Does Adolescence Have to Be a Problematic Stage?
Adolescence is a stage that’s full of social and psychological changes that young people experience. It’s a developmental stage that follows puberty, a time when the greatest physical and sexual changes take place. It also has a reputation for being a very difficult stage, both for children and their parents. But does adolescence have to be a problematic stage?
Before answering that question, let’s take some time to better define what adolescence is. We can say that adolescence is a transition period that takes place between childhood and adulthood. What’s more, it consists of three different phases:
- Early adolescence: From 11 to 14 years.
- Mid adolescence: From 15 to 17 years.
- Late adolescence: From 18 to 21 years.
“Adolescence is the conjugator of childhood and adulthood.”
– Louise J. Kaplan –
The image of adolescents in society
In general, modern society has a negative image of youth. That’s because we see adolescence as a stage where conflict, instability, problems, and drama are dominant.
In fact, according to a study by psychologists Francisco Jose Casco and Alfredo Oliva, mothers, fathers, teachers and the elderly perceive adolescents in a very stereotypical manner. The study revealed that the characteristics that these four groups tend to associate with adolescence are the following:
- Excessive interest in having a good time.
- Promiscuity and interest in sex.
- Impulsivity and lack of self-control.
- Drug and alcohol consumption.
- Antisocial behavior and vandalism.
What’s more, there are various theories, including in the field of psychoanalysis, that support these stereotypes. They define the concept of adolescence as a turbulent and unstable period where individuals experience conflicts in the following areas:
- Their own body image. Here, they begin to compare themselves with others and with societal standards of beauty.
- Sexual maturity and activity.
- Distancing from paternal figures and the growing importance of peer relationships.
- Decisions regarding what to study and entering the working world.
But the question remains… does adolescence have to be a problematic stage?
Does adolescence have to be a problematic stage?
Adolescents find themselves in the middle of a growth and maturation process, having a great deal of brain plasticity. This allows them to take on the changes and adapt to their environment easily. In other words, this is the perfect time in their lives to increase their potential and their capabilities in the following areas:
But whether or not teens develop in a healthy, balanced, and successful way depends on the context where they grow up. In the same way, it depends on the social relationships they establish during this period.
Therefore, adolescence doesn’t have to be a problematic and conflicting time. Rather, it can be a very positive and enriching period that’s full of good opportunities.
“Adolescence is interesting. I mean, all of life is interesting and all of life is transitionary. But I think there is an exponential growth physically, intellectually, emotionally, and there is so much potential.”
– Bill Henson –
Positive development during adolescence
Positive development during adolescence consists of achieving a maximum adjustment between children and their environment. When we say environment, we’re referring to family, school, groups of friends, etc.
Therefore, society needs to get rid of its negative perspective of adolescents and take on a more proactive stance. This involves focusing on giving them possibilities that encourage good conduct and behaviors. It means filling youth with competencies and abilities that allow them to achieve social, academic, and professional wellbeing.
In other words, adolescence is a time when individuals experience a variety of changes – but they don’t have to be a problem. In fact, just the opposite can be true. Mothers, fathers, teachers, and any adult in a child’s life should help guide, orient, and support youth in this transitional stage.
“Adolescence is a new birth, for the higher and more completely human traits are now born.”
– Granville Stanley Hall –