The adolescent period is marked by a number of physical and emotional changes for individuals. During this period, an individual strives to move from the identity that is dependent on parental and societal influence in to one that is determined by the individual. The purpose of this paper is to review the moral developments during this period of identity formation, and whether it is an entirely free process. To do this, the paper will rely on selected literature to study the various dimensions related to the issue. Introduction
One of the hallmarks of adolescence is the search for identity. At this stage of human development, the individual attempts to cultivate a personal identity that will act as the basis for person’s future life. Consequently, this stage is mostly marked by defiance and general non conformity, which happens as one tries to explore practices that are not necessarily in line with both societal and familial norms and expectations. Although important, the search for identity may be a source of discord between an individual and the family or society.
The discord may become a source of antagonism between the individual and the society, but more importantly, it may lead to a realization of moral consciousness for the adolescent. In the context of this paper, the word moral shall be taken to be what one perceives right or wrong based on personal conscience. In that regard, moral achievement refers to positive changes in conscience one undergoes during the adolescent period. The paper will be based on selected literature available on the subject.
It is however worth noting that the subject under discussion is a multidimensional one, and for that reason, the paper will confine itself to those dimensions covered in the literature as a way of ensuring systematic coverage. The paper will study coping socialization agents, drug use, parental influence on school disposition and identity problems. These are some of the dimensions related to moral achievements. However, even though an individual is supposed to develop a personal identity during this period, the resulting identity is always influenced by external factors such as that from peers, societal and parental influence.
Coping Coping refers to an individual’s ability to appropriately react to situations as they arise. Adolescents, like all the other human beings experience adjustments and extensive stressors. According to (Garcia, 2009), some of these stressors and adjustments include dealing with peer relationships, physical and emotional changes that an individual experiences during the period, family dynamics, poverty and crime. Proper coping means that the adolescents must be able to deal with these challenges with resilience and show positive health outcomes (Garcia, 2009).
An adolescent achieves cognitive and moral development in a set of three stages. According to (Garcia, 2009), these stages are assimilation, accommodation and equilibration. In addition to these strategies, the adolescent develops critical thinking and information processing, which enables for gradual development of the mind in an adult like thinking one. Guided by the newly acquired traits of critical thinking and information processing, the individual moves away from what they conceive as parental influence and set out to develop their own way of approaching life.
At this stage the individual is torn between peer influences and conformity with parental expectations. According to (Garcia, 2009), a well coping individual should be able to develop a healthy identity, which is one developed by the individual as opposed to one imposed by peers or parents. An important element related to coping developed during the adolescent period is the coping strategy. Most prominent of these strategies, according to (Garcia, 2009) is problem solving or help seeking. In other words, during this period, the adolescent will develop coping strategies.
In the study, (Garcia, 2009) undertook a study of literature related to the general subject of coping. The study identified coping as coping as one of the key pillars in the health of adolescents. The study found that unhealthy coping strategies lead to unhealthy mental health states such as depression and exhaustion. It is therefore important that during adolescence one develops appropriate coping strategies towards various stressors and adjustments. Religion, peer pressure and drug use These issues are related to search for identity.
At this stage, the individuals experiment with new religions, try different types of drugs, which may all be a result of succumbing to influences from peers. According to a survey reported by (Bahr & Hoffman, 2008), 22% of youths admitted having used cigarettes, while another 45% had used alcohol, with another 30% reporting being drunk and 18% acknowledged using marijuana. This was a survey done on high school seniors, most or all of who are in the adolescent stage. The finding is a pointer to how life is volatile for the adolescent. (Bahr & Hoffman, 2008) further notes that there is a negative correlation between religiosity and drug use.
In a way, the report endorses religion as a way of reducing drug use because youths with religious affiliations showed less affinity to drug use. To justify this correlation, the study uses social control theory. According to the theory, deviance is more of a natural act while conformity is not. It then follows that religiosity brings in prosocial controls that encourage individuals to conform. Without it, the individuals would follow their natural instincts, which would mean becoming defiant. The other theory used by the report is social learning theory.
From the perspective of social learning theory, the religious groups take precedence over friends and family on matters concerning drug use so that instead of individuals picking this habit from them, they are taught by the church (Bahr & Hoffman, 2008). After establishing theories to explain correlations, the study of (Bahr & Hoffman, 2008) notes some control variables such as gender and race and then goes ahead to carry out a survey to validate the hypothesis. The result found a negative correlation on religion measured against cigarettes, heavy drinking and marijuana.
The results on other illicit drugs were inconsistent and therefore inconclusive. From the study however, it clear that adolescents can, to an extent, be protected from drug use by being encouraged to take up religiosity. Socialization for adolescents Within an adolescent’s life, there are several agents of socialization. Among these are school, family, peer groups (friends) and community. (Arnon, Shamai, & Ilatov, 2008) did a research in which peer pressure was examined and its effects compared with those of the other agents such as family, school and community.
The researchers’ decision to focus on peer influence is premised on the fact that as people approach adolescence, they tend to move away from parents, religious institutions and other official socialization institutions within the community. That therefore leaves peers as the most significant influences at this point because the youths will tend to spend more time with them at the exclusion of the other socialization agents. The study also relies on social theory to explain the influences of peer groupings.
Although the study notes the negative influence of peers, it nevertheless notes that it is important for peers to move away from parents for them to develop an independent identity. What the study finds negative is the tendency of the peers to move from parental influence in to conformity towards peer expectations. The identity so obtained will not be a healthy one according to the earlier noted definition. From the study, it emerged that peer groups were the most influential followed closely by family. Other agents, notably school and community only provided secondary influence.
It is therefore clear that adolescents submit themselves to be influenced by peers and other socialization agents. Taking in to account the context of this paper, one can conclude that an adolescent’s moral achievement will largely be dictated by the kind of socialization agents in play during the period. Identity problem symptoms in adolescents (Berman, Weems, & Petkus, 2009) defines identity disorder as the inability of an individual to accept aspect oneself. A person is deemed to an identity disorder if for one reason or another, the individual cannot accept certain or all aspects related to his persona.
Consequently, the individual becomes predisposed to self denial leading to a form of distress, which may manifest itself in a number of ways. Some of the areas of concern related to this problem, as listed by (Berman, Weems, & Petkus, 2009), include career choice, sexual orientation, friendship and religious identification. The research underscores the importance of identity disorder by citing the fact that the problem is listed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) criteria for mental disorders.
The importance of identity formation is identified by Erik Erikson as crucial process in young adults because it does provide one with a future direction while at the same time giving a sense of continuity from the past (Berman, Weems, & Petkus, 2009). Adolescent’s search for identity is characterized by two dimensions; exploration and commitment. The two dimensions can be combined by the individual differently so as to come up with differing identity statuses. For instance, one of the statuses is known as achievement. An individual with this kind of status has a high exploration and commitment tendencies.
Such kinds of individuals tend to be less predisposed to identity disorders. The aim of the study was to show that trouble with identity fit the definition necessary for them to be termed as disorder. Currently, issues related to identity crisis are classified as problems and not disorder, and have consequently been downgraded within the DSM hierarchy. The downgrade is symbolic because the hierarchy is used by various medical stakeholders such as insurance companies and medical practitioners to determine priority in terms of coverage and treatment. The study found that 14.
3% of the sample met DSM IV criteria for identity problem (Berman, Weems, & Petkus, 2009). It goes to show that the current classification of the problem is unfair because it underestimates its effects. The study then attributes the rise in the identity problem to increased globalization and immigration, which has subsequently led to more clashes between different cultures and more confusion. Moral achievement in as far as identity formation is therefore dependent on how the youth is able to cope with the increase cultural diversity (or clashes) and globalization. Parental influence and its role in on student’s attitude towards school
Parents have a role to play in influencing the attitudes children adopt towards schooling. (Annear & Yates, 2010) did a study on how parents influence the children’s disposition towards school. The study drew from a number of aspects of parenting related to schooling such as perceptions of a child’s potential, monitoring and control, level of affect and focus on a child’s ability. The study takes the view that authoritarian kind of parenting was likely to result in lower grades as opposed to parents who allowed their children to undergo the normal process of socialization.
It refers to the authoritarian type of parenting as restrictive parenting while for the more liberal parenting, the term used in autonomy support. The study used a sample made up of both parents and students to come up with its findings. The only variable within the study was whether the parent in question was a mother or father. Generally, the study found that autonomy support to have favorable results both in terms of grades and disposition. Further to that, the study found additional side effects of restrictive parenting as sadness, depression and loneliness. Conclusion
From the foregoing, it clear that extraneous factors are more responsible at determining an individual’s moral achievement during adolescents. Ultimately, an individual will be responsible for shaping the direction life will take after breaking free of childhood dependencies and parental influence. It however emerges from the paper that even as one breaks free of these influences in search of individual identity external influence is not extinguished, rather, it is just transferred from one entity to another. Implied here is the fact that freedom from childhood dependencies does not mean complete freedom.
In an ideal situation, approaching adulthood would mean that one gets to chart the future devoid of external influences so that the individual can claim full credit for the personality developed thereafter. However, that postulation is invalidated by the paper. Theories such as social learning and social control theory would have no place in an adolescent’s world or an adult’s world was that assumption to hold water. This paper limited itself to the adolescent ages between 12 and 18 years, and may not have sufficient grounds to make any inferences concerning post adolescent life.
However, this matter can also be extrapolated, to some extent. Given that individuals at adolescence have partially entered adulthood, it also follows that adolescent behavior is not far from adult behavior. For that reason, it is safe to assume that adult behavior will also be subject to influences from external sources, and especially, socialization agents. Bibliography Annear, K. D. , & Yates, G. C. (2010). Restricitve and supportive parenting: Effects in children’s school affect and emotional responses. The Australian Educational Researcher , 63-82. Arnon, S. , Shamai, S.
, & Ilatov, Z. (2008). Socialization agents and activities of young adolescents. San diego: Libra publishers. Bahr, S. J. , & Hoffman, J. P. (2008). Religiosity, peers, and adolescent drug use. Journal of Drug Issues , 743-770. Berman, S. L. , Weems, C. M. , & Petkus, V. F. (2009). The Prevalence and Increamental Validity of Identity Problem Symptoms in a High School Sample. Child psychiatry and human development , 183-195. Garcia, C. (2009). Conceptualization and measurement of coping during adolescence: A review of the literature. Journal of Nursing scholarship , 166-185.
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