“The transition to adulthood represents a unique window in the life course, providing insight into how childhood advantages and disadvantages persist, fade aways, or are disrupted as an individual moves into adulthood.” (Sharkey, 2012) It is claimed by Wadsworth (2014) that “the adolescence and young adulthood are the best times and worst times of life.” The period of emerging adulthood lays the foundation for development changes people experience throughout their later adult lives. On one hand, the Erikson’s theory demonstrates that the major development in this stage for youths is to increase autonomy and pursue high self-esteem as well as shape the clear sense of identity from the conflict intimacy versus isolation. Both their intelligence and mental abilities are rapidly nurtured by parenting and schooling. On the other hand, teens are frequently confronting adversities and conflicts in the result of depression.
Prior researches and longitudinal studies have proved that contextual risk factors associated with adversity, such as family poverty, single-parent, alcohol & drugs abuse, neighborhood environment, bullying, less or more negatively influence their physical and mental disorders and health problems.This paper will illustrate how various external factors contribute to the dark side of transition and determine youths’ cognitive thinking, physical behaviors and social-emotional performances in psychological development from an adolescent to adulthood. The investigation will examine possible concurrent and prospective effects of substance uses (cigarette, alcohol, marijuana), socioeconomic status (SES), family structure, circumstances of the neighborhood, and aggressive behavior & victimization. In addition, the longitudinal study in the documentary, The 56 UP Series, will further elaborate subjects’ personal destinies associated with the timespecific effects of various external factors. Furthermore, it is necessary to implement relevant interventions to help teenagers to adjust problematical experiences.
For clear discussion of to what extent the consequences of dark sides of young experiences would impact later adulthood positively and negatively, two opposite perspectives should be stated as below:
• Teenagers become more depressed, frustrated, aggressive and have relatively high risks of committed crime from the life barriers, negative influences surrounding the living environment and social rejections in the young age.
• Youths would gradually accept the facts, rapidly adapt the environment they lived in, being more independent, and tend to have stronger maturation development from the personal adversities and hardships in the young stage.
Substance Uses: Smoking & Alcohol & Marijuana
“Multiple social, psychological, and environmental factors have been found to influence substance abuse progression and have been extensively studied as antecedents or correlates of trajectories of substance using.” (Mathur & Stigler, 2014A) There are three major influential factors to determine whether young adolescent smoke and use drugs: parents, peers, and stress. Primarily, Peleg-Oren and Hospital (2013) assert that parental alcohol addiction contribute to teenager drinking alcohol and other illegal drugs. At meanwhile, “youths would be more inclined to drink as parents are relatively uninvolved in their teenagers’ life or set arbitrary or unreasonable standards for their teens.” ( Reesman & Hogan, 2005) As was true for teenage drinking, when parents smoke, their children are more likely to smoke, too. Conversely, youths who live in parental homes with smoking restriction would express antismoking attitude and relatively low initiative to nurture smoking behavior. Subsequently, since the presence of a home ban had a protective effect on initiation and escalation of smoking behavior, they more likely to prefer smoke-free housing as independently living young adult. ( Mathur & Stigler, 2014B)
What’s more, like parents, peer influences can be direct and indirect. A common situation is deemed by Mercken (2007): Many adolescents drinking and smoking when their friends do so. Younger teens often imitate older peers’ behaviors which being regarded as a sign of mature, independence, and rebellion. Additionally, the informal school norms are more subtle influences on youths. For instance, Kumar (2002) investigated that as the majority of students believe that it’s not a big deal to smoke, and just follow other smoke-teens to imitate their behaviors. Thirdly, the more frequently drinking and smoking to alleviate hardships and life stresses, such as problems with parents, with interpersonal relationship, or at school, the more often drinking and smoking to enter a state of neuro-paralysis in order to temperately escape from pressure of reality as they are in later adulthood. Consequently, the substances abuse and excessive smoking not only gradually deteriorate youths’ respiratory system and neural system in their physical bodies as the result of potential risks of illnesses; but also, more terribly, these behaviors are the primary stage on the process to addict more dangerous substances, such as marijuana and cocaine in the emerging adulthood. (Chen et al., 2002)
Socioeconomic Status (SES): Poverty & Affluence
It is commonly believed that socioeconomic status is crucial to determine individual educational background, financial-responsibility, mental health conditions. Kendig’s findings (2011) highlight the ways in which socioeconomic inequality in childhood and adolescence dramatically differentiate youth’s experiences and personal values in young adulthood. Specifically, parental education and family poverty remain after constraining their children educational attainment which related to educational goals and attainment patterns. Alexandria (2013) reported in US News & World Report (2013), in prestigious Ivy Leagues universities, 80 percent of new enrolled freshman students are from upper-middle and upper-class families. Dramatically, these poorer valedictorians who have accepted offers from elite colleges, finally chose to give up their chance and to attend a local and less selective college which provides less resources.
Comparing to affluent peers in private school, even though these poor students are top achievers in both academic performances and extra-curriculum activities in public high school, they throughout socioeconomic spectrum receive insufficient and narrow outside social resources and impersonal guidances, thus having difficulty to envision themselves forward future. In addition, in numerous poor families where no one has attended college, the majority of parents are scared away from an unaffordable college’s sticker price and hold a negative attitude towards their children to attend elite education. Hence, low-income youths probably are heavily enabled and constrained by family circumstances, and wear their educational aspiration for adult development. (Brown, 2009) In the aspect of financial responsibility, poor teens have to take on adult roles relatively “early’ as the some time that those who are supported by high-income family in a longer period of adolescence after past 18th birthday.
Poor youths should achieve economic independence early, while young adults from richer household tend to rely on their parents. (who often help children to pay collage tuition fees and other expenses) Moreover, according to Wadsworth and Achenbach (2005) previous sufficient researches, it is established a negative association between SES and mental and psychological health problems. That is to say, teens who are living in chronic poverty would more likely exaggerate externalizing problems as well as link to initiative of the antisocial behavior problems. However, “it is unclear to what degree the experience of mental health problems in young adulthood is predicted by adolescent adjustment problems, or whether low income and adversity experienced during adolescence continue to affect adult mental health in ways not explained by adolescent adjustment.” (Kiff & Cortes, 2012)
Family Structure: Single-parent & Adolescent Mother
Researches illustrate that single-parent children are inclined to tolerate economic disadvantages, lack of parental emotional supports, and more stress
from peers. (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan, 1997) Despite offering life expense from one side of the parent, the other single-parent who owns custody and guardianship has to bare much more economic pressure to make life as well as educate his/her children at meanwhile. Particularly, as single-parent is frustrated by unemployment or marital conflicts, he/she tends to irritate more easily to perform aggressive behavior, such as corporal punishment towards their children. Consequently, youths will be triggered by depression with symptoms of pervasive feelings of sadness, low self-esteem and aggression. From the perspective of teen, he/she cannot experience both-sides parental love, emotional communication and parenting as much as children from an intimate family.
Subsequently, they may experience more sense of lonely & exclusiveness, inadequate alleviation of stress in the result of inclined risk for conduct and psychological problems. (Hetherington, Bridges, & Insabella, 1998) Bullied victimization is a common issue that single-parented youths are often suffered from due to other peers’ mocking, rejection and unfair treatment. Considering the particular situation of adolescent mother, the children of adolescent mother even have to be higher stress for adjustment issues in wide aspects, including behavioral and emotional problems. Brooks-Gun & Furstenberg (1986) explained that youth perhaps increase risks for engaging in antisocial behavior, including the delinquency and alcohol & smoking abuse as they grown up to adolescence, and this inclined risk for conduct issues will continue into young adulthood.
Aggression & Victimization: Bullying
Bullying is defined as “aggressive behavior which against the victims may be direct (physical, verbal, etc) or indirect (isolation, relational aggression, rumors, etc.), and they often include humiliating elements.” (Perren, 2012A) Youths who have ever experienced family poverty and single-parent as mentioned above either more likely commit to juvenile delinquency or easily suffer from victimization. Summarized by Robert and John (2013), delinquency behavior is classified into adolescent-limited antisocial behavior (engaging in relatively minor criminal acts but aren’t constant) and life-course persistent antisocial behavior. (emerging at an early age and being continuous) From the biological perspective, aggressive or violent behavior is caused by personal temperament, hormones and deficit in the neurotransmitters that inhibit aggressive behavior.
Additionally, parents use harsh discipline or lax monitoring, which are the typical external factors to lead their children potential violent behaviors. However, the victimization from bullying experience is not absolutely negative and painful. To analyze the connection between victimization and moral reason, Peren (2012B) claims that people would be more conceded about unfair experiences and enhance their responsibilities after they are victimized by inequality. Garner and Lemerise (2007) also support that victimized teenagers show more empathic emotion towards and exchanged understanding for others. Even though people with low social class would be inclined to be victimized by bullying peers, they not only more sensitize to unfair and unequal situations, but also become more mature, strong and perseverant to confront hardships and pressures from society and peers.
After analyzing various external and internal factors to impact youths social psychological development from adolescence to young adulthood, the UP Series is an evidential documentary to reveal to what extent the transition from adolescence to adulthood change different participants’ trajectories of their lives. According to Rebecca (2013) film reveals on The New Yorker, Granada Television implemented longitudinal study of sociology to select 14 British children at an age of seven, representing the wide ranges of social-economic background in Britain at 1964, to follow their lives. Every seven years, the director, Michael Apted, interviewed every participant to record their lives in each period of the life-span. This documentary has already published eight episodes, which means all selected children turned to 56 years old and every one has a dramatic life change from childhood. For instance, In the first 7 UP episode, Paul Kligerman was at a charity-based boarding school, and he was disappointed about bullying experiences by other bigger boys as well as showed pessimistic opinion about standing in the corner punished by a teacher.
In addition, he expressed his negative viewpoint that he was not confident about future marriage and would rather to be alone due to his parent’s divorce and remarriage. After leaving school he was employed as a bricklayer and then move to Australia to sustain budgeted life. Another participant named Symon was an illegitimate child who never known his black father. Living in the Children’s Home in London, he was emotionally depressed by his single-parent family circumstance and frequently went through biased judgements by other peers. He experienced divorces for twice times in the middle age of adulthood. On the contrary, Andrew Brackfield and John Brisby were both from upper-class wealthy family, and stated that they often read Financial Times and Observers respectively, as when asked what newspaper they read at their age of seven. Even though John’s father passed ways as he was nine, his mother persisted to work to support his elite education.
Furthermore, both of them studied in prestigious private school and successfully attended to Trinity College, Cambridge and Oxford, respectively, which achieved their clear and ambitious goal being set at fourteen years old. Eventually, Andrew became a solicitor and John achieved to be a barrister. These continuously interviewed subjects are typical representatives for every social status and it is probably assumed that each teen’s social class predetermines their future. To some extent, their personal experiences reinforced the viewpoints in the beginning of introduction that family poverty and affluence, concerning about children’s eduction and parent marital status would play significant influences on the next generation, especially throughout the transition from early adolescence to young adulthood.
Even if the social hierarchy is perpetuated from last generation to new generation, but an individual could strive to fight against the negative influences of transition and turn a bright life path. William Nicholas is the most encouraged example who was raised on a remote and undeveloped farm and educated in a one-room school, but achieved to be a nuclear physicist in the United States. What’s more, mental and psychological disorders would also bring unpredictable dark side to ruin one’s life. For example, Neil is the most dramatic subject who grew up in the middle class family and received well education, but was dropped out of Aberdeen University, and finally was homeless at the end because of an undiagnosed psychological problem which director didn’t mentioned on series.
To summarize, this academic paper suggests that correlates of substances abuse, socioeconomic status (poverty and affluence), various family structures, and bullying probably start teens on a pathway to adult issues throughout adolescent transition. The case study of 56 UP documentary also emphasizes that different factors create positive or negative influences during adolescence to shape one’s life path in later adulthood. Nevertheless, the limitation of this research paper is that it is difficult to account other minor potential risks and unpredictable situations which influence each individual trajectory throughout the transition. Overall, dark side of transition throughout the young adulthood is not absolutely suffering for youths, which depends on how they judge the current circumstance and how much efforts to exert to take a turn from worse to better.
In several circumstances, juvenile performances, behaviors and cognitive thinking are relatively different among the “normal” youths and those who go through much more dark sides of adolescence, but the negative influences are not fetal to determine their rest of lives. Even though the “fortunate” teeners are easily access adequate social resources to acquire better live conditions, welleducation, carefree childhood, those who experience tough dark sides of the adolescence incline to handle life’s younger challenges better, which is a positive sign for development of adulthood. The most important task is how parents, schools, and social educational institutions, as well as educational policies will assist those youths to overcome life barriers and have better and healthier social psychological development in their later adulthood.
Alexandria, W. R. (2013). ‘No Point in Applying’: Why Poor Students Are Missing at Top Colleges, The Atlantic, Retrieved from:
Brooks-Gunn, J., & Duncan, G. J. (1997). The effects of poverty on children. The Future of Children, 7, 55–71.
Brooks-Gunn, J., & Furstenberg, F. F. Jr. (1986). The children of adolescent mothers: Physical, academic, and psychological outcomes. Developmental Review, 6, 224– 251. Brown, R., Copeland, W. E., Costello, E., Erkanli, A., & Worthman, C. M. (2009). Family and community influences on educational outcomes among appalachian youth. Journal Of Community Psychology, 37(7), 795-808.
Chen, Z., Unger, J.B., Palmer, P., Weiner, M.D., Johnson, C.A., Wong, M.M., & Austin, G. (2002) Prior cigaarette smoking initiation predicting current alcohol use: Evidence for gateway drug effect amongCalifonia adolescents from eleven ethnic groups. Addictive Behavior, 27, 799-817.
Garner, P. W., & Lemerise, E. A. (2007). The roles of behavioral adjustment and conceptions of peers and emotions in preschool children’s peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 19(1), 57–71.
Hetherington, E. M., Bridges, M., & Insabella, G. M. (1998). What matters? What does not? Five perspectives on the association between marital transitions and children’s adjustment. The American Psychologist, 53, 167–184.
Kendig, S. M., Mattingly, M. J., & Bianchi, S. M. (2014). Childhood Poverty and the Transition to Adulthood. Family Relations, 63(2), 271-286.
Kiff, C. J., Cortes, R. C., Lengua, L. J., Kosterman, R., Hawkins, J., & Mason, W. (2012). Effects of Timing of Adversity on Adolescent and Young Adult Adjustment. Journal Of Research On Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 22(2), 284-300.
Kumar, R., O’Malley, P.M., Johnston, L. D., Schulenberg, J.-E., & Bachman, J.E. (2002). Effects of school-level norms on student substance use. Prevention Science, 3, 105-124.
Mathur, C., Stigler, M. H., Erickson, D. J., Perry, C. L., & Forster, J. L. (2014A). Transitions in Smoking Behavior During Emerging Adulthood: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effect of Home Smoking Bans. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(4), 715-720.
Mathur, C., Stigler, M. H., Erickson, D. J., Perry, C. L., & Forster, J. L. (2014B). Transitions in Smoking Behavior During Emerging Adulthood: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effect of Home Smoking Bans. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(4), 715-720.
Mercken, L., Candel, M., Willems, P., & de Vries, H. (2007). Disentangling social selection and social influence effects on adolescent smoking: The importance of reciprocity in friendships. British Journal of Addiction, 102, 1483-1492.
Peleg-Oren, N., Hospital, M., Morris, S., & Wagner, E. F. (2013). Mechanisms of Association between Paternal Alcoholism and Abuse of Alcohol and Other Illicit Drugs among Adolescents. Journal Of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 22(2), 133-149.
Perren, S., Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E., Malti, T., & Hymel, S. (2012A). Moral Reasoning and Emotion Attributions of Adolescent Bullies, Victims, and Bully-Victims. British Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 30(4), 511-530.
Perren, S., Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E., Malti, T., & Hymel, S. (2012B). Moral Reasoning and Emotion Attributions of Adolescent Bullies, Victims, and Bully-Victims. British Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 30(4), 511-530.
Rebecca, M. (2013) WHAT “56 Up” REVEALS, The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/01/what-56-up-reveals.html .
Robert, V. K., John, C. C. (2013) The Dark Side: Delinquency. Human Development A Life-Span View, Wadsworth Cengage Leanring Press, 337.
Sharkey, P. (2012). Temporary Integration, Resilient Inequality: Race and Neighborhood Change in the Transition to Adulthood. Demography, 49(3), 889-912.
Adolescence and Young Adulthood—The Best of Times, the Worst of Times. (2014). Wadsworth
Wilson, N., Syme, S. L., Boyce, W. T., Battistich, V. A., & Selvin, S. (2005). Adolescent alcohol, tobacco, and mar- ijuana use: The influence of neighborhood disorder and hope. American Journal of Health Promotion, 20, 11– 19.