Adolescents are children who are between the ages of 11-21. It is described as the years between puberty and adulthood. It is the period during which the individual begin to form their own identity as they prepare to enter adulthood.
The adolescent stage is also a confusing time for most parents as they misunderstand their children's paradoxical behaviour and are unable to understand the attitudes that their children exhibit.
This is one of the stages of growth and development in children and is described by the expert Erik Erikson in his 8 stages of Psychosocial Development as the Identity vs Confusion stage. He listed various stages of development such as: Stage 1: Trust vs Mistrust, Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt, Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt, Stage 4: Industry vs Inferiority, Stage 5: Identity vs Confusion, Stage 6: Intimacy vs Wisdom, Stage 7: Generativity vs Stagnation, Stage 8: Integrity vs Despair.
The Identity vs Confusion stage, which is the adolescence stage takes place during the teenage years and during this period, children develop a sense of personal identity that will influence their behaviour and development throughout their lives. At this stage, they begin to explore their independence and embark on a journey of self discovery. They also need guidance at this time to enable them go through this stage with a feeling of independence and a strong sense of self. If they are successful during this stage, they will
develop an ability to live by the standards and expectations of the society.
According to the developmental theorist, Erik Erikson, the focus of adolescents is to develop an independent identity. As they go through this stage, they begin to determine what would work for them in the areas of career, personal values and if they do well at this stage, they would enter adulthood with a strong sense of self.
Stages of AdolescenceThere are various stages of development in adolescents and these include: - Physical Development
This refers to the biological changes that occur during adolescence. Most young people would have completed their physiological growth by mid-adolescence. At this stage, they would have reached their adult weight and height. Puberty occurs during this phase and this is primarily influenced by the genes in their family. Other factors like diet and exercise also have some influences. The rate at which each individual reaches puberty or matures may vary and is determined by various factors. Also, the timing of puberty has some psychological and social effects. Boys who mature early usually are much taller and stronger, more confident, secure and independent. The boys who mature late seem less confident when compared with their already developed peers. Girls usually reach full physical development by 15-17 years while boys complete theirs by 16-17 years.
- Intellectual Development
Before the time when young people enter adolescence, they see the world around them as right or wrong, good or bad. They are unable to see beyond the present which shows their inability to consider the long term consequences of their actions. As they get into adolescence, they gradually begin to appreciate life better and start projecting into the future. They also begin to develop their ability to handle complex problems and to sense the thoughts of other people.
At this stage, adolescents tend to question the assertions made by other people and would not accept facts as the truth. They also begin to develop the insight and wisdom that comes by experience. At this stage, they are more of risk takers and tend to engage in very risky behaviour. It is also observed that as adolescents approach the age of 15, they have developed thinking abilities just like adults. The improvements occur in 5 areas which include:
-Attention: There is some improvement in their ability to focus on one stimulus without being distracted by another.
- Memory: There is some improvement in their working and long term memory.
speed: There is a sharp improvement in their ability to process information between age 5 and middle adolescence.
- Organization: They become more aware of their thought processes.
- Metacognition: They are able to monitor their thoughts.
- Psychological Development
Some schools of thought view this stage as a time of internal turmoil for young children. It is a time of disturbance and psychological confusion.
- Emotional Development
At this stage, adolescents feel conflicts about leaving the safety and security of their home as they battle their desire for independence from their parents. This is expressed in different forms such as showing less affection, spending time with friends, doing things in excess, etc.
- Social Development
Until this time, everything revolves around the family. They gradually begin to develop friendship with those of the same sex, opposite sex and different social groups. They may even get close to a teacher or mentor at this time. At the same time, they begin to explore falling in love and developing a romantic relationship.
This is the stage where they search for identity and try different things in order to understand who they are. In this process, they may make mistakes all in the bid create an identity for themselves. They also begin to define themselves based on their values, thoughts and opinions and no longer based on any physical trait. The environment in which the adolescent is raised has an effect on the ability of the individual to discover themselves. It is observed that children raised in privileged setting are more successful in developing their identity.
The major influences on the social and personality development of adolescents include:
- Parents: They have one of the major roles to play in helping their children know themselves. This can be done by guiding them aright and encouraging them through the process.
- Media: The media influences the way adolescents see the world and this most times is in a negative light. Their exposure to the internet and other forms of media leads them to indulge in activities that may be detrimental to the growth of their personality.
- Culture: The culture of a particular community or place where a child is raised has an influence on how the child sees the world and what is happening around him.
- Peer: The friends and companions of the child at various stages of his development also contribute the formation of his or her personality through thoughts and values they share.
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