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Linking research to the practice of youth development



Stephen Hamilton

A special issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science explores the application of a truly translational research process to "youth development." The issue is edited by Stephen Hamilton, BCTR associate director for youth development.

From the abstract for the issue:

The articles in this special issue address some of the challenges of strengthening the links between research and the practice of youth development and identify some approaches that have worked well. Youth development emerged from practice rather than from theory or research. Research that is most useful in the practice of youth development honors that primacy both by exploring questions that are important in practice and by engaging practitioners as partners, not merely as consumers.


A consistent theme of this issue is that the conventional portrayal of research-practice linkage as uni-directional is both inaccurate and inadequate. Different kinds of research inform different dimensions of practice; practice can and should guide research. Efforts to aid practitioners in accessing, understanding, and using research findings should be accompanied by efforts to aid researchers in posing questions about topics that matter to practitioners, conducting research that comprehends the complexity in which those topics are embedded, honoring practitioner wisdom, and enlarging the circle of those who conduct research.

The issue includes the following articles (BCTR staff in bold):

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Linking Research to the Practice of Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 57-59, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1030016

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Translational Research and Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 60-73, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.968279

Reed W. Larson, Kathrin C. Walker, Natalie Rusk & Lisa B. Diaz (2015) Understanding Youth Development from the Practitioner's Point of View: A Call for Research on Effective Practice, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 74-86, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.972558

Mary Agnes Hamilton & Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Seeking Social Inventions to Improve the Transition to Adulthood, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 87-107, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.975227

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, Karen Schantz & Jutta Dotterweich (2015) Implementing Evidence-Based Programs: Lessons Learned From the Field, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 108-116, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1020155

Nicole Yohalem & Vivian Tseng (2015) Commentary: Moving From Practice to Research, and Back, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 117-120, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.983033


Linking research to the practice of youth development - Applied Developmental Science

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Positive youth development in the global recession

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Patricio Cumsille, Bernadine Brady, Mary Agnes Hamilton, Stephen Hamilton, Loreto Martínez, and Susana Núñez Rodríguez.

Stephen Hamilton (BCTR associate director for youth development) organized and chaired a symposium on Youth-Adult Relationships as Assets for Positive Youth Development: Similarities and Variations in Different Countries for the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Special Topic Meeting on Positive Youth Development in the Context of the Global Recession in Prague. Mary Agnes Hamilton delivered a paper by Stephen Hamilton, David L. DuBois, and Deborah E. Sellers, Functional Roles & Social Contexts of Important Adults Identified by Youth in the US. The other included papers were:

  • How Do Mentors Support Young People? Qualitative Evidence from an Irish Study by Patrick Dolan and Bernadine Brady (presenter), National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Quality of Youth-Adult Relationships and Sociopolitical Control: Mediating Role of Identity by M. Loreto Martínez (presenter), Patricio Cumsille, Ignacio Loyola Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, and Cristina Valenzuela Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Santiago
  • Differences in Youth Perceived Autonomy According to Socio-economic Characteristics in the Brazilian Context by Susana Núñez Rodríguez (presenter), and Silvia Koller, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Youth have been particularly hard hit by the global economic recession. Many young people are trapped in endless cycles of unemployment, underemployment and being forced back to education due to a lack of work. Skilled young graduates often decide to migrate to wealthier countries for a better future. However, the economic crisis may also have long-lasting and pervasive consequences on youth’s adaptation and development. It thwarts the aspirations and goals for the future of young people, and presents serious obstacles in their professional and personal adaptation. This conference examined

  • the effects of the economic downturn for youth’s adaptation and development;
  • what makes a difference for those who are able to more successfully navigate through this situation;
  • how to support youth to become the engines of hope and change in their countries;
  • and what scientists from different countries can learn from each other.

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BCTR at the Society for Research on Adolescence meeting

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Stephen Hamilton and Mary Agnes Hamilton

The 15th Biannual Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence was held in Austin, TX on March 20, 2014. The 2014 conference theme of Social Justice was addressed by faculty, staff, and students from the BCTR's Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and RecoveryCornell Youth in Society, and The Role of Grandparents in the Lives of Adolescent Grandchildren.

  • Stephen Hamilton participated in the roundtable discussion, Improving the uses of evidence in working with young people: International perspectives on challenges and opportunities.
  • Stephen Hamilton and  Mary Agnes Hamilton presented a paper, When is a youth program leader a mentor?
  • Kimberly Kopko presented the paper A Dyadic Analysis of Parenting Behaviors and Relationship Quality Among Adolescent Grandchildren and Custodial Grandparents, which was co-authored with Megan L. Dolbin-MacNab and Rachel Dunifon
  • Kemar Prussien, a junior Psychology major and BCTR research assistant, presented a poster co-authored with Janis Whitlock: Parent-Child Agreement in Understanding the What and Why of Child Non-Suicidal Self-Injury.
  • Janis Whitlock and Deinera Exner-Cortens were co-chairs for the media and communications sub-committee, which hosted a pre-conference, Translating Research Evidence to Policy and Practice.
  • Additionally, BCTR faculty affiliates Jane Mendle and Tony Burrow both gave presentations at the conference.

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Recent work from the Cornell Youth in Society project

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The BCTR's Cornell Youth in Society carries out research and outreach to understand and enhance community supports and opportunities for young people making the transition to adulthood in the United States and around the world. Below are some updates on this project's work.


Mentoring youth at work

Mary Agnes Hamilton and Steve Hamilton trained staff from 24 neighborhood organizations in Chicago about mentoring in April 2013. The organizations are operating summer youth employment opportunities for 16-24-year-olds in low-income neighborhoods with high levels of violence. The organizations will employ adult mentors to enable the youth to take full advantage of the work experience. Mary Agnes and Steve drew on training materials they had developed under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor to produce a training notebook and educate the staff who will in turn train and supervise the mentors.

Training emphasized that designating an adult as a mentor does not make that adult a mentor in the eyes of a youth. Mentoring relationships develop over time as youth and adults share interests, engage in activities, and learn to trust one another. The training also identified six “functional roles” that mentors perform: supporter, advisor, role model, challenger, connector, and compass. All mentors do not perform all of the roles; many youth have more than one mentor. The connector role entails connecting a youth with another adult who may become a mentor.

Steve and Mary Agnes will return to Chicago for a second round of training in July.


Multiple pathways through education to careers

Pathways to Prosperity is the January 2011 report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education advocating the creation of multiple paths through education to productive careers, including, but not limited to, four-year college. Steve Hamilton and Mary Agnes Hamilton attended the March 2013 Harvard conference on the topic, Creating Pathways to Prosperity; Steve, who contributed to the report and to planning the conference, led a panel on “Strategies for Increasing Work-based Learning.” The workshop examined some of the most promising approaches for providing students with meaningful work-based learning in high school and beyond; it took a careful look at evidence of the effectiveness of work-based learning; participants also discussed strategies for expanding the availability of work-based learning, including ways to get more employers to participate.

In response to the Pathways to Prosperity report, the New York State Department of Education has proposed that students be allowed to substitute a career and technical education examination for one of the currently-required Regents examinations. Steve Hamilton has gathered a group of experts to identify high-quality examinations that will be recommended to the Board of Regents for this purpose.

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BCTR presence at the Society for Research on Adolescence biennial meeting


The Society for Research on Adolescence held its biennial meeting in Vancouver on March 7th and the BCTR was well represented.

Stephen Hamilton organized and chaired two sessions: a paper symposium, Social Inventions in Different Countries to Improve the Transition to Adulthood with Mary Agnes Hamilton; Constance Flanagan; and Ana Lazzaretti & Silvia Koller; and a roundtable, Linking Research with the Practice of Youth Development with Mary Agnes Hamilton; Reed Larson; David DuBois; Nicole Yohalem.

Janis Whitlock moderated the roundtable, Ethical Considerations in Engaging Vulnerable Populations in Self-Harm Research. Janis also chaired the symposium, Adolescent Self-Harm across Culture and Context: Similarities and Differences in Risk and Protection and served as co-chair of the SRA sub-committee on Media and Communications.

Mary Agnes Hamilton presented the paper, Abriendo Caminos: Action Research to Strengthen Supports to Vulnerable Youth in Latin America.


Kimberly Kopko presenting

Rachel Dunifon and Kimberly Kopko presented the poster, Relationship Quality and Parenting among Grandparent Caregivers and Teens (view poster).

Deinera Exner-Cortens co-authored (with Jennifer Tiffany and John Eckenrode) and presented the poster, Longitudinal Associations Between Sexual Risk Reduction and Program Participation in a Sample of Urban Adolescents (view poster)Deinera also presented the poster Teen Dating Violence and Subsequent Health Outcomes in a National Sample of Youth, which was co-authored with John Eckenrode and Emily Rothman.

Additionally, with HD graduate student Rachel Sumner, Stephen Hamilton co-authored a poster, Are School-Related Jobs Better? (view poster); and Jennifer Tiffany co-authored the poster Access and Barriers to Resources that Support Parents as Sex Educators: Parent Focus Group Data on Family, Race/Ethnicity, and the Community with graduate student Nicole Ja.



Opening Pathways/Abriendo Caminos examines supporting Latin American youth transitions


Opening Pathways: Youth in Latin America (Abriendo Caminos: Jóvenes en América Latina) worked with local organizations in Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia to identify ways to better support youth and young adults in their communities.  Opening Pathways is a study within the  Cornell Youth in Society project.

Mary Agnes Hamilton, director of Cornell Youth in Society, and Stephen Hamilton, professor of human development and BCTR associate director for youth development, led the project. A Cornell Chronicle article describes their work in Latin America in more detail.

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