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Why must I be a teenager at all?

Adolescence is traditionally seen as a time of turmoil and stress. Is this inevitable? Using psychological research evidence, discuss the concept of adolescence as a transition and also consider the quote “Why must I be a teenager at all?”‘ The word ‘adolescence’ comes from a Latin word and means ‘to grow into maturity’. It is known that adolescence is a time of enormous physical and mental change that results in changes in behaviour, personality, relationships and expectations. It is seen as a difficult transition into adulthood from childhood. Over the years, the time a person is in adolescence has increased.

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This is thought of being due to extended education, people marrying later in life and approaching a working career much later than say 20 years ago. Children have also started to develop mentally and physically at a much younger age than in past years. This means that the period in which a person is an adolescent has greatly increased and so therefore the time in which they have to identify themselves in terms of ‘who they are’ and ‘who they want to be’ is not just one short, smooth transition into adulthood.

During this period in time, there are more risks when errors of judgement are made. Many people say that this is what makes a person who they are when having to learn from these mistakes, but the problems and questions that a young person has to deal with when facing these issues result in a long period of stress and turmoil. This period of the life-span was described for a long time as a period during which the individual has to separate from the family and become autonomous, and rebels against adult norms and values, a period of inevitable psychological turmoil.

According to Kloep and Hendry (1999) “Although adolescents have to cope with psychosocial challenges associated with their maturing body, new relationships, school and the transition towards employment, a growing number encounter additional problems like family disruption, economic deprivation or social/cultural changes”. They also stated that “Young people as they grow up, find themselves in the trap of having to respond more and more to societies in a responsible ‘adult’ way whilst being treated as immature and not capable of holding sound opinions on a wide range of social matters”.

These quotes suggests that more and more teenagers will find adolescence to be a stage of stress and turmoil because they have to deal with issues/problems that teenagers 20/30 years ago, did not have to deal with. They are expected to behave like responsible adults, but do not get to make their own choices and have their own says in matters important to them. This brings about the large amount of conflict between adolescents and their parents. Baking up this theory that family disruption causes stress and turmoil for adolescents, Rutter et al. (1976) found that when adolescents were separated from parents due to illness or other reasons, these teenagers were 4 times more likely to become delinquent.

It is found that social adolescence is a universal life stage, but that it takes very different forms in different societies. Adolescence does not need to be a period of storm and stress, and the generation gap and problem behaviours considered a “normal” part of adolescence are in fact culturally produced. In many situations, these problematic aspects of adolescence are linked to rapid social change most often in the form of westernisation.

Societies that manage to keep some continuity, cultural identity, and basic values such as family solidarity, often also manage to avoid importing the problems of adolescence despite social change. Of importance are the tolerance and flexibility of adults, close contact between generations, appropriate role learning and acceptance into the adult community. It is suggested that these 4 factors if present in a family, would decrease the levels of stress and turmoil that a teenager has to experience.

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