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The Effect of Adolescence on Development

Introduction

Adolescence, as a stage of both physical and psychological development of a human being, is a crucial phase in the lifespan. It is at this time when teenagers become mature individuals, explore their identities, and develop behaviorally, socially, cognitively, and emotionally. For a relatively long period of time (approximately from 12 to 20 years old), adolescence is transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

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During this period, a person goes through a series of changes, including peer and family relations, self-learning, body changes, egocentrism, and numerous pressures, all of which influence how one develops and what kind of adult he or she will be. Indeed, teenagers tend to adhere to peer culture, experiment with behavior, and engage in delinquency. Therefore, it is important to understand the underlying psychological issues of adolescents’ social development to define their positive and negative impact.

Changes in Peer Relationships in Middle Childhood and Adolescence

Starting with the stage of middle childhood, individuals begin experiencing an increasing need for interaction with peers who include classmates and friends. In middle school, children first become involved in a group and start to develop socio-psychologically, meaning that they become aware of what friendship is and how to communicate with others. In adolescence, these psychological and social changes become more evident and more significantly influential on an individual’s overall development.

At this stage, relationships with peers are essential. A child becomes more detached from his or her family and is more inclined to choose friends of the same age and develop close relationships with peers (Berger, 2011). The issue of inclusion in or exclusion from a peer group is the main concern for adolescents.

Moreover, adolescents might adopt new trends in appearance, behavior, or habits to become more like others, whose approval they seek. Teenagers’ brain regions responsible for behavioral control and socialization are still developing, which is why individuals try to adapt socially and adjust their behavior to the pattern observed in peers (Racz, Putnick, Suwalsky, Hendricks, & Bornstein, 2017). Despite overall similarities in the cognitive, emotional, and social functioning in the adolescent stage, different individuals are exposed to varying issues in socializing. The environment that surrounds a teenager significantly defines the coping strategies and behavioral patterns he or she might develop (Office of Adolescent Health, 2019).

Importantly, “cognitive, social, and behavioral difficulties first emerge during early and middle childhood, thereby laying the foundation for continued and often increasing problems in these domains during adolescence” (Racz et al., 2017, p. 1689). Thus, peer relationships that emerge in middle childhood determine the behavioral patterns in the later stages of the lifespan.

There might be both positive and negative implications of the changes in peer relations during adolescence. The overall quality of impact is defined by the individual characteristics of the group with which a teenager affiliate. For example, the representatives of minority groups might find social support and developmental encouragement in peers. Also, classmates with high cultural standards or intellectual activities might enhance one’s cognitive and social abilities (Berger, 2011). On the other hand, gangs that are involved in delinquent behaviors, practice violence, and impose destructive demeanor induce a negative impact on the development. Thus, peer relationships play a significant role in adolescence.

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Aspects of Adolescent Egocentrism

As the brain cells develop and the level of self-consciousness increases, teenagers begin to demonstrate the features of egocentrism in their behavior. The tendency of young teenagers to concentrate on themselves and on what others think of them was first introduced to the field of psychology and defined as adolescent egocentrism by David Elkind (Berger, 2011). Teenagers fail “to differentiate between the self and others in relation to cognitive concerns” (Popovac & Hadlington, 2020, p. 277).

There are several aspects of this thinking pattern. Firstly, due to the extensive process of social development and association of oneself as a part of a society, adolescents experience continuous exposure to the imaginary audience. They tend to think and act in a way that is marked by the idea that everybody else is preoccupied with their appearance, habits, or actions. In such a manner, any reaction from society is generalized and perceived as a sign of people’s disapproval, love, or hate (Berger, 2011). Consequently, stronger misconceptions might lead to disorders in behavior and developmental problems.

Secondly, such a construct as a personal fable plays a significant role in teenage thinking. It involves the persistent idea that every experience a teenager has is of a unique nature and that nobody else can ever understand them (Popovac & Hadlington, 2020). Importantly, adolescence is the time of numerous new experiences, such as romantic relationships, friendship, substance use, and others, which lead to emotional and cognitive reactions. Therefore, a teenager tends to believe that he or she is alone in these experiences because nobody else has been in a similar situation.

The idea of exclusiveness articulated within the realm of the imaginary audience and personal fable might result in engaging in risky behaviors. Since adolescents strongly believe that their experiences are unique, they do not perceive themselves as conventional representatives of society. On the contrary, they think that if they do something dangerous, nothing will happen to them. That is why teenagers often engage in risky actions, such as substance abuse, speeding, or engaging in unprotected sex (Popovac & Hadlington, 2020).

Such a thinking pattern is an inevitable stage of personality development that is more prevalent in early adolescence and phases out by the time of late adolescence. However, as it has been stated earlier, environmental and peers influence might exaggerate harmful predispositions and induce a negative developmental path.

Pressures Often Faced in Adolescence

With the numerous changes in self-identity perception and socialization, adolescents experience a variety of pressures that cause their adaptive behavioral reactions. First of all, peer pressure is one of the most influential determinants of teenagers’ development, which might have a significant negative effect. The type of culture employed in a clique might force an individual to engage in delinquent behavior to fit the group (Office of Adolescent Health, 2019).

To act like an adult and adhere to peers’ standards, adolescents often use and abuse alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Such risky behaviors, when uncontrolled and unaddressed by parents or educators, might lead to addiction and further impairments in later stages of development (Letourneau, McCart, Sheidow, & Mauro, 2017). Therefore, it is vitally important for family members or caregivers to facilitate adaptive parenting and minimize the harmful effect of peer pressure and delinquencies associated with it.

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Moreover, puberty is marked by a gender-specific set of changes in both physical and psychological spheres. Adolescents learn about their sexuality and try to fulfill their sexual needs by engaging in romantic relationships (Berger, 2011). Therefore, dating at this stage might impose significant pressure on teenagers who try to explore themselves through sexual experiences. The pressure imposed by peers and society’s expectations provoke maladaptive behaviors in teenagers.

As a response to pressure, they experiment with alcohol, drugs, and risky behaviors. Thus, sexting, unprotected intercourse, or sex under the influence of substances might lead to negative consequences (Berger, 2011). The difficulties an adolescent faces are often exaggerated by the changes within family relationships due to the diminished role of parents in the life of a child. To minimize the threats of delinquent behavior under pressure, parents should be proactive in their communication with teenage children and build trusting relationships.

However, pressures might have a positive impact on the development of adolescents. If the environment, into which a teenager wants to fit sets high behavioral standards, encourages “cooperating, sharing, resolving conflicts, and supporting others,” it helps better moral and social advancement (Office of Adolescent Health, 2019, para. 4). Also, pressures related to dating and change in family relationships forces a person to integrate into society faster and develop independence and individuality.

Conclusion

To summarize the discussion, adolescence is a crucial phase in human psychological development. It embodies the transformation of an individual from a child into an adult through the adoption of a series of physical changes, cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social abilities. The change in relationships with peers is marked by the importance of inclusion in a group. To succeed at this, teenagers often experiment with their appearances, behaviors, and habits.

An important thinking pattern that determines adolescent behavior is egocentrism marked by perceived uniqueness and placement at the center of the public’s attention. Overall, all the changes a teenager passes impose significant pressure, including peers, substance abuse, sexuality, and family relationships. Therefore, it is necessary to control and support adolescents through their developmental journey to minimize the harmful effects of their behavior.

References

Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Letourneau, E. J., McCart, M. R., Sheidow, A. J., & Mauro, P. M. (2017). First evaluation of a contingency management intervention addressing adolescent substance use and sexual risk behaviors: Risk reduction therapy for adolescents. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 72, 56-65.

Office of Adolescent Health. (2019). Unique issues in social development. Web.

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Popovac, M., & Hadlington, L. (2020). Exploring the role of egocentrism and fear of missing out on online risk behaviours among adolescents in South Africa. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 276-291.

Racz, S. J., Putnick, D. L., Suwalsky, J., Hendricks, C., & Bornstein, M. H. (2017). Cognitive abilities, social adaptation, and externalizing behavior problems in childhood and adolescence: Specific cascade effects across development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 46(8), 1688-1701.

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