This paper provides a developmental science-based perspective on two related issues: Why traditional preventative school-based interventions work reasonably well for children, but less so for middle adolescents, and why some alternative intervention approaches show promise for middle adolescents. The authors propose the hypothesis that traditional interventions fail when they do not align with adolescents’ enhanced desire to feel respected and be accorded status; however, interventions that do align with this desire can motivate internalized, positive behavior change.

The paper reviews examples of promising interventions that directly harness the desire for status and respect, provide adolescents with more respectful treatment from adults, or lessen the negative influence of threats to status and respect. These examples are in the domains of unhealthy snacking, middle school discipline, and high school aggression. Discussion centers on implications for basic developmental science and for improvements to youth policy and practice.