Social Development in Adolescence
One of the first signs of early adolescence is the appearance of reflectivity, or the tendency to think about what is going on in one's own mind and to study oneself. Adolescents begin to look more closely at themselves and to define themselves differently. They start to realise that there are differences between what they think and feel and how they behave. They are also prone to be dissatisfied with themselves. They critically examine their personal characteristics, compare themselves to others, and try to change the way they are.
Adolescents may also ponder whether other people see and think about the world in the same way as they themselves do. They become more aware of their distinctiveness and uniqueness from other people. They learn that other people cannot know fully what they think and feel. The issues of "who" and "what" really dominate their personality development.
Identity : The physical and intellectual changes during adolescence disrupt their sense of continuity and personal wholeness. The cognitive ability to relate the past to the present, and to think about the future, presents the young adolescents with the problem of understanding the continuity of experience across time and projecting that continuity into the future. To accomplish this, adolescents usually depend on several activities. The important activities are as follows:
i)They pay great attention on how other people view them. They have sensitive antennas, tuned to receive subtle messages about themselves from other people. They listen carefully to their peers. parents, teachers and other adults for any information that indicates how these people view them. Information obtained is chewed over, compared to other views, and inserted into their self-concept if it can be made compatible with the information already there.
ii) They search the past and often want to know about their ancestors, family tree, their own infancy and childhood experiences. Some learn basic genetics, and are concerned about the sources of their physical and psychological characteristics. All these contribute to their understanding of continuing across time and of their potential future.
iii) They experiment with roles. They attempt to find out what kind of persons they are and for this they adopt different ways. They adopt the characteristics of other people to see if the characteristics fit in them. They take on and quickly cast off the traits of peers, teachers and other acquaintances. They also watch carefully as to how other people respond to their experiments in order to see if they can fit them into their relationships with others. For example, you might have observed your students talking about the behaviour of a popular film star thereby gaining popularity among his peers. Similarly. you may find some students adopting the role model's most attractive behaviour patterns to be accepted by their role model.
iv) They act on their feelings and express their beliefs and opinions accordingly. They place. a high value on being honest and behave in the ways that are me to oneself. Some of them become distressed if they think they are not presenting their real feelings or if they are not being consistent in their behaviour. Gradually most of them come to realise that feelings, beliefs and people can change, and that consistency is less important than accurate representation of oneself.
Adolescents do experiments and remain flexible if they successfully find their own identity. By trying out various ways and then testing and modifying them, they can pick those characteristics that are most comfortable, and drop the others. To do this, the adolescent must have the self-confidence to vary behaviour through experiment, and to drop characteristics that don't fit, even if the characteristics are supported by others. It helps to have a stable and accepting set of parents, teachers and peers who will respond to the adolescent learner's experimentation in search of this hue identity.
Autonomy : Another important personality development during the adolescence years is an increase in demands for autonomy, for self-determination. As adolescents' awareness of their increasing similarity to adults grows, and as their ability to analyse and plan their responsibilities improves, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to accept adult directions. Adolescents know that they will have to take responsibility for their actions as adults, and they need to practice that responsibility in more and more arenas.
Conformity : At the time when adolescents seek autonomy from their parents and other adults, they often seek to conform to their group. Adolescents are desperate to be accepted by their peers. To gain peers' acceptance they copy one another's style of dress, language and behaviour. They may form a group that excludes all those who do not wear similar clothes, use similar language, hold similar opinions and engage in similar activities.
Interpersonal development : Peers are the focus of adolescence, much to the dismay of their parents and teachers. Friendship, popularity, conflict with peers, dating and sexual relationships all take a tremendous amount of the adolescent's time and energy. The actions and opinions of peers may loom large as adolescents try to establish their own identity. Adolescents with similar interests and values form groups. Thc friendships made in adolescence may endure through life, on at least in nostalgia (sentimentality).
Intimacy : In early adolescence, two new needs arise. First is the need for intimacy. for a relationship, with a person to share their feelings and thoughts. The second and comparatively less important need is for sexual gratification. The skills of intimacy are not easily learned, and their practice occupies a large portion of the - interactions among adolescents. Intimacy is first felt and needed by adolescents. They feel that there should be someone with whom they can share their feelings and emotions. They attempt to have intimacy first with peers, usually drawn from the same sex, classmates, etc.
Peer relations : There may be gradual changes in peer interactions around the time of puberty. The playmakers, chosen mainly on the basis of proximity, begin to split up into pairs. Friends spend more time talking than doing things. Young people seek privacy from adults and peers. Friendships may shift rapidly as adolescents seek other friends at similar stages of development.
Friendships are tested repeatedly. Exclusivity is sought - "We have to be the best of friends" - to protect the adolescents who want to share inner feelings. But, inevitably, confidences are broken, secrets are shared and the best of friends become untrustworthy' enemies. Concern, trustworthiness and loyalty characterise these early efforts at intimacy.
Dating: Dating provides one of the most thrilling pastimes in adolescence and some of the most outstanding memories in later yem of life. Dating provides adolescents with the opportunity to improve their interpersonal and social skills and to try out roles that characterise the maid relationship without having to commit themselves to he responsibility of marriage. In addition to providing friendship, affection, and at times love, dating may be the means by which adolescents prove or maintain status in society. Dating also prepares the way for eventual mate selection. Cooperation with peers of the opposite sex is enhanced to some extent as a result of dating. At the same time, some adolescents have also used dating as a means of sexual experimentation.
Emotional disorders : Emotional disorders frequently arise during adolescence. Such disorders range from simple depression to being over anxious about health to suicidal thoughts or attempts (Masterson, 1967). Many adolescents who engage in delinquent, bizarre, or self-abusive bcl~aviour do so as a call for help during a difficult period. Some adolescents use drugs, alcohol, or sex as a response to emotional disorders.
You, as a teacher, should be sensitive to the fact that adolescence is a difficult time for many students and that emotional disturbances are common. By saying so we mean that emotional disorders should be detected and resolved, hopeless or unaccountably angry behaviour is a clue to understand that the adolescent needs help. Such students should be given special attention by school counselors or other experts.
Drug and alcohol abuse : Drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents has increased in recent years. It is pertinent to mention here that you may. sooner or later, encounter students who come to school drunk.
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