reality gap book cover

Reality Gap

Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex … What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling

Reality Gap paints an alarming portrait of a modern-day adolescence filled with potentially deadly behaviors carefully hidden from the view of parents and other adults. But it is also a book about hope and inspiration, pointing to the incredibly powerful role that parents and other mentors can play in the lives of young people and highlighting the tremendous contributions that many teens are making to their families, schools, and communities.

An intriguing analysis of the adolescent decision-making process

Combining stories from today’s teens with original, groundbreaking research conducted by SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance, Reality Gap offers an intriguing analysis of the adolescent decision-making process and shares important conclusions.

Most critically, the book shares common-sense solutions and practical steps for parents and other important adults, such as teachers, coaches, counselors, and health care providers, to use in their relationships with teens.

Reality Gap reveals:

  • When certain behaviors are most likely to peak
  • What factors most influence good and bad choices
  • The role of development on decision-making
  • The influence of parental expectations and modeling on teen behaviors
  • How positive risk-taking can make negative risk-taking less likely
  • Recognition of important life transitions as a way to reduce destructive behaviors


Union Square Press
August 2008
336 pages
ISBN: 1-4027-5304-7
ISBN13: 9781402753046
$19.95 US

Listen In

Stephen talks about his new book, Reality Gap. To listen, click the “play” button below.

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Here is what people are saying about Reality Gap

Stephen's new book, Reality Gap, has received critical acclaim from some notable experts in the field, including Dr. Richard Lerner, Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, Leanna Landsmann, former president of Time for Kids and current syndicated columnist (A+ Advice for Parents), and Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association.

"Reality Gap provides wisdom, insight, and invaluable information about what families, communities, policy makers, and teens themselves need to do to promote health and safety among our nation’s youth. This book exemplifies why the vision, voice, and leadership of Stephen Wallace are vital national resources for fostering positive development among today’s young people."

Richard M. Lerner, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University

"Once in a while a brilliant book crosses your path, compelling you to read it cover to cover. Reality Gap is such a book. As a youth professional and a mother, the reality of what my children and all children face every day startled me. But then I found stories of hope and resiliency amid its chapters, and I remembered again the role we can all play to help every child triumph.”

Peg L. Smith, CEO, American Camp Association

"Here are practical strategies that encourage safe decision-making among young people, along with their absorbing true-life stories, making it a must-read for parents, educators, and counselors - all of us who care about teens."

Karen Unger, author of Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years

“Reality Gap is a bible for parenting through the teenage years. It debunks harmful myths parents and the media hold dear, and offers useful tactics for effectively parenting a teen. Any mom or dad being tested by their teenager will want to own a copy.”

Leanna Landsmann, syndicated columnist, “A+ Advice for Parents”

“Wallace doesn’t just sound an alarm. He offers parents very practical advice they can act on.”

Marissa Gehley, Coordinator of School Safety & Burbank OutReach Center (CA)

"Stephen Wallace sounds a wake-up call to parents of adolescents in this insightful, important new book. Though many parents tend to hang back in their teens' lives, assuming they have become irrelevant, Wallace charges them with stepping up to the plate and looking at ways to promote positive rather than negative risk-taking in their teens. Part of the reality gap is that teens just want their parents out of their hair; the truth is that they themselves ask for appropriate limit-setting. Using examples from his vast experience with parents and adolescents, Wallace points the way to a better solution to substance abuse and reckless behavior in the teen population. He gives us clear, easy-to-follow instructions that are based in love, facilitated through communication, and never end, no matter how old our children get. A vital read for every parent of a teenager!"

Judith Sachs, Editorial Director, Parenting Teens Network

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About the Author

Stephen Gray Wallace

During his career as a school psychologist, adolescent and family counselor, SADD Chairman and CEO, camp director, researcher, motivational speaker, and college professor, Stephen has gained broad experience with young people and unique insights into their development, attitudes and behavior. This site was created to share what he has learned! It is also intended to be a resource that empowers teens and parents to communicate openly about the critical issues young people face, collaborate on the choices they make, and celebrate the positive steps they take on the way to becoming happy, healthy, and productive men and women.

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