Identity Forming in Adolescents Essay

We may understand this age group if we look at its place on the growth sequence of Erik Erikson. Notice how it is right next to the adult stage, the last step before being an adult. This is a time for adolescents to decide about their future line of work and think about starting their own families in a few years. One of the first things they must do is to start making their own decisions. For example, adolescents can begin to decide what to buy with their own money or who will be their friend. To do this they must put a little distance between themselves and their parents.

This does not mean that parents cannot continue to look after them’ or help them when needed. Parents should, as much as possible, let them learn from the results of their actions. Adolescents also need to be around other adults, both male and female. These can be relatives, neighbors, or teachers. Of course, they should be positive role models. Teenagers can learn from them about things like how to fix the car, getting along with others, or ideas for future jobs. Finally, adoles¬cents want to spend time alone. They might be planning the things they can do or will buy when they grow up.

Identity forming may be an emotional turbulent phase of life in adolescents, due in part to the physical and mental changes they are experiencing. Adolescence is a stage, which is associated with considerable changes in self. Erik Erikson (1968) recognized adolescence as a major life stage for identity formation, and individual development within a social context. He argued that adolescents must receive community acceptance for their behavior. Erikson also spoke of the role of intergenerational socialization where society must provide for a mutual trustworthiness to assure self-chosen values and interests.

Achieving a sense of identity is a fundamental task for adolescents. The clear sense of personal identity constitutes an aspect of optimal psychological functioning (Erikson, 1968). Adolescents face a range of developmental issues. Havighurst (1952) suggested that two important areas included work and relationships. Levinson (1978) focused on changing relationships and on exploration, while Erikson (1968) commented on intimacy and commitment to goals. Super (1963) indicated that exploring and crystallizing vocational choice are important to older adolescents and young adults.

What seems evident is that older adolescents and young adults enter transitions with the goal of becoming independently functioning adults, as they strive to meet evolving personal and career related needs. Rapid and escalating changes in labor market and post-secondary educational opportunities mean that adolescents now are confronted with the challenge of meeting their personal and career needs when neither can offer certainty or a sense of personal control. According to Erikson, there are eight stages of human development.

Each of the stage focuses on a different conflict that needs to be solved in order to develop successfully into the next stages of life. The idea is that if one stage is not resolved, one might have a difficulty to deal with the succeeding stages and the failure will come back at some point later in life. Puberty marks the beginning of stage five, identity versus role confusion. This stage occurs between ages twelve to eighteen. Erikson defined this stage as the time when adolescents develop a sense of self. They tend to question who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

They will associate all of their experiences and differentiate their various roles up until that moment – dependent child, autonomy, initiative and achievement – into a secure individuality. If unresolved past crises have followed them into stage five, they will experience identity as role confusion. In other words, they will have no idea of who they are or what they would like to be. Peter Pan, the fairytale story of the childlike individual who refused to grow up, is a perfect example of this role confusion. These individuals are constantly searching to fill their emotional needs through relationships with others.

Just as Peter Pan looked to Wendy for affection and nurturance, these individuals do the same because they lack self-soothing skills. This is what we sometimes call “low emotional quotients. ” They often have very low self-confidence and they fear exploring new things and meeting new people. All of the child’s experiences were carried up to this transitional stage. The attachment and bonding that the infant learned in infancy during stage one provides security that is needed in this stage to be able to relate to the opposite sex.

The ability to set boundaries and say no from stage two provides the structure needed to establish sexual boundaries. The sexual exploration experienced by the child during stage three and the reaction of parents will help determine a positive or negative self-perception regarding the body as good or bad. Stage four taught the youngster social and educational skills in grade school which will now determine the attitude towards future academic education and the social path to follow. Any of the previous tasks that were difficult to master will now affect the transition into adolescence.

Since this is an awkward time of life, peer approval becomes even more important because it rests on the child’s entire self-esteem when being judged by others. Physical development occurs during this period when males experience voice changes, acne, and baby fat. Girls experience emotional difficulties and are most conscious of their body image. It is during this time that girls will develop eating disorders because they tend to be so critical of their bodies. This period is very similar to stage two when the young child learned how to say “no”.

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Rebelling is a large part of the adolescent’s life at this time when feelings of insecurity surface. During stage five “puppy love” occurs and everyone talks about who is dating whom. If the adolescent has had difficulty with trust and self-esteem issues prior to this stage, he may feel too shy to go steady and may isolate from others. This a time when adolescents have difficulty coping with everyday problems. If earlier tasks were successfully mastered then there will be little difficulty in coping with new problems that will arise.

Peer Pressure During adolescence, it is more likely that an individual has trouble in deciding what to do with his life and what to do to “fit in” and be considered “cool”. One may act and think as if an adult but is not really considered as one in a real adult’s world. They will try so hard to separate themselves and be considered different from children but will somehow have difficulty proving it to people. Peer pressure comes in when an adolescent tries so hard to do what others do to make him feel like he belongs to a certain group.

The feeling of belongingness is very important to an adolescent during this stage as it somehow gives him an identity derived from the group where he belongs. This identity may be “elite”, “intelligent”, “rebel”, “notorious”, “cool”, “popular” and so on. The image an adolescent exudes is as important as if that is what only matters. One may do things upon urging and taunting of his peers. Peer pressure may push one to do irrational things just to be able to be accepted by his colleagues. One episode of Nip Tuck about Matt circumcising himself – when his surgeon father would not do it – is an example of this.

Another example is the latest craze among youths in South Korea. Since image and appearance plays a very important part in an adolescent’s life, one may go to extremes such as plastic surgery. Having bigger eyes is every girl’s dream in South Korea. Teenagers as young as 14 are doing it, and eye jobs have become a favorite high school graduation gift from proud parents (Ko 2002). Substance Abuse Puberty is the most critical stage in one’s life. This is the stage where adolescents sometimes withdraw from the family and turn to substance abuse to avoid the pain that accompanies the stress and anxiety that they experience.

According to the Adolescent substance abuse knowledge base (1999): The primary factors that seem to affect increased or decreased drug use among teens are perceived risk, perceived social approval, and perceived availability. The more risky or less accepted a drug is thought to be; the less likely it will be used by teens. Perceived availability is often associated with overall social approval, and so, a drug that is readily available is considered socially acceptable and will likely increase in use. While these seem like common sense factors, how these perceptions are created is harder to understand.

Parents may not realize just how easy it is for youths to get illicit drugs. They may not realize how young children are when they begin to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Statistics can alert parents to the need to communicate with their children about the dangers of substance abuse and help them develop strategies to cope with peer pressure. In the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), approximately 13 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 reported past month use of cigarettes, and more than 4 percent reported smoking daily during the past month of the same year.

This is equivalent to approximately 3 million past month smokers, including almost 1 million daily smokers among youths. Approximately 16 percent of youths had used alcohol within the past month, including 10 percent reporting binge use – had five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Three percent reporting heavy alcohol use – had five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days. The proportion translates to almost 4 million past month alcohol users, including almost 2.

5 million binge alcohol users, and 0. 6 million heavy alcohol users among youths. Media Influences There are so many television commercials nowadays showing an underage TV character commenting about drinking beer, using condoms, picking out cigarette brands and so on. Most of the parents change the channel when a character joked about “smoking a joint” or having a “one-night stand” when their child is around. Television, music, and advertisements flood children and youth with messages that may go against what that they have heard at home and school.

Some messages teach children that alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are dangerous; other messages make drugs and alcohol look cool and make you “fit in” in the society. Of the many factors influencing adolescents to begin, or not to begin smoking, drinking, and having sexual intercourse, a prominent and likely one is information conveyed via mass media. Despite restrictions on some mass media advertising for tobacco products or alcoholic beverages, even condom brands, young audiences still encounter substantial media content related to those across virtually all media channels.

Society and social scientists alike have long assumed that there are direct effects, perhaps powerful effects, of media messages on individuals. Lay people and researchers make this assumption because it is intuitively reasonable: persuasive media messages surely influence youth. One thing that parents can do is to use messages from the media – TV, music, and ads – to talk with their children about tough issues like alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. Talking during commercials can help promote a positive relationship between parents and their children.

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In many ways, these moments may be more effective than long, planned discussions – when these young adults are likely to tune out. The media’s influence on everyone, particularly on adolescents, is great. However, when properly guided by the parents, this particularly difficult stage of forming identity among youths may be lessened, as they understand how things are seen in the adult world and in another perspective other than theirs.

CONCLUSION Developmentally, the young people were trying to meet personal and emotional needs, while in a state of flux and uncertainty in identity forming.

It was apparent that a lack of progress in one area could have a negative influence on the other areas. Parental guidance, understanding and nurturing is of utmost importance on this most critical stage of a person’s life. In general, Erickson’s Theory of Human Development is widely accepted and plays a major role in all human and psychological development studies and theories. The best advice is to use the theory as a framework or map for understanding and identifying what issues or conflicts unresolved lead to current behavior and preparing for the stages to come.

References Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base. (1999). Retrieved on November 29, 2006 from http://www. adolescent-substance-abuse. com/. “Erikson, Erik. ” (2001). Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia. “Personal Identity. ” (2001). Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia. Erikson, Erik H. (1963). Childhood and Society (2nd ed. ) New York: Norton. Erikson, Erik. H. (1968). Identity youth and crisis. New York: W. W. Norton. Havighurst, R. J. (1952). Developmental tasks and education. New York: David McKay. Health and Human Services. (2001). HHS Report Shows Drug Use Rates Stable, Youth Tobacco Use Declines.

United States Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved on December 1, 2006 from http://www. hhs. gov/news/press/2001pres/20011004a. html. Ko, Chisu (2002). Peer Pressure Plastics. TIME Asia magazine. Retrieved on November 29, 2006 from http://www. time. com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501020805-332098,00. html Levinson, D. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Ballantine. Meyer, William J. (2001). “Developmental Psychology. ” Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia Super, D. E. (1963). Career development: Essays in vocational development. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

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