- Physical maturation
- Social maturity
- Establishing an identity
- Identity crisis
- Adler on adolescence
- Helping the adolescent
- Adolescence: success or failure to reach healthy adulthood?
- Adult delinquency: getting stuck at the adolescent phase
- Adult development: moving beyond the adolescent experience
|Characterized by a need to find a worldly identity and a
sense of belonging.
The adolescent might experiment with behaviour, style, attitude, and joining groups in their attempt to discover a sense of identity.
The word "adolescence" comes from the Latin word adolescere, meaning "to grow into maturity." The beginning of adolescence is marked by the onset of puberty, the period of sexual maturation. This biological event transforms a child into a physical adult, and carries with it important psychological and social consequences. The need to establish an independent identity becomes a major concern of the individual. For the first time, the adolescent confronts some of the demands of the adult world - the need to train for future work and to develop intimate relationships with peers of the opposite sex. In this section we will discuss the physical, psychological, and social aspects of this period of life.
Long before the emotional and social conflicts that are associated with adolescence erupt, hormonal changes begin to have their effects on a young person's body. The hormonal changes trigger the maturation of the reproductive organs and the development of secondary sex characteristics, such as facial hair in males and breasts in females. While the timing of these changes varies considerably with the individual, puberty usually begins between the ages of ten and twelve in girls and twelve and fourteen in boys (Muuss, 1975).
The sexual maturation heralded by puberty transforms the child physically into an adult. But whether or not the child is assigned the social status of adulthood after puberty depends on the culture in which the child lives.
In our society the child who has passed through puberty is not yet considered an adult. He or she is still dependent on the parents and frequently lives at home for several more years. In Western societies adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood that lasts until the individual is at least seventeen or eighteen years of age. In some societies, however, children who have obtained reproductive maturity are considered working members of the adult community and may start their own families. For them there is no adolescence, no transitional period between childhood and adulthood (Knepler, 1969; Muuss, 1975). Clearly, unlike infancy and childhood, adolescence is more a creation of certain societies than a distinct period of physical development.
Although most of them would never admit it, young teenagers are still quite dependent on their parents for security, guidance, and support. Ten years later, however, in their early twenties, they are generally able to provide for their own needs. Along with the outward signs of independence, such as making their own decisions and becoming financially responsible, most young adults have also gained a sense of themselves as separate, autonomous people.
The establishment of this separate identity is the major developmental task of adolescence.
A person who manages this transition successfully is ready to meet the challenges of adulthood. One who fails to do so is severely handicapped as a young adult. According to Erik Erikson (1950), who introduced the concepts of identity and the identity crisis, the physical, sexual, and social demands on the adolescent often produce internal conflict. To resolve this conflict the identity crisis successfully, Erikson emphasizes, adolescents must develop an inner sense of continuity between what they were in the past and what they will become. This is what is meant by identity: an individual's sense of personal sameness and continuity.
According to Erikson, adolescents often attempt to determine who they are by trying out different roles temporarily. Thus, one adolescent may try her hand at acting, throw herself into the study of philosophy. and become involved in politics. By experimenting with a variety of possible choices, adolescents acquire some idea of the lifestyle associated with each role they try on, yet do not commit themselves irrevocably to any one. Erikson notes that these experiments with different identities are much more possible in some societies than others.
While an American teenager has a prolonged period of adolescence during which to experiment, young people in societies that have either no period of adolescence or a very short one are forced into permanent adult roles soon after puberty. In the United States, many youths do not develop a stable identity until the college years, or even later. Interviews with college students suggest that every young person is likely to be at one of four levels in the achievement of an independent identity (Marcia, 1966).
At one extreme are those who have experienced a period of conflict and indecision concerning their values and choice of career, but who have successfully resolved that crisis and are now strongly committed to an occupation and an ideology. These are the people who have reached identity achievement. At the other extreme are the drifters those who are both completely uncommitted and apparently completely unconcerned.
Somewhere between the extremes are two other types: those in the midst of resolving an identity crisis and those so strongly committed to their parents' values and choice of a career for them that it is difficult to tell where the parents end and the young person begins. In a survey of students interviewed first as freshmen and later as seniors, 2% of the freshmen had established a firm sense of both occupational and ideological identity when they entered college, and 19% had done so by the end of their college careers (Waterman, Geary, and Waterman, 1974).
"Identity crisis" has become a common expression in our society. So has the assumption that it is normal for all adolescents to go through a very stormy time (the outward expression of experimentation, confusion, fear, and insecurity) in achieving an identity. However, it is important to note that turmoil and conflict are not inevitable hallmarks of adolescent development. Many high school and college students cope quite well with the developmental tasks of adolescence and make the passage through these years without major turmoil (King, 1973).
The Austrian Alfred Adler (1870-1937) viewed people's behavior as explicable in terms of the goals they adopt and their general attempt to develop their capacities and overcome a sense of their own imperfection and inferiority. The American Harry Stack Sullivan (1892-1949) saw personality as a matter of how people relate to others throughout their lives, with adolescence a particularly important time in development. His compatriot Erik Erikson (1902-79) shared a very similar psychoanalytic orientation. He also discussed developmental 'tasks' and crises that occur throughout life.
Exploration of autonomy, sexuality, work, social interaction, groups, ideas, lifestyles. A further successful disconnection from the energies of the family and parents and the need for positive encouragement of interests and life outside of the family and parental environment.
The need for positive affirmation and nurturing of the developing individuals sexuality and maturity of emotionality.
The need for the individual and the parents to establish a new, appropriate heart chakra relationship, thus helping the parents to let go of the maturing young adult and also making it easier for the young adult to pursue their own life, independent of the family.
Adolescence is a very important time for the developing individual. Properly supported, the developing individual can become a healthy and socially integrated adult with a clear path to maturity. Without loving support, the young personís important adolescence stage may become sabotaged, leading to stagnation, unhappiness, confusion, delinquency, and degeneration. There is a high probability that they will become a very unhappy and unhealthy adult who is a misfit, outcast, and alienated individual.
There is nothing quite as devastating to the successful social integration and holistic maturity of an adolescent than unsupportive parents who lack understanding or interest in the young personís development. This can seriously damage, distort, sabotage nd pervert the successful growth of an individual.
Boys and girls are struggling to get through the adolescence and early adulthood stages. The struggle may cause symptoms like:
Irrational confusion and fear.
Social discomfort and lack of integration.
Difficulty relating to adults.
Difficulty in accepting themselves as maturing and good adults.
Dislike of adult life and itís responsibilities and rewards.
Deep inferiority and self-loathing.
Difficulty graduating from the childhood and the adolescence stages. Clinging to these stages due to fear of growing up and thus displaying signs of narcissism, stagnation, delinquency, attention-seeking behavior, and perversion.
No suitable successful adult role models to emulate, therefore in their confusion they begin emulating negative ones.
Unhappy and unfulfilling adult life.
Holistic stagnation, resulting in degeneration, giving up on life, depression, depravity, withdrawal from life, reclusion, delinquency, substance abuse and ill health.
Inability to become a satisfied, mature, responsible, and wise adult.
It is easy for any individual to get stuck at any stage and become dominated by the arising strong "sub-personalities" to such an extent that the individual becomes identified with these sub-personalities and their behaviors.
If an individual gets stuck at the adolescent developmental phase then a "sub personality" will arise that sabotages the individual's ability to experience maturity. The life-long adolescent personality and all the expected adolescent traits will dominate the individual and frustrate their lives, such as:
Neurotic Identity Problems and Subconscious Imitation: The mature person is not overly preoccupied with an identity problem, whereas the unresolved adolescent is and will show signs of reoccurring and irrational (neurotic) identity crisis and imitation. In many cases, the individual may change their name, their culturally identity, and even their gender. Subconscious imitation occurs as the unresolved inner adolescent struggles to find an identity. The individual may imitate somebody that they are impressed by or look up to as a worthy "role-model."
Auto Rebellion, Deluded Thinking, and Delinquency: They failed to mature and integrate so now they are stuck in the adolescent rebellion stage which leads to deluded thinking, paranoia, and suspicion of the entire adult world. The deluded mind, stuck in auto-rebellion, cannot make wise choices and thinks that "vice is virtue and virtue is vice." This leads to holistic disease, distress, and delinquency.
Demonizing of Adult Society: Victimized by failed mature integration and unable to find the humility or insight that is required to realize that they have many developmental issues, the unintegrated adolescent becomes a "sub-personality" that sabotages the successful maturity of the individual.
Neurotic Projection, Blame, and Resentment: The habitual blaming of externals for problems that are actually internal. This produces sourness, bitterness, paranoia, confusion, distress, and hatred in the individual.
Neurotic Alienation, Vagrancy, and the Inability to settle down: The individual has too many problems that interfere with their ability to normalize.
Neurotic Guilt concerning ordinary adult life: The individual cannot enjoy the ordinary, balanced, healthy, and moderate enjoyments of a mature adult life, such as:
- Healthy sex life.
- Domestic life and satisfactions.
- Married life.
- Occupation and career.
- Responsible and moderate enjoyment.
- Authentic self expression and communication.
- Interests, hobbies, and past times.
- Benevolent involvement in groups and society.
- Balanced, holistic health.
FURTHER EGOTISTICAL SYMPTOMS OF FAILED ADOLESCENT PHASE:
- Preoccupied by "being cool."
- The neurotic need to be special, different, and out-of-the-ordinary.
- Persistently concerned about the opinions of others.
- The belief in magic and miracle as a substitute for work.
- Social Delinquency and Psychopathic behavior: Lack of consideration and conscience concerning civilized behavior and the adherence to generally accepted standards of social behavior, conduct, and responsibility.
- Rejects Civilization: Cannot perceive or take joy in the responsible living of a holistically healthy adult life.
- Disrespectful and Inconsiderate to others, their lives, their achievements, their insights, and their paradigms (views, opinions, and beliefs).
- "Wannabe" mentality: Unrealistic and spoiled attitude to life.