The youth (15-24 years) is a stage in the life cycle of a human being which is most vulnerable to the influences of socializing agents. Although modern psychologists underscore the importance of early childhood socialization in the later development of the human personality (Freud, 1939), social psychologists maintain that the self and therefore, personality is a social product (Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1934).
Social psychologists like Piaget (1969), basing his theory of cognitive development on his experiments with children, asserts that an individual passes through stages of cognitive development as one matures. He maintains that such cognitive development is achieved through interaction with the environment. Piaget further asserts that the content of what is learned at each stage of the development process depends largely on culture often defined as a people’s way of life.
Adolescence is the last stage before maturity. According to Piaget, it is at this stage that individuals are able to achieve formal abstract thought, can think in terms of theories and hypotheses, can manipulate concepts such as those of mathematics or morality, and can think about personal goals and even ideal social conditions – – a capacity that is often expressed in the idealism of the youth.
Thus the characteristics of the youth today largely reflect their learnings from early childhood and youth socialization processes which they received from socializing agencies first and foremost of which is the family, and those from the school, the peer group, and mass media. These social institutions exist in concrete socio-economic (e. g. social class), political (e. g. form of government), and demographic structures which affect their roles as socializing agents.
A well-adjusted, responsible and well-educated youth is the goal of any society since the roles they play as adults of the next generation will determine the development of that society. Yet, many erroneously conclude that these socializing agents are solely responsible for what the youth are today. Indeed, the major decisions that adolescents take regarding career and roles in life are subject to two levels of influences:
(1) the macro structural environment as conditioned by the socio-economic and demographic onditions, which in turn, is a manifestation of the major decisions in the local political economy, and (2) the influences of the social institutions most importantly those coming from the home and the school (Raymundo, et. al, 1999). In the face of these influences, adolescents manifest their responses, also in two levels: (1) internalized values, attitudes and beliefs about himself/herself and his/her role in society, and (2) behavioral manifestations in more adult roles and functions such as school performance, participation in the work market, and sexual and reproductive behavior.