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Adolescence in the context of developing countries

Aux sillages des adolescences dans les contextes du Sud

Adolescencia en los países del Sur

Revue « SpécifiCITéS »

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Published on Wednesday, April 07, 2021Wednesday, April 07, 2021 by Céline Guilleux


La revue Spécificités lance un appel à contribution sur la construction et la réalité de l’adolescence dans les contextes du Sud. Les propositions d’articles pourront s’appuyer sur des approches contextualisées permettant d’aborder le concept d’adolescence au regard des spécificités locales, mais également sur des approches comparatistes mettant en exergue le sens des variabilités observables.


Coordination team

  • David JEAN SIMON (Centre de Recherche de l’Institut de Démographie, Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University),
  • Ayawavi Sitsopé TOUDEKA (Unité de Recherche Démographique, University of Lomé),
  • Kenson JOISSAINT (Centre d’études en sciences sociales du religieux, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales),
  • Ladeu TOKPA (Centre de Recherche de l’Institut de Démographie, Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University).


From antiquity to post-modern times, adolescence occupies a central position in societies. It is assigned, on the one hand, to an age group and physiological transformations (Courtois, 2011; Potel, 2006; Taborda-Simões, 2005), and on the other hand, to behavior changes, risk-taking, and protests against social and moral regulation (Agraimbah et al., 2011). Adolescence is often presented as a period of tension in individuals lives (Debesse, 1958). A developmental period between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, it covers multiple realities and experiences, varying according to eras, regions, and social groups. From national legal and policy frameworks to international institutions (WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF), attempts to construct general identification criteria abound, but the plasticity and complexity to which adolescence refers often challenge comprehensive approaches. Faced with global concern deficits, specific studies and comparative perspectives remain the imperative way to understand changes in adolescent configurations in different social, historical, and geographic contexts.

Indeed, there is abundant literature on adolescence, thus constructing criteria that assign this social category to physiological and behavioral changes (Discour, 2011; Taborda-Simões, 2005). The literature often describes the realities of Western societies and therefore neglects the unique characteristics within developing countries. Therefore, the concept of adolescence is often accused of being too abstract, irrelevant, or culturally insensitive to specific contexts. In this regard, like other social categories, clearly, adolescence can highlight tensions between competing representations and their implications with how adolescents from the West and those in developing countries are constructed and represented in their environments (Burman, 1996). As much as adolescent’s experiences and experiences vary across social groups, they also vary across social contexts and cultural situations. For example, in some West African countries, adolescence has proven to be particularly subject to social and cultural norms (Discour, 2011; Vallet, 2009). Besides, social realities can place adolescents in environments that push them to act and be self-reliant quite early. These realities constantly reconfigure adolescence’s social construction, giving an inconsistency of meaning, experiences, and experiences to this social category. By breaking away from overall identifying criteria (age group, physiological transformations, or vulnerability), adolescence is characterized above all as a cloudy phase that must be questioned; it carries a fundamental ambivalence, being both a negative reality, when it designates a period of crisis (Galland, 2001) and positive reality, when it refers to a form of knowledge and commitment to oneself, thus revealing a capacity for action and autonomy.

In this thematic issue, we wish to explore adolescence’s construction and reality in the context of developing countries. Four main viewpoints will allow us to better understand the concept of adolescence and the adolescent himself as an actor.

Adolescence’s concept construction : standards, practices, discourse, and methods

In social sciences, adolescence remains a murky reality, challenging to identify both physiologically and socio-culturally. Although physiological changes during puberty are often used as markers to identify adolescence’s onset, its end or transition to adulthood leaves some uncertainty and gives rise to critical methodological debates (Dadoorian, 2007). In light of the above, how then can we define adolescence? How can we delimit its contours? The need to deconstruct discourses presenting adolescence from an essentialist angle and analyze it as a social construct is an epistemic requirement. This viewpoint seeks to analyze the concept of adolescence by specifying certain methodological and theoretical issues.

Adolescence facing the body’s issue

Often characterized by a period of risk, adolescence is a stage in human evolution that introduces the adolescent subject into another body. This body is associated with another identity that must be withstood (Fournier, 2004; Sellami, 2009). The adolescent body is problematic. It tears the subject out of his/her child's body to confront the young person with a new self-image: an image that s/he must appropriate to construct an adolescent identity experienced subjectively through relationships with self and with others (Darrault-Harris, 2011; Mead, 1963). Some subjects, having sufficiently reassuring referents, experience this passage serenely. Others, facing great difficulties, suffer from model problems (Darrault-Harris, 2011). This lack of reference is the source of many issues related to the body, particularly in the adolescent subject's image of his or her own body. In this sense, the body is not only a biological reality; it is an essential reading grid for understanding most of the issues related to adolescence. This viewpoint proposes to expose how the body is mobilized in the analysis of the adolescent problem.

Vulnerabilities and societal challenges

Adolescence is often recognized as a particularly vulnerable social category. According to UNICEF (2011), whether in developed or developing countries, adolescents today are often marginalized and misunderstood by those around them, which limits their place and their margin of freedom and action. To respond to their difficulties, friendly and social networks become alternative spaces for organization and meetings, exchanges and self-construction (Dubé et al., 2004). Given that this thematic issue deliberately addresses a wide variety of research perspectives, this viewpoint opens up to contributions that deal with the daily problems of adolescence, namely dropping out of school, professional integration, sexual and conjugal violence, early pregnancy, prostitution, rape, abortion, health vulnerability, sexual orientation, etc.

Act-adolescent and the path to empowerment

The rules that define adolescence’s contours are not fixed, whether it is to escape from family and social frameworks, establish or cross borders, or gain autonomy through individual or collective strategies. How do adolescents organize themselves to escape from and transform social codes and imposed moral standards? The very refusal to belong to the group of adolescence creates tension, as Singly (2006) pointed out, behaviors linked to several affiliations, thus referring to the family, aspirations, and refusals. What is the impact of these membership models on the social position of individuals identified as adolescents? The social environments with which this category must deal are subject to unexpected changes (death of parents, family conflicts, economic and health vulnerability, etc.), which are therefore likely to redefine adolescence’s boundaries. Therefore, in this viewpoint, the adolescent, actor of his or her trajectory that research should focus on.

These paths are essentially partial: further research is invited to complete them. The investigative techniques used may vary, with a qualitative preference: ethnography, historical investigation, analysis of public speeches and documents, interviews, and observations. As part of educational sciences and their links with their contributing disciplines (Albero, 2019), the call is open to researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds; the proposals can be written in French, English, or Spanish.

The proposed articles may be based on contextualized approaches that focus on the concept of adolescence within specific locales and comparative approaches highlighting the meaning of observable variability.

Submission guidelines

By using the form attached to the call, the abstract proposals must reach no later than May 31, 2021,

simultaneously to the coordinators of the dossier and the co-editors in chief of the journal :

  • David JEAN SIMON : david.jean-simon@etu.univ-paris1.fr
  • Ayawavi Sitsopé TOUDEKA : marie.toudeka@gmail.com
  • Kenson JOISSAINT : kenson.joissaint@ehess.fr
  • Ladeu TOKPA : ladeu.tokpa@etu.univ-paris1.fr
  • Olivier BRITO : obrito@parisnanterre.fr
  • Fanny SALANE : fsalane@parisnanterre.fr

A first version of the articles will be sent by November 30, 2021 at the latest.


Agraimbah, A., Carda, P., & Couppey, É. (2011). Adolescence : Crise ! Spécificités, 1(4), 55‑64.

Albero, B. (2019). Les sciences de l’éducation au xxie siècle : Vers une consolidation disciplinaire de la section ? Les dossiers des sciences de l’éducation, 41, 21‑42. https://doi.org/10.4000/dse.3265

Burman, E. (1996). Local, Global or Globalized? : Child Development and International Child Rights Legislation. Childhood, 3(1), 45‑66. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568296003001004

Courtois, R. (2011). Chapitre 2. Risque et adolescence, Les conduites à risque à l’adolescence. Sous la direction de Courtois Robert, 21-28.

Dadoorian, D. (2007). Grossesses adolescentes. Le Journal des psychologues, 252(9), 72. https://doi.org/10.3917/jdp.252.0072

Darrault-Harris, I. (2011). L’adolescence ou les intermittences du corps. Littérature, 163(3), 93. https://doi.org/10.3917/litt.163.0093

Debesse, M. (1958). L’adolescence est-elle une crise ? Enfance, 11(4), 287‑302. https://doi.org/10.3406/enfan.1958.1408

Discour, V. (2011). Changements du corps et remaniement psychique à l’adolescence. Les Cahiers Dynamiques, 50(1), 40. https://doi.org/10.3917/lcd.050.0040

Dubé, M., Julien, D., Bouthillier, D., Lebeau, É., Bélanger, I., & Hamelin, M. (2004). Climat familial et réseau d’amis chez les adolescentes. Enfance, 56(2), 187. https://doi.org/10.3917/enf.562.0187

Fournier, M. (2004). La construction du masculin: Sciences Humaines, N°146(2), 27‑27. https://doi.org/10.3917/sh.146.0027

Galland, O. (2001). Adolescence, post-adolescence, jeunesse : Retour sur quelques interprétations. Revue Française de Sociologie, 42(4), 611. https://doi.org/10.2307/3322734

Mead, D. R. M. (1963). Mœurs et sexualité en Océanie. Revue française de sociologie, 226.

Potel, C. (2006). 4. L’adolescence : Un passage. In Dans : , C. Potel, Corps brûlant, corps adolescent : Des thérapies à médiations corporelles pour les adolescents (Érès, p. 57‑70).

Sellami, M. (2009). Scarifications et statut du corps chez les adolescents tunisiens. Corps, 7(2), 105. https://doi.org/10.3917/corp.007.0105

Singly, F. de. (2006). Les Adonaissants. Colin.

Taborda-Simões, M. da C. (2005). L’adolescence : Une transition, une crise ou un changement ? Bulletin de psychologie, Numéro 479(5), 521. https://doi.org/10.3917/bupsy.479.0521

Unicef. (2011). La Situation des Enfants dans le Monde 2011. ; L¿adolescence L¿âge de tous les Possibles. United Nations Children’s Fund, The (UNICEF).

Vallet, G. (2009). Corps et socialisation. Idées économiques et sociales, N° 158(4), 53. https://doi.org/10.3917/idee.158.0053


  • Monday, May 31, 2021Monday, May 31, 2021

Information source

  • Fanny Salane
    courriel : fanny [dot] salane [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Adolescence in the context of developing countries », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, April 07, 2021Wednesday, April 07, 2021, https://calenda.org/861909

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