low life satisfaction or unhealthy eating habits these experiences may be different.
Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 1
Publication

Innocenti Adolescence Research Digest 1

The Adolescence Research Digest is a new quarterly publication by UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti. This synthesizes the latest research evidence, resources and news related to adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a critically sensitive period in terms of growth and maturity with many rapid transitions about which too little is currently known. The Digest aims to promote awareness and uptake of new adolescent well-being research findings amongst UNICEF staff, practitioners, policymakers and academics in the development and humanitarian sectors.
Early-life Exposure to Income Inequality and Adolescent Health and Well-being: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study
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Early-life Exposure to Income Inequality and Adolescent Health and Well-being: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study

Social inequalities in children’s health and well-being relate to their socioeconomic position (SEP) in society. A large body of empirical evidence shows that growing up in economically disadvantaged conditions worsens health, limits academic achievement, and shortens lifespans. This paper examines lagged and contemporaneous associations between national income inequality and health and well-being during adolescence.
Undermining Learning: Multi-Country Longitudinal Evidence on Corporal Punishment in Schools
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Undermining Learning: Multi-Country Longitudinal Evidence on Corporal Punishment in Schools

Using longitudinal data from the Young Lives study, this Brief summarizes research examining whether corporal punishment in schools is associated with lasting effects on children’s cognitive development. The findings conclude that corporal punishment not only violates children’s fundamental rights to dignity and bodily integrity but also undermines their capacity to learn, with lasting implications for their life chances.
Cash Transfers Improve the Mental Health and Well-being of Youth: Evidence from the Kenyan Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
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Cash Transfers Improve the Mental Health and Well-being of Youth: Evidence from the Kenyan Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Approximately half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. Among adolescents, depression is one of the leading contributors to morbidity, while suicide and interpersonal violence are among the leading causes of mortality.

Journal Articles

Uptake of HIV testing among adolescents and associated adolescent-friendly services
Journal Article

Uptake of HIV testing among adolescents and associated adolescent-friendly services

HIV testing remains low among adolescents. Making public health services more adolescent-friendly is one strategy used to encourage testing. However, it remains unclear whether government-led initiatives have a meaningfully impact. The current study is observational and utilizes two sources of data (health-facility and adolescent-level) from one round of data collection of an on-going, longitudinal impact evaluation of a pilot cash plus program targeting adolescents. This study linked data from adolescent surveys (n = 2191) to data collected from nearby government-run health facilities (n = 91) in two rural regions of Tanzania. We used log binomial regression models to estimate the association between specific adolescent-friendly health service (AFHS) characteristics and adolescents’ uptake of 1) HIV testing and 2) visiting a health care facility in the past year for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Most adolescents (67%) lived in a village with a health facility, and all offered HIV services. We find, however, that AFHS have not been fully implemented. For example, less than 40% of facilities reported that they had guidelines for adolescent care. Only 12% of facilities had a system in place for referral and follow-up with adolescent clients, yet this was an important predictor of both past-year HIV testing (RR = 1.28, p < 0.1) and SRH visits (RR = 1.44, p < 0.05). Less than half (44%) offered services for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), a significant predictor of past-year HIV testing (RR = 1.20, p < 0.05) and SRH visits (RR = 1.41, p < 0.01) among sexuallyactive adolescents.We find that national guidelines on AFHS have not been fully translated into practice at the local level. We highlight particular gaps in adolescent referral systems and GBV services. Scaling up these two essential services could encourage greater HIV testing among a high-risk population, in addition to providing much needed support for survivors of violence.
Aligning evidence generation and use across health, development, and environment
Journal Article

Aligning evidence generation and use across health, development, and environment

Although health, development, and environment challenges are interconnected, evidence remains fractured across sectors due to methodological and conceptual differences in research and practice. Aligned methods are needed to support Sustainable Development Goal advances and similar agendas. The Bridge Collaborative, an emergent research-practice collaboration, presents principles and recommendations that help harmonize methods for evidence generation and use. Recommendations were generated in the context of designing and evaluating evidence of impact for interventions related to five global challenges (stabilizing the global climate, making food production sustainable, decreasing air pollution and respiratory disease, improving sanitation and water security, and solving hunger and malnutrition) and serve as a starting point for further iteration and testing in a broader set of contexts and disciplines. We adopted six principles and emphasize three methodological recommendations: (1) creation of compatible results chains, (2) consideration of all relevant types of evidence, and (3) evaluation of strength of evidence using a unified rubric. We provide detailed suggestions for how these recommendations can be applied in practice, streamlining efforts to apply multi-objective approaches and/or synthesize evidence in multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary teams. These recommendations advance the necessary process of reconciling existing evidence standards in health, development, and environment, and initiate a common basis for integrated evidence generation and use in research, practice, and policy design.
Children’s Roles in Social Reproduction: reexamining the discourse on care through a child lens
Journal Article

Children’s Roles in Social Reproduction: reexamining the discourse on care through a child lens

Care and domestic work have gained attention in the global policy discourse, particularly following feminist research and activism showing its burden for women. However, these debates and political demands have generally overlooked children’s contribution to social reproduction within and beyond the household. Empirical evidence shows that many children assume care and domestic responsibilities from an early age, with an increasingly gendered pattern as they grow. While such work can provide a learning opportunity, the time, energy and emotional labour put into it can be detrimental to their wellbeing. In this article, we review the empirical evidence on children’s care and domestic work in developing countries, and argue that understanding children’s roles in these tasks can complement the existing social reproduction scholarship, uncovering the intra-household and intergenerational distribution of care and domestic responsibilities, its determinants and effects on child wellbeing. We conclude by noting key conceptual and evidence gaps, and suggesting future research directions. 
International trends in ‘bottom-end’inequality in adolescent physical activity and nutrition: HBSC study 2002–2014
Journal Article

International trends in ‘bottom-end’inequality in adolescent physical activity and nutrition: HBSC study 2002–2014

In spite of many positive trends that have emerged in the health of young people, adolescents from more affluent groups continue to experience more favourable health outcomes. There are no groups that are more vulnerable than those who report very poor (‘bottom-end’) indicators of health behaviour. The present study investigated the role of socio-economic factors as potential determinants of bottom-end health behaviours pertaining to physical activity and diet.

News & Commentary

Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women
Article

Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women

 (18 February 2019)  Over the last decade there has been increasing international attention on adolescence as a critical window of opportunity to fast-track social change, and on the potential of social protection to tackle multidimensional vulnerabilities, including gender inequalities. However, the focus on the pivotal intersection of social protection, gender and adolescence is much more recent.On the occasion of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women the United Kingdom, UNICEF and the GAGE consortium, coordinated by ODI, will hold the side event: Gender- and Adolescent-Responsive Social Protection: Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women.Recording of the side event livestream Bringing together global thought leaders, policy and programming experts, this event will highlight the role of policy, programming and evidence generation in advancing adolescent- and gender-responsive social protection. The event will explore how social protection can not only enhance adolescent girls’ and boys’ capabilities now - and strengthen opportunities for empowerment as they transition into early adulthood - but also how well designed social protection programmes can better tackle lifecourse and inter-generational cycles of poverty and gender inequalities.The side event will be held on:Tuesday 12th March 2019, 10.00 – 11.15am Conference Room 1 (CR1) United Nations Headquarters in New York City.Opening remarks will be given by a Government Minister of the United Kingdom (to be named) and Henrietta E Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF. The session will be moderated by well-known journalist Femi Oke. Visit www.unicef-irc.org for more details as they become available.                                                   
Philanthropists Convene in Florence to Champion Children at UNICEF International Council Meeting
Article

Philanthropists Convene in Florence to Champion Children at UNICEF International Council Meeting

(14 November 2018) Combining influence, ideas and expertise, UNICEF’s International Council Meeting convened 12 to 13 November at UNICEF Innocenti’s offices in Florence, Italy, bringing together many of UNICEF’s most influential philanthropic partners, with the aim of tackling today’s most pressing issues for children and developing better solutions for every child. The Council is comprised of UNICEF’s most significant major donors, who meet annually to interact with the UNICEF leadership, learn from each other about their work with UNICEF, and guide the Council’s objectives and structure as a global platform for engagement.UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore opened the two-day meeting with Council members and distinguished guests, including UNICEF staff and private partners, stressing the importance of looking to the future. “It’s extremely important that we look at new and different ways of doing things,” she said, citing UNICEF Innocenti’s research as a driver, pushing evidence-backed solutions forward. UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, opens UNICEF's 2018 International Council Meeting in Florence, Italy. Fore spoke about how cutting-edge research by UNICEF Innocenti is helping inform better programmes and policies for children globally and urged the Council to support research for children. “Here at Innocenti, UNICEF is leading a unique research initiative called the Transfer Project to explore how cash transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa are helping the poorest children to survive and thrive. This research is now helping governments … reach millions of disadvantaged households with cash assistance,” she said.Fore also mentioned UNICEF Innocenti’s forward-looking  Global Kids Online project adding, “We’re researching the challenges and opportunities of digital technology for young people. Our work is helping governments in, for example, Ghana and Argentina develop programmes and policies that will help protect children online while opening digital learning opportunities.” Fore called on the Council and philanthropists to join forces to support key research to do more for today’s children. “Can we do more work together around some big challenges?” she asked. “The philanthropic community led by partners like Gates and Rotary, have made all the difference in the near- eradication of polio – a huge, historic achievement. Can we match this progress in other areas, investing in a long-awaited HIV vaccine, developing a pathway to legal identity, universal birth registration for every child, or finally making progress in internet connectivity in every part of the world, for every school, including in refugee camps?”UNICEF Innocenti Director, a.i., Priscilla Idele, opened a presentation on why research for children matters more than ever, introducing core research work and opening a discussion on how UNICEF Innocenti research helps assess progress on UNICEF’s commitments to children and finds solutions to close gaps. “These kind of assessments enable us to learn from our successes and failures and to understand what needs to be done differently, but also to hold governments and partners accountable when progress for children falls short of commitments,” she said, adding, “with predictive analysis, we can examine how the past and current trends on societal changes can affect children, for example, knowledge about fertility rates and migration patterns can help us to determine how many schools are needed in the future and where they should be located.” Research is a powerful tool to inform policy and programmes. “Research,” she emphasized, “serves to introduce new ideas, help people identify problems and appropriate solutions in new ways, and provide new frameworks to guide thinking and action.”UNICEF Innocenti's Priscilla Idele, Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, and Daniel Kardefelt-Winther present on why research matters now more than ever. Cutting-edge research on child poverty and inequality, cash transfers in humanitarian settings, online risks and rights, and adolescent well-being were presented by UNICEF Innocenti researchers Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, and Prerna Banati. UNICEF’s Youth Forum, which included 46 young people from Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Finland and Switzerland, gathered for the first time in Florence in parallel with the International Council Meeting. The Youth Forum explored the challenges and opportunities young people face around the world, and provided an opportunity to challenge assumptions, think differently and create shared visions for a better future.At the concluding ceremony, the youth presented Executive Director Fore with a series of recommendations about the most urgent issues that UNICEF and the world needs to address, including education for all children, gender discrimination, and child poverty. Their collective goals were represented in a mandala of rights they prepared over two days of work. They included supporting youth and adolescents through global networks, providing quality education for both girls and boys, using technology in classrooms, promoting meaningful participation of youth in all sectors, increasing education on peace building and conflict management, forging partnerships with governments and the private sector, and investing in life skills and livelihood opportunities for young people.In response, Fore said that UNICEF and the International Council has a long list of homework to follow up on. “We will be working hard on this,” she replied.
Handbook on adolescent development research published
Article

Handbook on adolescent development research published

(13 April 2018) Despite huge gains in child well-being during the MDG era, progress for adolescents – children in the second decade of life – is still lagging behind. The recently published Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy, edited by Jennifer E. Lansford and Prerna Banati, aims to fill critical evidence gaps to speed evolution of better policy-making specifically tuned to this dynamic life stage.Of the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today, 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. Enrollment in secondary schools is still low for adolescents in many parts of the world, with illiteracy rates approaching 30% in the least developed countries. Further, adolescents not in school are more vulnerable to trafficking, recruitment into armed conflict, and child labor. Many adolescent girls marry and begin bearing children at a young age, contributing to the perpetuation of poverty and health problems. A group of youth use a smartphone to take a selfie outside a Community Management Committee meeting in Assamo neighbourhood in Djibouti. Adolescents also represent a resource to be cultivated through education and training, to move them toward economic independence. This can be accomplished through initiatives to improve their reproductive health, and through positive interpersonal relationships to help them avoid risky behaviors and make positive decisions about their futures.“Several years ago, a similar handbook on early childhood development was transformative in our approach to early childhood. By bringing state of the art research to policymakers and practitioners, we hope this volume will go some way to improving the lives of adolescents globally,” said Prerna Banati, lead researcher on adolescent well-being at UNICEF Innocenti.The new handbook will be invaluable for a wide range of stakeholders working with adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. The volume tackles both the challenges and the promise of adolescence by presenting recent research on social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical development. The volume looks at adolescent development with a distinctive focus on issues that affect adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. It adopts a positive framing, representing young people as opportunities, to accelerate a positive shift in discourses around young people.An Overview: Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and it Impact on Global Policy from UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti According to Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, a leading expert on adolescence, the handbook is “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries in their efforts to minimize problematic outcomes and maximize positive development during this critical stage of development.”In most contexts, policy and programme responses to adolescents are fragmented and inconsistent. Disconnects between national level policies and local services, as well as lack of continuity with early childhood responses, present a significant challenge to ensuring a coherent approach for this age group. Increasingly, adolescent participation and demands for rights-based approaches are seen, and often unfortunately conflated with violence. This volume adopts the perspective of young people as a valued investment both at individual and societal levels. “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries..."- Laurence Steinberg, Temple University“The bulk of research comes from high income contexts, so we don’t have a good enough evidence base in the settings where most adolescents are living today,” said Banati. “There has been quite a bit of policy attention paid to older adolescents, younger adolescence seems to slip between the policy cracks. There is also substantial incoherence in policy approaches, as evidenced in the volume.”Over the last thirty-five years, specialized journals addressing adolescent issues have been launched, including the Journal of Adolescence, the Journal of Adolescent Research, and the Journal of Research on Adolescents. Despite a growth in scholarly literature, much is still disproportionately focused on adolescent experience in high income Western contexts, with comparatively few empirical studies of young people growing up in non-Western nations published in English language journals devoted to the field of adolescent development. Much scientific evidence developed in the global North, lacks reflection on the diverse experiences of adolescents around the world, including in harsh situations of war, conflict, chronic stress or malnutrition. And surprisingly few of the major scientific findings on adolescence have been translated into effective policy.Adolescence is often described as the developmental period from the onset of puberty until the transition to adulthood, variously defined by one, some or all of the following: marriage, parenthood, completion of formal education, financial independence from parents (approximately ages 10-20).  According to the handbook: “Arguably a social construction, its initial widespread use conferred gender, race and class connotations and implications: ‘the ‘adolescent boy’ was to be managed and contained, while allowed to be ‘wild;’ the adolescent girl was to be trained and domesticated’ (Morrow, 2015). In modern times, adolescence has largely had a bad reputation. Used interchangeably with ‘teenager,’ Western notions tend to describe a period of ‘storm and stress’ (Hall, 1904), involving hormones, drama, unsafe experimentation, and irresponsibility. However, in many parts of the world, arriving at adolescence marks increasing responsibility – with many hurtling towards adulthood by entering the workforce, marriage or parenthood. Adolescents in one country may be protected from economic or domestic responsibilities, in another, such responsibilities may not only be the norm, but considered beneficial for both the adolescent and the family.” A diverse group of over 50 authors from different countries and disciplinary backgrounds have contributed chapters to this volume. This diversity reflects the complexity of adolescence, while allowing the volume to situate adolescents within broader cultural contexts. This makes the volume more relevant for global policy debates and political decision-making regarding when, why, and how some programs and interventions for adolescents should be tailored to better serve the needs of their intended recipients. The diverse contributions collectively relay a powerful underlying narrative seen across the chapters, which describes adolescents as a positive force, to be valued and understood. In challenging historical interpretations of adolescence, the volume has engaged with contemporary issues explicitly, and sometimes implicitly across the chapters, including the topics of migration and human security, technology and inequality. (The Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy is now available for purchase at Oxford University Press - Academic.)

Events

Connected learning and living in a Disconnected Era
Event

Connected learning and living in a Disconnected Era

The pandemic sparked the biggest increase in history in digital learning and living, but what does it mean for this generation of children and the next? Is the future already inevitably written in computer code? What does this mean for the millions of children who simply cannot get online? Are today’s tweens and teens the canaries down the coal mine of this mass human online experiment?Join us in our new Leading Minds Online series* as we put these questions and more to our two experts –  a Japanese-American academic Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Mizuko Ito, Director Connected Learning Lab, University of California, Irvine, and student  Zulaikha Patel, a South African youth activist.
Inaugural UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival
Event

Inaugural UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival

Thirty two films from 28 countries were screened over three days, receiving enthusiastic reception from audiences. Apart from the diversity and quality of the film programme, a highlight of the festival was the panel discussions which featured dialogue between film directors and UNICEF child rights research experts.

Project team

Elena Camilletti

UNICEF Innocenti

Partners

Videos

Research watch

Are we failing adolescent girls?

Will there be an AIDS-free generation?

Conferences & Meetings

Social Protection “Plus” Workshop

Adolescence, Youth and Gender: Building Knowledge for Change

Care Work and Children: An Expert Roundtable 

Related

Innocenti Project(s) 2014-2015:

An operational structural determinants framework for adolescents

PROJECTS ARCHIVE

Topics

Adolescents

Blogs

Can data help end corporal punishment?

Supporting families and parents in a rapidly changing world

Are we failing adolescents?

Commentaries

Adolescent Digest Review: One youth's perspective

Podcasts

Nikola Balvin on Gender Socialization During Adolescence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Adolescent Development Research: new developments and how they can create better policy-making

Toolkits

The Adolescent Brain: A Second Window of Opportunity - a compendium

Journal articles

Understanding the Relationships Between HIV and Child Marriage: Conclusions From an Expert Consultation

Children’s Roles in Social Reproduction: reexamining the discourse on care through a child lens

What's new

Handbook on adolescent development research published

Related external links

Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy

UNICEF Data on Adolescents

UNICEF Adolescents and Youth

External website

UNICEF Gender