Legal Foundations of Adolescents’ Rights and Positive Youth Development

  • Roger J. R. Levesque


Developmental scientists increasingly understand conditions that contribute to positive youth development and understand well what actually constitutes positive youth development itself. Despite such remarkable progress, much work continues to be needed to turn insights into policies that can shape institutions and personal relationships into environments that would foster positive development. Illustrative of the needed work is how the legal system could benefit from what would be deemed optimal policies for ensuring positive development, particularly because the legal system must rely on established legal principles and presumptions rather than even the best scientific evidence. This is particularly true in the United States, which renders that context an exemplar of limitations and possibilities. To understand U.S. law’s potential receptivity to scientific findings relating to youth development, this chapter provides the groundwork for understanding the foundations on which laws, policies, and other types of legal mandates relating to adolescents must rest – the Constitution and Supreme Court jurisprudence interpreting it. The analysis centers on the development of adolescents’ rights, the central limitations placed on them, and the many ways that social institutions retain the legal power to influence the development of youth. The chapter ends by delineating some of the key lessons gleaned from current jurisprudence and demonstrates how the legal system may be receptive to policies that would ensure appropriate consideration of the principles of positive youth development that continue to emerge from developmental science.


Legal System School District Sexual Harassment Corporal Punishment Positive Youth Development 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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