Personal and social development in adolescence
Adolescence is a unique time. It's the stage between childhood and adulthood, when many teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and what they're about. It's a time when they feel they should be given more responsibility than kids, but a time they do not yet feel ready for the duties of being an adult. With activities, school, home life and plans for their future, adolescence can be a turbulent but exciting time for teens to learn about themselves.
As already mentioned, part of the natural process of teenagers is the development of their self-concept. Self-concept refers to a set of abilities, opinions and thoughts by which we define and categorize ourselves. For adolescents, their self-concept begins being much more complex and tangible than it was when they were children. Let's say a researcher wanted to show the difference between the self-concept of a child and that of a teenager.
Eight years ago, Susan was seven years old and was interviewed with basic questions about her self-concept. When asked to describe herself, she said, 'I am nice, ' and 'I am good at drawing and singing.' Even though she had just played a game with her brother that she had lost, she tells the researcher, 'And I won the game with my brother.' Fast-forward eight years, and Susan is now 15 years old.
When asked about herself, she says things like:
- 'I'm nice to people, but sometimes I could be nicer.'
- 'I'm not good at sports, but I'm pretty good at the artsy stuff.'
- 'I lose every time I play card games with my brother.'
- 'My friends say I'm fun to be around.'
Not surprisingly, adolescents like Susan are able to describe and define themselves with more complexity than they could as children. A child may not realize how she can be nice and not nice at the same time, but an adolescent can. He or she may not be able to think realistically, as Susan once said she beat her brother in a game. Adolescents are also much more focused on the way they are viewed by others, which can affect their self-esteem and self-concept.
A teen may point to their values and morals as part of who they are. They may talk about careers or goals, schools they want to attend, awards they have received or activities in which they excel. Other teens may point out they don't know yet who they are, or that they're still getting to know themselves. Teens are much more focused on what is expected of them and how they compare to others than they were as children.
In another lesson, we learned about Erikson's stage of identity development through our lifespan. Psychologist James Marcia focused on teen identity development and expanded on Erikson's concepts of identity crisis and identity confusion during adolescence.
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