Is adolescence necessarily a period of "storm and stress".

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Is adolescence necessarily a period of “storm and stress

The word adolescent comes from the Latin adolescere, meaning to “grow into maturity”. To many people it means the time when they become an adult. Everybody goes through adolescence, how they experience it is a different matter. The question that is being asked “is adolescence necessarily a time of storm and stress”. In this essay there are many different points of view. There are arguments for and against; they range from body image to identity to culture to independence.

As an adolescent, the body undergoes many changes, not only does the adolescent’s physical appearance change dramatically in terms of height and weight, but he or she begins to experience the physical and hormonal changes leading to sexual maturation. Evidence suggests that up until these changes occur, children are quite happy with their body’ and do not really care about their body image. (Jersild 15, in Gross 1 pg 1). Arnoff and Damianopoulos (16) showed that adolescents who were just over the age of adolescence took more notice of their body’ than forty year old people. This maybe because adolescents spend more time looking at themselves. (Arnoff and Damianopoulos 16 in Gross). On the other hand, when it comes to perceived physical attraction and self esteem, physical appearance matters what ever their age. (S. Harter, 1 p 144). However for female adolescents, body image can become quite important, they may become obsessed with their weight, which could lead to anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Advertising today could well be to blame for many of these slimming disorders, as they seem to give out the message that women are all built very tall and slim. Products on the market seem to be able to transform a plain looking girl into beautiful young women. In other words advertising is responsible for presenting the perfect female, which many adolescents females will model themselves on. Support for this view comes from a study by (Garner et al 180). (Garner et al - 180 in Gross). On the other hand male adolescents today have as much pressure to conform to the stereotype male that advertising encourages. The adolescent males are encouraged by advertising to wear nice clothes, wear makeup and use an aftershave that is irresistible to women. If a male adolescent has high self- esteem then he may not feel the need to conform to the advertised stereotype. He may choose to have his own identity.

Identity is one of the problems, which may cause an adolescent to suffer “storm and stress”. An adolescent may be thinking more about the future and what they want to do with their lives. Erikson felt that to be a fully developed adult an adolescent should choose their roles in life and stick to them. (Erikson, in Psychology A Level 000).

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However people now do not tend to stay in the same career all their lives. Erikson’ idea of a psychosocial moratorium gives an adolescent time to try a career or lifestyle out before they are fully committed, therefore if the adolescent has tried various careers and lifestyles they should go on to have a good adult identity. (Erikson, in Gross 1). However some adolescents do not have a choice in life, they have to accept the lifestyle and career they have, as they do not have the self-esteem to go out and do something different. However Simmons and Rosenberg (175) found that adolescents had lower self - esteem at the beginning of the adolescent stage therefore this may not really obstruct them from making bad life or career choices, As most career and lifestyle choices are not made at the beginning of adolescence. (Simmons and Rosenberg 175) Coleman and Hendry (10) also agreed that adolescents do not have low self-esteem at the beginning of adolescence and if they do, it is only a small amount of adolescents that have a bad self- image. Adolescents tend to avoid identity crises by using what Coleman calls the “Focal theory” rather than dealing with problems all at once they tend to deal with different problems at different times. (Coleman 174 in Gross 1). An adolescent’s identity could well be brought about by the experiences and personality they have.

As a child becomes an adult, their parents may find it hard to let their children have their own independence. Adolescents may not really want to cut the parental ties, but the adults on the other hand may have problems with their child becoming independent. (Bandura 17 in Gross 1). A Childs personality may decide whether they are going to be independent or not. Up until the child starts puberty they do not really have any major problems, but when they start the puberty stage their identification with same sex parent is weakened, but their dependence on the opposite sex parent strengthens. (Freud and daughter in Gross 1). On the other hand a teenager could cut all parental ties and become more dependent on their friends, as their friends could be going through similar experiences and their parents may describe their behaviour as “just going through a stage”(Offer et al 181, in Gross). However if an adolescent is going through a family crisis at the time of puberty for example, a divorce between their parents, then the pressure on the teenager will intensify. (Rutter et al 176 in Gross). This may cause the teenager to become more independent as they may resent their parents, for getting divorced, and leave home. The family in which and adolescent is living in at the time of puberty, can make a difference to how a teenager handles puberty, in many countries they celebrate the coming of puberty.

In different parts of the world the transition between childhood and adulthood varies greatly. Erikson recognised that mothers from different cultures must teach trusting in ways that are consistent with their traditions. Studies by Margaret Mead have shown that boys and girls in Samoa did not have the same difficulties as western teenagers. Samoan teenagers growing sexuality is dealt with openly and they are not made to feel ashamed, unlike western teenagers. (Mead in Psychology A Level 000). However Freeman (18) criticised Meads theory, he thought that Mead had not been close enough to the Samoan’s to get a real picture. Freeman gave evidence that Meads theories were not accurate, he had spoken to one of the Samoan women and she had admitted lying to Mead. (Freeman 18 in Psychology A level 000). If becoming an adult was made a special occasion in all cultures, then this in it self may help to ease the passage of childhood to adulthood.

There are many conclusions to whether adolescence is a time of “storm and stress”. From psychological stages to physiological stage, in an ideal world a child would reach puberty and go in and out of adolescence with the support of their family, with no crisis. However as this is not an ideal world, the main conclusion would be that adolescence is a stage that everyone has to go through, but how it is handled depends on the individual teenager and their environment.

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