Friday, February 17, 2012

Just For Fun

  I know I've been MIA for awhile. I'm working on my Master's of Education. I had an assignment to put together a power point on Forming a New Identity During Adolescence. Here's a sample of what I've been doing;

“The physical, psychological, and social changes experienced by adolescents are such that psychologists generally regard adolescence as a critical period for self and identity development.” (Tanti, et al. 2011: 555)
While, “the majority of teenagers weather the challenges of the period without developing significant social, emotional or behavioural difficulties” (Steinberg 2001:85), and normative behaviour exemplifies the avoidance of problematic behaviour or development, much research is focused on the “storm and stress” Hall (1904) of the adolescent period.  “During this phase of the life-cycle problematic development is more interesting than normative development” (Steinberg 2001:85) and it is critical to recognize dysfunctional new identities from experimental new identities.

“Coping may be especially difficult when role changes associated with timing of maturation co-vary with role changes associated with contextual alterations” (Lerner, 1985:359) which is, in essence, a situation where many opposing or changing life circumstances occur simultaneously which is beyond the adolescents’ ability to cope.
 All the World is a Stage

Lerner (1985: 357-359) states the following regarding the role of the adolescent in their own development:

Adolescent as Stimulus: The adolescent may produce his or her development by constituting a distinct stimulus to others, for example, through characteristics of physical and/or behavioural individuality.

Research shows that there are many more benefits to being a beautiful child than being the ugly duckling. The beautiful adolescent male or female is treated in a much more positive manner  by both peers and adults. Environmentally, peers and adults interact in a closer space with physically attractive adolescents, providing much greater positive feedback, intentional or not to mesomorphic and attractive adolescents. This behaviour negatively affects both unattractive adolescents and endomorphic males as there is evidence that these groups have more behavioural and adjustment problems.

Adolescent as Processor: Adolescents may produce their own development through their capabilities as processors of the world (i.e. cognitive structure and mode of emotional reactivity). 

Under the assumption that people do not remain the same over the course of their life span cognitively, physically, socially or emotionally, we can have different responses to the same set of circumstances depending on our life stage.

Adolescents will process experiences differently depending on their personal development. For example, a high school adolescent will have a very different reaction to the same sex education materials than a grade 7 adolescent.

Girls from different cultural backgrounds and ages will have differing responses to the onset of menarche and that will have a significant effect on their physical experience.
Adolescent as Agent, Shaper, and Selector: Adolescents may produce their own development through their active, behavioural agency.

As agent, shaper and selector,  adolescents develop the competency to behaviourally shape and select their contexts;  the type of environmental input (e.g., specific peer groups, modes of conduct) becomes a matter of choice. Selecting  new and important contexts, such as a workplace, makes adolescents producers of their own development.  Role changes, which happen as a result of biological or contextual changes or  changing parental expectations may prove to be challenging, particularly so when maturational and contextual changes occur simultaneously. For example a family moving mid school year  occurring concurrently with their daughter’s first menstrual period.
“By influencing the context which influences them, adolescents are producers of their own development (Lerner, 1982:356).”
Caught in the Feedback Loop
*Adolescents as ‘producers’ of their own development become engaged in a bi-directional relationship with their context in their world. They influence their context which influences the adolescent which influences their context which influences the adolescent...

*Lerner’s (1985:361) Dynamic Interactional model (of child/parental development) illustrates this feedback loop and supports Bronfenbrenner’s Theory of Ecological Child Development;
(Lerner’s model of Bidirectional Adolescent-Context Relations)                                

(Bronfenbrenner’s Theory of Ecological Child Development)

Backstage Wardrobe Change – “Goodness-of-Fit” Model
*The “goodness-of-fit model”, according to Lerner (1985:362) is, “a process by which adolescents might produce their own development [and] involves the extent to which their characteristics of physical and/or behavioural individuality provide a match with adaptational demands emanating from the social context.”

*The “goodness-of-fit model” is understood only by acknowledging personal unique individuality of physical characteristics and attractiveness, temperament and socialization. Adolescents will evoke differing reactions based on context and the sub set of demands, attitudes, values, expectations and stereotypes present in a situation, place and time. “The different adolescents had characteristics of psychosocial development consistent with their alternative types of feedback” (Lerner, 1985:363)
Physical/Biological changes which affect forming a new identity:
Early Maturing Females;
Early Maturing Males;
Endomorphic (rounded) body type experience markedly negative stereotypes
Mesomorphic (husky) body type is stereotyped in a positive manner
Typically occur in families with increased conflict and absent biological fathers (Graber et al 1995, Kim & Smith 1998, Surbey 1990 from Steinberg & Morris 2001:89)
More susceptible to low self-esteem (Petersen 1985 from Steinberg & Morris 2001:90) despite greater popularity than their later maturing counterparts.
Experience higher self esteem and greater popularity than their later maturing counterparts.
At risk for delinquency and risk-taking behaviour due to associations and friendships with older adolescents.
At risk for delinquency and risk-taking behaviour due to associations and friendships with older adolescents.
More at risk for drug use, antisocial behaviour, promiscuity, and, truancy.
More at risk for drug use, antisocial behaviour, promiscuity, and, truancy.
Higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and chronically low self esteem.
More difficulties experienced if they have many friendships with members of the opposite sex.

Information  for this table compiled from Steinberg L. & Morris A.S., 2001:90

Who I Am is not Who I’ve Been
As the child grows to adolescence, their needs change. The context that has enveloped them and the individuals in that context, all of which are changing and developing simultaneously, seems to no longer fill their needs or aspirations. The adolescent enters into a stage of maturation wherein cognitive and physical development outstrips their need for contextual security.

Independent identity development drives the adolescent to experiment and master skills and notions apart from their childhood context. As they enter into new and unknown areas, there is still a need for support and acceptance from their peers, leading them to actively pursue peer groups with commonality. This commonality or ‘likes’ shared among the group is not a concrete membership but rather one of many ‘like’ groups established where belonging is negotiated.
The Parent Trap
“…there is now a rather wide consensus that parents continue to be critically important sources of support, control, and socialization, even as autonomy is negotiated and peers take on heightened salience.” (Giordano 2003: 258)
“Although negativity may increase between parents and adolescents during puberty, positive effect and emotional closeness likely remain unchanged.” Steinberg & Morris 2001:89
Fortunately, the generation gap in reality is not as wide as the common stereotype, according to research (Brown 1990). Parents must be reminded of their significant and irrefutable place in their adolescent’s life despite ongoing challenges.

Although negativity may increase between parents and adolescents during puberty, positive affect and emotional closeness likely remain unchanged” (Steinberg, 2001:89).

Strong values and positive behaviour modeled by parents can influence the daily decisions of adolescents such as choosing peers or engaging in delinquent behaviours.

“Attachment theories emphasize the important role of very early experiences in the family…Individuals who develop secure early attachments are believed to be more successful in forging later relationships, including close friendships and romantic relations.” (Giordano 2003: 259).

Attachment theories describe the possible effect on the dynamics of adolescents and skill building, intimacy, and coping with rejection. It is believed that children who do not forge close bonds or detached from parents at a young age are highly sensitive to rejection.
“In contrast to the hierarchical nature of the parent-child bond, friendships at their base are egalitarian – within friendships, reality is “cooperatively co-constructed.”” (Giordano 2003: 261)

Friendships help adolescents:

*Develop a sense of self.

*Understand the changes around them, free of restrictions.

*Feel connected to others.

*Form interpersonal and social skills.

*Build trust, confidence and self-esteem.
 Identity Crisis and Peer Support
**Please follow link if movie will not play

“This greater level of acceptance within the friendship context and tendency to focus on the  present helps explain the high levels of self-disclosure and mutual trust that often develop as basic characteristics of close friendship ties. The notion that adolescents can be themselves with friends (in contrast with more selective communications and frequently more guarded relationships with parents) is often considered a defining feature of such relations.” (Giordano 2003: 261)

Peer relations can be a crucial component to developing a strong sense of identity during adolescence. Networking a variety of connections provide a support system that may not be available at home. As stated in the literature, adolescents turn to peers because it provides an egalitarian setting. Teens begin to construct new likes and dislikes according to their peers. As some may succumb to peer pressure, others may become more independent by understanding what it is that sets them apart and keeps them unique.

Things that are likely to affect social development with peers: gender, race, SES, social class, minority status, community, interaction with immediate and extended family, frequent migration, delinquent behaviours, high school absence rate. (Giordano 2003: 262-263).

Birds of a feather flock together” “A level of association between intimacy and influence is reasonable to expect because:

(a)frequent interaction and communication creates numerous opportunities for influence,

(b)actors tend to identify most readily with individuals perceived as similar to themselves, thus enhancing receptivity to influence attempts, and

(c)the more that individuals value particular affiliations, the more willing they may be to accede to any influence attempts to maintain or enhance their relationship(s).” 

    (Giordano 2003: 263-264).
Security in Identity

**Please follow link if movie will not play

Those with rosters comprised entirely of delinquent friends were most likely to be delinquent, suggesting a kind of encapsulation effect.” (Giordano 2003: 264)

During a time of immense change and need to feel acceptable to others, peer pressure can create scenarios where adolescents make poor choices. How are poor choices affected by identity development?

*Teens feel the need to associate with “popular” kids, which in turn makes them popular.

*Teens do not want to stand out or feel isolated from a decision made by consensus.

*Teens do not see the long term effects or consequences of rash or irresponsible decisions.


*Many studies have examined peer relations during the grade-school years and concluded that peer-rejected youth are at higher risk for a variety of adjustment problems concurrently and later in rejected youths are more likely to exhibit aggression as well as other conduct and emotional problems. (Giordano 2003: 266)

*…respondents who lacked attachment to peers were more likely than others to have thought of (ideation) or actually attempted suicide.” (Giordano 2003: 266)

*Predictors were shown to have a negative impact for carrying weapons to school for those who had school-orientated friends, but an increased impact for those who lacked friends. (Giordano 2003: 266).

In addition, by virtue of direct and indirect communication processes (adulation, approval, gossip, teasing, ridicule), adolescents learn a great deal about themselves, their social worth, and the broader cultural world they inhabit through experiences beyond the confines of close friendship. (Giordano 2003: 267)
The Gene Pool 

Studies are indicating that adolescent adaptability and some other behaviours (internalizing, externalizing, aggression, depression, risk for suicide) can be attributed to heritability (Deater-Deckard & Plomin 1999, Jacobson & Rowe 1999, et al from Steinberg & Morris 2001:98). As with much of adolescence, girls seem to draw the short straw as they appear to be more genetically influenced than boys with respect to coping mechanisms and both internalizing and externalizing issues. 

It appears that if we inherit the same coping mechanisms (or lack as the case may be) as a parent, that may significantly increase the likelihood for an antagonistic relationship. Don’t some people have a gift for pushing the right buttons?!
The Adolescent Stereotype:

Moodiness isn’t really a factor

Moodiness is a stereotype that cannot be supported by research which, in fact, has found the opposite to be true.  The more advanced the adolescent is in puberty, the more positive their feelings. Additionally, there is no measurable variance in moodiness from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. (Steinberg 2001:90-91). An additional study attempting to quantify adolescent life satisfaction indicates that, “the notion that relatively high levels of global life satisfaction [cognitive appraisal of the overall quality of a person’s life based on self-selected standards (ie. sadness, pride, anger, joy)] may serve as a key psychological strength towards optimal human functioning” (Gilman R. & E.S. Huebner, 2006:319).

We must conclude therefore, that what adolescents are experiencing is not attributable to moodiness and must be considered of significance and treated as such.

Susie, a somewhat ‘chubby’ grade 10 student, seems to struggle forming friendships in school. During the course of the year, you see that Susie changes her ‘image’ considerably: She is dressing in predominantly black clothes, begins to wear lots of dark eye make-up, shows up with increased piercings – first in her ears, then you also notice brow-, nose-, and tongue piercings. Susie’s changed image affords her access to one of the peer-groups in your school, but... 
What do you think Susie wants to achieve in terms of responses to herself from others?
*Attracting the interest of ‘like’ peers

*Make a statement of her identity, to show her existence.

*To come across as confident, possibly masking what she feels are flaws.
What are some responses to her image from various groups of people?
*She may attract friends who have the same interests.

*She may be seen as awkward or a “try hard”.

*She may be stereotyped as “emo” or goth.

*Susie may be establishing a feedback loop affirming “mismatch-fit” with popular culture and society.

*“Markedly negative stereotypes exist for endomorphic children” (Lerner, 1985:365).

*Fat girls experience weight stigma to a greater degree than their male counterparts (Taylor, 2011:186).

*Masculine or unisex appearance associated with Susie’s appearance will not ultimately increase her self-esteem despite providing her with temporary shock value.
Given your understanding of Susie as a ‘processor’ and ‘selector’ of developmentally relevant experiences, would you be able to guide/coach/encourage her to find more uniformly positive responses to herself? How would you do that?
Reality check (future projection of current appearance)

difficulty for employment

BMI calculator for children and adolescent from Center for Disease Control

nutritionist visit/talk with large group
“It is critically important for adults to help girls read and critique the culture in which they live, to understand and challenge or interrupt traditional hegemonic masculine ideology” (Brown & Tappan, 2008:56)
1) In what ways are adolescents ‘producers’ of their own development?

2) Are there personal attributes that shape the kinds of experiences which, in turn, influence the identity formation of adolescents?

3) Friendships and romantic relationships are important components in the process of identity formation. How might they influence learning behaviour – what is your view?
In addition to addressing the ‘Points to Ponder’ in your response, please consider the following;
1. As Susie’s teacher, how would you support her to acknowledge or discover a healthy lifelong identity? How would you help her improve her situation among her peers?
Brown, L. M., & Tappan, M. B. (2008). Fighting like a girl, fighting like a guy: Gender identity, ideology, and girls at early adolescence. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2008(120), 47-59. DOI:10.1002/cd.215

Gilman, R. & Huebner, E.S. (2006). Characteristics of Adolescents Who Report Very High Life Satisfaction. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, New York: Jun 2006. Vol. 35, Iss. 3; p. 311-319