Cash transfer programmes have recently given cash directly to adolescents to encourage a range of health and social outcomes. The evidence for the effectiveness of these programmes has been mixed. Some studies show cash transfers to be effective in promoting desired behaviours among adolescents, such as school participation and reducing sexually transmitted infections, whereas others find no evidence for an effect. One possible reason for these mixed results is that cash transfer programmes targeting adolescents do not take into account the many biological, cognitive, and social changes that occur to young people during this transitional period.
An article, published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, comments on how critical processes that are characteristic of adolescence e.g. rapid cognitive changes, peer influence, and engagement in risky behaviours, make it likely that cash transfer programmes have different effects depending on the adolescent's developmental trajectory and social context.
An outline of specific steps to consider in the design of future programmes includes informational interventions delivered by peer mentors and integrating components on self-esteem and peer influence. A developmental perspective that takes into account the mechanisms underlying behavioural changes in adolescence and how they vary both over time and between different life stages will help programme implementers to design effective interventions and increase the likelihood of promoting successful life-course choices for adolescents.
Giving cash to adolescents has many benefits, such as offering independence and autonomy from their parents, developing their own identity and making an important step towards financial independence. Adjusting cash transfer programmes to incorporate a developmental perspective in their design has the potential to alleviate material constraints and promote successful life-course choices for adolescents.Julia Ruiz Pozuelo, DPhil Student, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.
Access the full journal on Cash transfers in adolescence: a developmental perspective.