To compete with the youthful ABC soap operas, All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital, CBS executives wanted a new daytime serial that was youth oriented. William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell created The Young and the Restless in 1972 for the network under the working title, The Innocent Years! "We were confronted with the very disturbing reality that young America had lost much of its innocence," Bell said. "Innocence as we had known and lived it all our lives had, in so many respects, ceased to exist." They changed the title of the series to The Young and the Restless because they felt it "reflected the youth and mood of the early seventies." The Bells named the fictional setting for the show after the real Genoa City, Wisconsin, which was located on their way from their then-home in Chicago to their annual summer vacation spot in Lake Geneva.
The Young and the Restless began airing on March 26, 1973, replacing the cancelled soap opera, Where the Heart Is. Bell worked as head writer from the debut of the series until his retirement in 1998. He wrote from his home in Chicago while production took place in Los Angeles, California. Originally, Bell wanted to shoot the series in New York, however, CBS executives felt that Los Angeles would be more cost effective. John Conboy acted as the show's first executive producer, staying in the position until 1982. Bell and H. Wesley Kenney became co-executive producers that year until Edward Scott took over in 1989. Bell then became senior executive producer. Other executive producers included David Shaughnessy, John F. Smith, Lynn Marie Latham, Josh Griffith, Maria Arena Bell, and Paul Rauch.
In the mid-1980s, Bell and his family moved to Los Angeles to create a new soap opera. During this time, his three children, William Jr., Bradley, and Lauralee Bell, each became involved in soap operas. Lauralee Bell worked as an actress on The Young and the Restless. Bradley Bell co-created The Bold and the Beautiful with his father. William Bell Jr. became involved in the family's production companies as president of Bell Dramatic Serial Co. and Bell-Phillip Television Productions Inc. "It's worked out very well for us because we really all worked in very different aspects of the show," William Bell Jr. said. "With my father and I, it was a great kind of partnership and pairing in the sense that he had a total control of the creative side of the show and I didn't have even the inclination to interject in what he was doing."
After William J. Bell's 1998 retirement, a number of different head writers took over the position, including Kay Alden, Trent Jones, John F. Smith, Lynn Marie Latham, Scott Hamner, Josh Griffith, Maria Arena Bell, and Hogan Sheffer.
In 2012, former General Hospital executive producer Jill Farren Phelps was hired as the new executive producer of the soap, replacing Bell. Griffith was also named the sole head writer. On August 15, 2013, it was speculated and reported by several online sources that Griffith had resigned as head-writer of the serial. Further speculation adds that Shelly Altman may take over as the new scribe, alongside Tracey Thomson or Jean Passanante may be brought aboard as co-head scribe. On September 12, 2013, it was announced that Passanante and Altman were named head writers of the show, with Thomson promoted to co-head writer.
On September 18, 2014, former All My Children, Santa Barbara and General Hospital head writer Charles Pratt, Jr. was named as the new head writer of the show. Passanante, Altman and Thomson have been demoted to breakdown writers. Pratt was also named as co-executive producer sharing the credit with Phelps. On June 7, 2016, Serial Scoop announced that Phelps had been terminated from her position as executive producer; a replacement was not named at the time of their reporting. The following morning, Sony Pictures Television confirmed to several media outlets that Phelps had been let go from her position; British television producer Mal Young was announced as Phelps' replacement. Phelps' last appearance as executive producer was July 12, 2016, while Young's first appearance occurred the following day on July 13. On September 13, 2016, it was announced that Pratt was named as executive producer and show-runner of Lee Daniels' Star. The same day, Daytime Confidential revealed that former Generations and Days of Our Lives head writer Sally Sussman, who previously had positions with the show, such as Associate Head Writer, was in-talks to replace Pratt as Head Writer. On September 15, 2016, it was confirmed that Sussman was named as the soap's new head writer.
On September 21, 2016, Daytime Confidential reported that after ten years since leaving the soap, Alden had been re-hired to be a story consultant under Sussman's regime. Sussman's tenure as head writer began taping on October 20, 2016, and began airing on December 7, 2016. On June 20, 2017, CBS announced its decision to renew the serial for three years. On July 31, 2017, it was announced that both Alden and Sussman would retire from their positions; Young was named as Sussman's successor as head writer. Sussman last aired as head writer on October 24, 2017. Young's tenure as head writer aired on October 25, 2017. In December 2018, Young announced his decision to leave the serial, citing that it was a "good time to move on," and cited his desire to pursue his own project. Anthony Morina was announced as executive producer, while Griffith was named co-executive producer and head writer.