Understanding Our Youth, Building Our Capacity

November 11, 2015

By Caroline Kabiru, Research Scientist, APHRC via GEAS Newsletter

While adolescence is a much-studied period of life, we know relatively little about how very young adolescents aged 10-14 years navigate the transition from childhood to adolescence. The Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS), a multi-country project implemented by partners from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe, seeks to understand the factors in early adolescence that promote healthy sexual development and, conversely, that place young people at risk for poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Although the GEAS focuses broadly on healthy sexuality and sexual and reproductive health among adolescents in resource-limited urban areas, it provides an incredible opportunity to learn how social, cultural, and economic contexts influence the transition through adolescence and into adulthood. The study, which draws on qualitative and quantitative methods, will illuminate commonalities and differences in the transition from early to late adolescence across different cultures and it will help pinpoint key areas of intervention. Already, emerging data from the study tells an interesting story. Irrespective of where adolescents live, they face similar issues and concerns—early adolescence marks an increase in restrictions for girls, increase independence and decreased oversight for boys, and greater expectations to conform to gender norms.

The GEAS also has an additional, perhaps unexpected, value—it serves as a platform for like-minded researchers working on adolescent issues to network and learn from each other. From my own experience, being involved in the GEAS has provided me with an opportunity to learn from global experts in the field.

The GEAS provides an important avenue to generate cross-national data on an important sub-population of young people. It also, in my view, serves as an important platform for cross-national learning with a long-term goal of generating rigorous scientific evidence to inform the development of programs and interventions to promote sexual and reproductive well-being.