Issues In Adolescent Development

2176 words (9 pages) Essay in Psychology

02/06/17 Psychology Reference this

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Adolescent can be defined as developmental stage between childhood and adulthood where through this crucial period they will have rapid changes in physical, emotion, cognitive change and also behavior. The adolescent stages can be divided to early adolescence (10-12 years), middle adolescence (13-15 years) and late adolescent (16 above) (Feldman, 2005). According to Western psychologists, “adolescence primarily as preparation for adulthood and this period as a time of potential crisis brought on by the uncertainties of the physical and social transitions between life stages (Bucholtz, 2002, p.528).

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In this period they have many pressures exerted by family, peer, school and society. It also the most important period where it will determine and make teenager the person he or she is. One of the psychology scholar G.Stanley Hall noted that adolescent also called as period of storm and stress because adolescent being a time of emotional . He also argued that the concept of adolescent relates to the psychological problems associated with the transition from childhood to adulthood in modern societies (Demos, 1969).

1.2 At-risk behavior

The term ‘at-risk’ has been used widely in education, psychology, health and other field of study. The term of ‘at-risk’ always associated with many work like youth at risk or at-risk student. Most research support the definition of youth at risk as a student between aged 13 to18 years old who exhibits one or more of these criteria: a) Poor academic performance. b) Misbehaviour and discipline problems. c) Socioeconomic/family stressors and d) Negative attitudes toward school.

According to Dunn, 1987 (as cited in Redick, Sharon, Vail, 1991) Youth at risk are defined as children and adolescents who are not able to acquire and use the skills necessary to develop their potential and become productive members of society (p.12). In educational literature, the word at-risk has been used to describe including disadvantaged, culturally deprived, low ability, dropout, low performing, not acquiring skills and discipline problem.

Cuban (1989) mentions that the educator defined the problem of low achievement among at-risk in two ways: students who perform poorly in school because of their own poor achievement and students do so because of inadequacies in their family background. In contrast, psychologists and counsellor often use the term in describing children and youth with potential of developing emotional and behavioural problems (as cited in Kimberly, 2000).

1.3 Risk factors of at- risk behavior

Youth can be at-risk for a variety of reason. Youth are at- risk because of environment in which they live, grow and learn or because of their own behaviour or by other individual. There are a great number of factors that put youth at-risk for not succeeding educationally or in life. Most of them have been influenced by unpleasant circumstances, such as poverty, low self-esteem, drug or alcohol abuse, poor health or nutrition, poor academic performance, inadequate opportunities for success in school, loss of hope for the future, and the lack of life goals (Redick, Sharon, Vail, 1991).

Numerous studies have shown that many researchers replete on various factors that lead to at-risk behaviour. They frequently used the term of ‘risk factor’ in many published journals and books. Risk factors are defined as those conditions that are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcome (problem behaviour). Empirical research shows that definition of risk factors is individual or environmental hazards that increase youngsters’ vulnerability to negative developmental outcomes (Werner, 1990; Bogenschneider, Small & Riley, 1992; Clark, 1995). Rutter, 1979 (as cited in Clark, 1995) said that ‘as the number of risk factors increase, the probability of problem behaviour increase’ (p.3).


2.1 Psychosocial theory

This study referred to Erik Erickson’s life-span theory as its theoretical foundation. Erik Erikson (1950) was the first to offer a comprehensive perspective on life-span development from birth to death. His life-span theory of development described humans as active and adaptive in mastering their environment, parents, and significant others as exerting an important influence on the development of children, culture as a unique expression of humanness, and development as a lifelong process.

This study focused on an elaboration of the fourth and fifth stages of Erickson’s (1950) theory, as they are most relevant when describing pre-pubertal and adolescent development. During the fourth stage of development, “Industry vs. Inferiority,” a young person directs energy toward mastering knowledge and intellectual skills and strives toward feeling productive and competent. During late childhood and the onset of puberty, youth begin to learn that they can accomplish things they never would have thought possible. In the fifth stage of development, “Identity vs. Identity Confusion,” adolescents seek to discover.

Theory of identity

Identity has been called a “sense.” an “attitude.” a “resolution.” and so on. The most proximate psychosocial precursor to identity in adolescence is the sense of industry attained in latency. What is important about identity in adolescence, particularly late adolescence is that this is the first time that physical development, cognitive skills, and social expectations coincide to enable young person’s to son through and synthesize their childhood identifications in order to construct a viable pathway toward their adulthood. Resolution of the identity issue at adolescence guarantees only that one will be faced with subsequent identity “crises.”

Most empirical research into Erikson’s theories stemmed around his views on adolescence and attempts to establish identity. His theoretical approach was studied and supported by James Marcia, a Canadian developmental psychologist. Marcia’s work in the social psychology of development extended Erikson’s. Erikson had suggested that the normative conflict occurring in adolescence is the opposition between identity and confusion (identity crisis).

Marcia elaborated on Erikson’s proposal by suggesting this stage consists neither of identity resolution nor identity confusion as Erikson claimed, but the extent to which one both has explored and committed to an identity in a variety of life domains including politics, occupation, religion, intimate relationships, friendships, and gender roles. His Theory of Identity achievement states that there are two distinct parts that form adolescent identity: a crisis and a commitment. He defined a crisis as a time of upheaval where old values or choices are being re-examined. The outcome of a crisis leads to a commitment to a certain value or role (Marcia, 1966).

Marcia developed the four identity statuses according to dimensions of exploration and commitment:

• Identity Diffusion, the stage in which the young person is not currently going through a crisis and has not made a commitment. He or she has not yet made (nor is attempting/willing to make) a commitment.

• Identity Foreclosure, the stage in which the young person has made a commitment without having gone through a crisis. The adolescent seems willing to commit to some relevant roles, values, or gaols for the future.

• Identity Moratorium, the stage in which the young person is currently in a crisis but has not made a commitment.

• Identity Achievement, the stage in which the young person has gone through a crisis and has made a commitment to a certain value or role (Marcia, 1966).

Marcia distinguishes different forms of identity to substantiate that those people who form the most coherent self-concept in adolescence are those who are most able to make intimate attachments in early adulthood. This supports Eriksonian theory by suggesting that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence (Marcia, 1966).

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Erikson’s Ego psychology stressed the role of the ego. According to Erikson, the environment in which a child lives is crucial to providing growth, adjustment, a source of self-awareness, and identity. Marcia (1966) states, “Ego identity, in its subjective aspect, is the awareness of the fact that there is a self-sameness and continuity to the Ego’s synthesizing methods and a continuity of one’s meaning for others.

Role confusion, as defined by Engler (2006), is “the inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member on one’s own society” (p. 158). Engler’s position was that this inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member is a great danger; it can occur during adolescence when looking for an occupation. When the youth is unsuccessful at this task, identity diffusion may result that could lead to delinquency and even psychotic episodes (Erikson, 1980).

Formation of identity occurs because of process socialization. Erikson explained socialization with the theory that people face challenges throughout the life course that develop and shape personality indefinitely. He mapped out these potential challenges within eight generalized stages. These stages stretch to include infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, preadolescence, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and old age ( ).

Psychosocial problems associated with at-risk behaviour

There are also among risk factors that contribute to psychosocial problem among at-risk youth. The term psychosocial refers to the interplay between biological, physiological, emotional, cognitive, social, environmental and maturational factors.


Self-esteem continues to be one of the most commonly researched concepts in sociology, psychology and other field of study. Self-esteem refers most generally to an individual’s overall positive evaluation of the self (as cited in Gecas 1982; Rosenberg 1990; Rosenberg et al. 1995). It is composed of two distinct dimensions, competence and worth (Gecas 1982; Gecas & Schwalbe 1983). The competence dimension (efficacy-based self-esteem) refers to the degree to which people see themselves as capable and efficacious. The worth dimension (worth-based self-esteem) refers to the degree to which individuals feel they are persons of value.

Self-esteem has been found to protect the self from “stressors” such as experiences and information that might otherwise prove “harmful” to the self (Longmore & DeMaris 1997; Spencer, Josephs & Steele 1993), distress (Cohen 1959; Coopersmith 1967; Rosenberg 1979), and especially depression (Burke 1991, 1996; Mirowsky & Ross 1989; Pearlin & Lieberman 1979; Pearlin et al. 1981). Thus, it has been suggested that engaging in problem behaviour might be a way to cope with a low sense of self-worth, dissatisfaction and low confidence in own abilities (Jessor et al., 1995). Rollins and Thomas review located additional evidence that adolescent self-esteem is related to family relationships. Low self-esteem appears indeed to be a significant predictor of mental health problems (Baldwin et al., 1989) and externalizing problems such as drug use (Stacy, Sussman, Dent, Burton, and Flay, 1992).


Self-control refers to a person’s capacity to override and inhibit socially unacceptable and undesirable impulses and to alter and regulate one’s behaviour, thoughts, and emotions (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994; Carver & Scheier, 1998; Muraven & Baumeister, 2000; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). Self-control is also related to effortful control, which Eisenberg et al. (2003) define as ”the process of voluntarily initiating, avoiding, inhibiting, maintaining, or modulating the occurrence, form, intensity, or duration of feeling states” (p. 762).

As such, self-control can be considered as a more general form of effortful control, because it involves efforts undertaken to influence emotions, thoughts, and behaviour that may or may not be related to feeling states. The literature on self-control identifies four major domains of self-control, namely the control of thoughts, emotions, impulses, and performance (Baumeister et al., 1994; Tangney et al., 2004).

Consistent with the suggestion that self-control is desirable, ample studies consistently suggest that high levels of self-control are associated with better psychosocial adjustment and fewer problems throughout the lifespan. Preadolescent and early adolescent boys with low self-control show a great risk for aggressive and delinquent behaviour (Feldman & Weinberger, 1994; Krueger, Caspi, Moffitt, White, & Stouthammer-Loeber, 1996).

Social skills

Social skill refers to entails the ability to communicate and interact with others in a way that is appropriate and effective (Spitzberg& Cupach, 1989).People with adequate social skills can effectively manage interactions with other people, often with positive outcomes .On the other hand people with poor social skills tend to experience a number of mental health problems which they will have problematic interactions with other people. Psychosocial problems in poor social controls are include depression, loneliness and social anxiety.

Social skills allow people to start and continue positive social interactions with others and they are skills such as communication, problem solving, decision making, self-management and peer relations .Individuals with a strong social skills should be resilient in the face of stress whereas others with poor social skills would be expected to be vulnerable to the development of psychosocial stress.( )


Psychosocial theory of motivation is a study made by Psychologists on what motivation is and how it works and benefits people. One psychologist who researched psychosocial theory thinks that the actualization of a humans potential is what drives a personality for each individual. Psychosocial theories have been said to prove that motivation for higher accomplishments can only be obtained once the motivation for lesser accomplishments has been sorted and achieved. This includes things such as security and safety and surroundings.

Poor school motivation appears to be the single most important marker for identifying adolescents likely to be at high risk (Resnick and Burt, 1996).Besides that, many research found that the low of motivation one of the factor contribute to the risk behaviour.

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