On the “transitional-aged youth” concept

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transitional aged youthThere is a growing consensus amongst youth services practitioners and scholars that the line between youth and adulthood is more demarcated than it might be when it comes to the way our social welfare system is structured.  As scholars participating in the Network on Transitions to Adulthood posit, “it wasn’t that long ago that young people left home, finished their education, landed a job, and married and started a family, all by age 25—and often in that order. Today, it is more like 35 and it is rarely a straight path….why this path into adulthood has slowed and become more complicated is a major question.”

In coaxing an answer to this thorny question, the reasons for this shift range from those in the realms of culture and economics to the dark regions of adolescent brain science and rehabilitation research.  As a health and disability services researcher with a background in direct social work practice with children and youth, I became attuned to the often in-between status of what are now referred to as “transitional-aged youth.”  Although this term initially popped up with respect to youth aged 16-24 who were “aging out” of the foster care system, the implications of being in the transition from youth to adulthood certainly impact non-foster-care-involved youth as well.  The implications of recognizing differences between youth, transitional-aged youth and adults are significant when it comes to social welfare policy and programming.

So, what do YOU think about the transitional-aged youth concept?

This blog post is the first of a series of posts by Dr. Elspeth Slayter, a researcher affiliated with the Center for Childhood and Youth Studies, which will explore current national social welfare services conversations about “transitional-aged youth” given the changing nature of how we understand adolescence and early adulthood as well as the policies, programs, and systems that support this population. Stay tuned for commentary on adolescent brain development science as it relates to juvenile justice policy, the prevalence of intimate partner violence amongst transitional-aged women and suicidality amongst transitional-aged youth with disabilities, amongst other topics.

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Fair Food Fighting

they say that {children}... by {Twiggs}

Parents teach children the importance being healthy, eating good foods, doing the right thing, and fighting fair. We teach them the Golden Rule, not to be bullies, not to say mean things, and to “be nice”. Then why is it that so many adults forget that fighting fair also occurs in the ways that we talk about others, in who we decide to vote for, and in what we decide should be our national budget priorities?  

Attacking poor families seems back in vogue.  We know that hunger and malnutrition have devastating consequences for children because their developmental well-being depends on adequate nutrition.  It is well documented that food stamp, or SNAP, programs make a huge difference in keeping kids healthy. Over three-quarters of SNAP recipients are families with children, and the program has lifted 5.2 million Americans above the poverty line in 2010, more than any other benefit program. Just one dollar of SNAP benefits creates a “ripple effect” through the economy – each $5 of federal SNAP benefits generates twice that amount in economic activity. But Congress has plans to cut two million people off from food stamps completely, millions more would have reduced benefits, hundreds of thousands of children would lose free school meals, and the Ryan budget for 2013 would turn it into a block grant program that would make it harder to be eligible for help, have longer waiting lists, and reduce or end benefits for millions of children and families still struggling to recover from the recession (The Children’s Defense Fund – http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/child-watch-columns/child-watch-documents/snap-cutting-what-works.html). 

Fighting fair should mean that cuts should also be shared by the wealthy. Despite the Occupy movement’s fighting for the 1% to pay more taxes, take a look at the chart below that compares 10 safety-net programs slated for deep cuts with the cost of the tax breaks that should also be considered for reduction or elimination to bring the budget into balance. The column on the left is a list of safety-net programs that have already been targets of the House leadership’s budget ax. The column on the right is the cost to specified tax breaks (by Donna Cooper @ http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/02/tax_breaks_infographic.html)

Playing fair is a good value to teach children.  It is also one that ought not be forgotten by adults, eh?

Why take toys seriously?

On occasion, people ask me why I bother taking children’s toys so seriously. “They’re just toys, after all!”

Yes, toys are just toys–but they’re so much more than that, too. Toys are a central part of children’s play, and to a child, play is very important work. Through play, children experiment with their visions for themselves and others in the world; play is part of their learning and socialization.

So, it’s worth talking seriously about toys, for they have the power to shape children’s dreams and worldviews.

Plus, as the infographic below from Frugal Dad explains, toy sales are big, big business. Family spending on toys went up during the recession, even as families’ grocery spending declined. The major manufacturers, Mattel and Hasbro, are aggressive marketers; when marketers harness children’s “pester power” so skillfully, it’s hard to resist the temptation to buy new toys.

toys

Source: frugaldad.com. Used with permission.

It’s also worth remembering that with if two manufacturers monopolize 40% of the toy industry, and aggressively market their goods, their worldviews can wind up permeating our homes. You know all the recent complaints about sexism in children’s toys? Take a look at who composes the boards of directors at Hasbro and Mattel.

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the board of directors at LEGO and the executive team from Disney’s consumer products division, too.

See any trends?

If you said, “Wow, it’s mostly white men,” then we’re on the same page. If the people in charge lack racial diversity and skew heavily towards men, that has implications for the kinds of toys the major manufacturers will produce: dynamic, engaging toys for boys, and stereotypical, reductionist toys for girls–and poor representation of people of color, too.

Rebecca Hains is an assistant professor of communications at Salem State University and an affiliated faculty member with the Center for Childhood and Youth Studies. This piece has been cross posted from Rebecca’s blog, where it was originally titled “Talking about toys: Taking child’s play seriously.”