Growing Healthy Canadians:
A Framework for Positive Child Development
Transition 4

Coming of Age in Canada

Adolescents who make a healthy transition to adulthood are ...

Prepared for work

Research indicates that the most important factor in obtaining a good job is staying in school. Work experience and learning generic work-related skills (such as problem-solving and how to work in teams) may also help students choose a career and find a job.

Prepared for intimacy and family life

Young people who have positive self-esteem, a stable sense of identity, good decision-making skills, independence and a sense of emotional commitment are most successful in intimate relationships. As young people mature, they develop the ability to see things from another person's point of view.

Prepared to participate in community life

Young people who are involved in leadership and community service activities are more likely to learn the civic and social skills they need to be fully contributing members of the community as adults.

Prepared to manage their personal health and well-being

Young people moving into adulthood must know how to look after themselves and how to deal with stress in ways that do not involve alcohol or drug misuse. During this transition, young people learn how to deal with the multiple roles of income earner, parent, partner and home manager.

Helping You Helps Me

Research suggests that older adolescents who have opportunities to help others make major developmental gains themselves. Community service and volunteer work give youth the opportunity to develop meaningful roles, to apply academic learning in real-life situations, to learn job skills such as cooperation and decision-making, to develop self-respect and to earn the respect of the community. Community and school programs can help teens learn to work with younger children and vulnerable adults, and to serve as peer mentors or counsellors. Teens who participate in these programs have enhanced social skills and self-understanding, as well as an increased sense of making a contribution in other people's lives.

What Influences the Developmental Period from Adolescence to Adulthood?

In addition to gender and culture, the following factors have a major influence on the transition period from adolescence to adulthood:

Educational Achievement

Parents and other significant adults who value education and stay involved in a child's schooling have a major influence on a young person's decision to stay in school. Supportive schools that have high but achievable standards and provide early interventions with learning and/or social problems help young people succeed in school. Involved workplaces and communities, and the removal of financial and social barriers to higher education are especially important for students from low-income families, isolated regions and diverse cultures.

Opportunities to Work and Learn Work-Related Skills

Cooperative education, apprenticeship programs and school curriculums that teach work-related skills such as teamwork and problem-solving can help young people make a smoother transition from school to work. While many adolescents benefit from a part-time job, it is important that they maintain a healthy balance of time spent on work, educational and social activities.

The Development of an Integrated, Stable Sense of Identity

Adolescence is characterized by a (sometimes troubled) search for identity. As young people reach adulthood, a more stable sense of self emerges. Gender, culture and sexual preference are important influences on identity formation. Environments that break down stereotypes and foster equity, tolerance and diversity support the development of positive self-identities in young people.

Positive Relationships and Support from Significant Others

Positive relationships with peers, family members and other adults prepare young people for intimacy and family life. As young people grow older, significant others outside the home can play an increasingly important role in mentoring, role modelling and providing support.

Opportunities to Learn Civic Skills

Strong, healthy communities foster close ties among youth, parents and schools, governments, community organizations, and workplaces. Voluntary work and leadership experiences give young people a meaningful place in the community and help them develop skills and self-worth.

Capacity for Self-Care

Young people need to learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices related to eating, exercise, sexuality, health care and the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. As young people go through adolescence, peers and significant adults outside the family increasingly influence their lifestyle choices and coping strategies.

Healthy Learning, Living and Working Environments

Safe living and learning environments and places for teens to socialize promote positive social engagement and healthy choices. Crowded housing, neighbourhoods where there is a lot of drug dealing, isolated living conditions with little to do, and threatening school environments contribute to increased violence, youth misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and increased feelings of alienation and depression.


Media is a powerful transmitter of culture, learning and values. Young people need to develop media awareness skills that allow them to critically analyze media messages and images, especially those that glamorize violence, unrealistic body shapes, stereotyping, discrimination, smoking, drinking, drug use and unhealthy sexual behaviours.

How Can We Help Young People Make a Successful Transition to Adulthood?

When governments, businesses, schools, communities, families and youth work together, young people have the best chance of making a successful transition to adulthood.

What can Families Do?

What Can Communities Do?

What Can Schools Do?

What Can Workplaces Do?

What Can Governments Do?

This fact sheet was developed by the Promotion and Prevention Task Force of the Sparrow Lake Alliance and the Strategic Funding Task Group of the Funders Alliance for Children, Youth and Families as part of their work on a Framework for Positive Child Development. It was written and produced by The Alder Group Inc. For more information, please see the web site for this project: