The attitude of the society to different social groups is largely due to established stereotypes that form an opinion on the characteristics of behavior. Particular attention is paid to the topic of adolescents as the category of the population, which is considered problematic and is often viewed as the object of psychological intervention. There are practices that allow changing attitudes towards this social group and destroy stereotypes, influencing both public opinion and the behavior of adolescents themselves. It is supposed that such techniques as self-disclosure and cultural pluralism can contribute to changing the image of adolescents and better interacting with this class of the population.
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Stereotypes Associated with Adolescents
Problem teenagers often become negative characters in news releases since special attention is paid to the issue of juvenile delinquency. Moreover, an important role is played not only by age but also gender differences. According to Murnen, Greenfield, Younger, and Boyd (2016), men’s desire for domination is formed in childhood, and female participants demonstrate less aggression compared to boys. This opinion has been formed in society for a long time and is expressed not only in little children but also in adolescents who are perceived as brutal (boys) and quiet (girls).
Another stereotype that is far from always justified is deviant behavior. As Romer, Reyna, and Satterthwaite (2017) claim, irrational actions can be inherent in adolescents. Nevertheless, it is often not because of the desire to show the personal qualities of the dominant but the peculiarities of young people’s unformed psyche. The authors note that “the adolescent brain does not fully mature until at least age 25, with the implication that adolescent decision-making and judgment is similarly limited up to this age” (Romer et al., 2017, p. 19). Therefore, teenagers’ views do not always coincide with adults’ positions.
Finally, another stereotype is closeness and the desire to be isolated from the world. Many parents face the problem of communicating with their children and cannot establish contact. It is generally believed that teenagers reaching a certain age cease to see parents as authorities and do not trust their experiences with them. It is sometimes true; however, as practice shows, even such a problem can be corrected if a corresponding approach to a specific teenager is found.
The Practice of Self-Disclosure
In order to successfully interact with adolescents and not to experience difficulties, it is possible to pay attention to some models of behavior. Thus, Corey, Corey, Corey, and Callanan (2014) give the example of such a technique as self-disclosure, claiming that it is one of the ways to make contact. The essence of this method is to help an individual to forget about any complexes and freely express personal thoughts and ideas. Teenagers often do not know how to explain to adults their problems, which leads to a closeness and sometimes deviant behavior. In order to avoid it, it is essential to pay attention to the interests of a particular teenager, his or her experience, and thoughts. If adolescents see the openness of adults and their desire to help but not the willingness to punish, it is likely that it will be easier to establish interaction. According to Garthe, Sullivan, and Kliewer (2018), parents’ participation in this process is very important since it is in the family where the foundations of behavior are formed. Therefore, encouraging the openness of teenagers is significant.
The Practice of Cultural Pluralism
Another approach that can be applied when establishing contact with adolescents is cultural pluralism. This practice is mentioned by Corey et al. (2014) as one of the ways to resolve contradictions and overcome the barrier of the generation gap. Moreover, as Miranda, Affuso, Esposito, and Bacchini (2016) remark, “adolescents perceive their mothers and fathers as similarly accepting or rejecting,” which allows talking about the equal influence of parents (Corey et al., 2014, p. 1352). If adults take into account the interests of children and are loyal to hobbies in a certain area, it will bring together both generations and enable them to understand each other. It also applies to gender stereotypes when boys or girls are forced to engage in activities that adults consider to be correct (Webb, Zimmer-Gembeck, & Donovan, 2014). Cultural pluralism involves respect for the interests of other individuals. The freer teens will be in choosing their hobbies, music, sports, and other activities, the higher the chance is the contact with adults will be positive. Therefore, the practice of cultural pluralism can play an essential role in the process of establishing interaction.
Self-disclosure and cultural pluralism can be successful practices in communicating with teenagers and overcoming the barrier of the generation gap. Some stereotypes about adolescents influence public opinion, which negatively affects the characteristics of relationships among people of different ages. Specific techniques for establishing contact can provide significant assistance in the process of socialization of adolescents and their interaction with other people, including family members. Gender, cultural, and other differences can be superficial, and particular attention should be paid to teenagers’ experiences.
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Corey, G., Corey, M. S., Corey, C., & Callanan, P. (2014). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (9th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Garthe, R. C., Sullivan, T. N., & Kliewer, W. (2018). Longitudinal associations between maternal solicitation, perceived maternal acceptance, adolescent self-disclosure, and adolescent externalizing behaviors. Youth & Society, 50(2), 274-295.
Miranda, M. C., Affuso, G., Esposito, C., & Bacchini, D. (2016). Parental acceptance-rejection and adolescent maladjustment: Mothers’ and fathers’ combined roles. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(4), 1352-1362.
Murnen, S. K., Greenfield, C., Younger, A., & Boyd, H. (2016). Boys act and girls appear: A content analysis of gender stereotypes associated with characters in children’s popular culture. Sex Roles, 74(1-2), 78-91.
Romer, D., Reyna, V. F., & Satterthwaite, T. D. (2017). Beyond stereotypes of adolescent risk taking: Placing the adolescent brain in developmental context. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 27, 19-34.
Webb, H. J., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Donovan, C. L. (2014). The appearance culture between friends and adolescent appearance-based rejection sensitivity. Journal of Adolescence, 37(4), 347-358.