4-H Research News
Kidsdata.org is a website managed by the Lucile Packard Foundation which provides local data on children in California. Some examples of recent posts on the site includes the cost of making ends meet for California families by county, information on children eligible for free and reduced price lunch, and a discussion of data needs for children in Los Angeles county. There are also county-level data summaries for each California county.
The Forum for Youth Investment produced a summary of tools for measuring program quality in 2009, Measuring Youth Program Quality. This report provided guidance on selecting an assessment tool for youth development programs, with information about several potential tools. They just released a new, similar report on measuring youth outcomes, From Soft Skills to Hard Data. Several outcomes tools are discussed, including the Developmental Assets Profile, the California Healthy Kids Survey, the San Francisco Beacons Youth Survey, and others.
Youth development advocate and researcher Peter Benson of the Search Institute in Minnesota passed away on October 2 after a battle with cancer. Peter Benson wrote many books and articles about youth development, and helped to develop several important concepts within positive youth development, such as sparks and assets. We are sorry to hear of his passing.
National Geographic has an interesting article up about Teenage Brains.
The first full series of scans of the developing adolescent brain—a National Institutes of Health (NIH) project that studied over a hundred young people as they grew up during the 1990s—showed that our brains undergo a massive reorganization between our 12th and 25th years.
The article details some of those changes that come with maturation, including the development of the frontal areas associated with goal setting and the linkage between the hemispheres strengthening. The effect of these changes is to allow the consideration of a broader array of "variables" in decision making.
The author states,
When this development proceeds normally, we get better at balancing impulse, desire, goals, self-interest, rules, ethics, and even altruism, generating behavior that is more complex and, sometimes at least, more sensible. But at times, and especially at first, the brain does this work clumsily. It's hard to get all those new cogs to mesh.
Teens are just beginning to be able to use these new neural networks, which can help to explain the inconsistency of behaviors and moods in adolescence.
Abigail Baird, a Vassar psychologist who studies teens, calls this neural gawkiness—an equivalent to the physical awkwardness teens sometimes display while mastering their growing bodies.
Sensation seeking and interest in novelty peaks around age 15. Neuroscientists see this as an important adaptive component of brain development; it provides useful experience for adulthood. The risk taking that often accompanies this desire results from a difference in valuation of risks and rewards; adolescents value the reward greater than do adults.
The National Institutes of Health has issued new recommendations for best practices in performing mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) research. The authors comment that the use of a combination of methods helps to shed light on complex problems by providing multiple perspectives. The integration of multiple forms of data can maximize the strengths of a research project. Their recommendations are aimed primarily at NIH grant applicants, but include information that may be useful to researchers and evaluators whether they are applying for an NIH grant or not.