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THE MAJOR PSYCHOLOGICAL TASK OF ADOLESCENCE
The importance of adolescence
From both theoretical and practical perspectives, adolescence is a critical time in development. From a practical standpoint, negative early environment has already happened for millions of adolescents. Adolescents, not three-year-olds, overwhelm our courts, emergency rooms, and police forces. Adolescence is the last period when the family and social systems have the individual "in our power". To enroll the unwilling adult in any intervention program requires court orders, and a variety of other legal and extralegal efforts. During the entire procedure, the individual is free to "vote with his feet", and simply disappear to a new locale.
What some of the world's foremost
psychologists have said about identity
Freud (1959, p. 273) described identity as "many obscure emotional forces, which were the more powerful the less they could be expressed in words, as well as a clear consciousness of inner identity, the safe privacy of a common mental construction." This "clear consciousness" enabled Freud to "do without the agreement of the 'compact majority'" and join the opposition to the Nazi party.
In other words, Freud knew who he really was, what he really believed. Even though most people were in close agreement that joining the opposition to the Nazis was a dangerous, foolhardy act, to Freud, it was clearly the right thing to do, and he did it.
I do agree with Frued that it is difficult to simply describe what is meant by identity. It is one of those things that adults have more often than adolescents - that is, a clear sense of one's goals, a set of beliefs about what is true, and values about what is important. During adolescence, we begin to separate more from our parents and develop more a sense of self which is our own.
Erikson said another, I think crucially important, thing about identity. I apologize in advance for confusing you, but he discussed the development of a negative identity differently from your textbook. A negative identity, in Erikson's view, was defining oneself by what one was NOT. (Similar to the idea of a negative in mathematics.) Most commonly, an adolescent would become exactly the opposite of whatever his or her parents wished. (This is what your textbook refers to as a deviant identity.) It is not that uncommon, for example, to find children of professors who refuse to go to college at all. The most common example, I suppose, is the stereotype of the minister's son who becomes a total drinking, womanizing, irresponsible atheist. Erikson said this was most common when the adolescent was unable to meet the standards demanded by parents for their approval. In establishing a negative identity, he said, the adolescent decides:
It is better to be somebody bad than no one at all.
That statement is so true, it gives me goosebumps. It describes a great many of the adolescents I have known who would be described variously as juvenile delinquents, oppositional defiant disorder, emotionally disturbed, or, simply bad. Read that line over again another eight times.
(In fairness to the textbook author, more recent articles I have read have used the term negative identity in the same sense that he does, to mean a person who has negative feelings about himself/herself.)
IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT: SELECTING A CAREER -- and racism
High school counseling programs that spend disproportionate amounts of time on college admissions to the exclusion of preparation services for work-bound youths are not serving the preparation needs of a large group of students (VanZandt & Hayslip, 1994). In addition, accommodations become necessary for the rapidly changing demographics in this nation. By the year 2030, it is projected that Hispanic youths will have increased by almost 80% to 10 million, African American youths will increase by 14%, and European American youths will decline by 10% (Brindis,Unfortunately, this article is no longer available on-line, as it did have some good suggestions. Did I read it the wrong way, do you think? Maybe I am reflecting my own personal bias that high school counselors tend to view Hispanic youth that way. I know that has been my daughter's experience. Guidance counselors who have clearly not even looked in her file have made such comments as "Well, of course, everyone wants to go to UCLA, but you have to be reasonable." She has a 4.2 GPA and scored in the top 5% on her PSAT. I think UCLA is more than a reasonable option for her. (Can you tell this annoys me?) Maria ended up attending New York University where she graduated in 3 1/2 years.
Where do adolescents get their ideas about careers, goals, etc.? Some of it comes from their parents, some from their peers (who generally don't have much knowledge of career requirements or options) and some from school counselors. Unfortunately, counselors often have little time to spend with the average student, and are often making recommendations based on little knowledge of the individual. I remember speaking with one woman on the reservation who said she had never experienced racism. At the same time, she mentioned that her high school counselor had strongly encouraged her to go on to secretarial school, to further her education. This was a person who clearly had MUCH more potential to succeed in college than the average person. I know, because she was a student in a class I taught twenty years after she had finished secretarial school. She was an outstanding writer and intellectually gifted. I told her that, in my opinion, not encouraging her to go to college instead of secretarial school was racism. It may not be as overt as standing on the street corner and yelling racial slurs, but I am not sure that it is any better for all of that.
Okay, now I will step down from my soapbox -- until the
Identity and the importance of adolescence: Some things to think aboutIf adolescence is the period during which is formed one's "real self", a system of beliefs and values which cannot be compromised without feeling one is being untrue to oneself, and which can even be motivation for acting contrary to personal safety, as Freud's case, then this is the period when intervention can be most productive.
2. etc.... that will come up in the next few web pages
as we continue with this section of the course - now you have to read them,
REFERENCES ON ADOLESCENCE WHICH I WOULD PARTICULARLY RECOMMEND
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