Introduction to Middle Childhood and Adolescence
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504 Instructor: D. Witt
The course deals with the physical, biological, and
social/emotional development from pre-teen (from age
8-10) to teenager (from age 11-22 or so).
Because no one develops in isolation, there are
important social influences constantly at work during
this time. Thus, we must consider variables like
family, peers, culture, and school.
This is a rough and rocky period of growth for children
- and an extremely interesting one. Many of you
are just coming out of adolescence yourselves. Some of
us never quite make it out, and some say that becoming a
complete adult requires staying in touch with some of
the playfulness we discovered in childhood.
As a group, young adults today emerging from these
processes are demonstrably more achievement, money and
college oriented , more likely to volunteer for
community projects, growing up earlier, pushed into
adult situations, more likely to have maturational
difficulties, more likely to be working at a job earlier
in life, more likely to be unemployed or underemployed,
more financially dependent on parents for longer periods
into adulthood, more likely to have experienced the use
alcohol and drugs, show more interest in sexuality at
earlier ages, more aware of some of their rights, more
unaware of their citizenship responsibilities, more
likely to be exploited, more interested in physical
fitness and more likely to be over or underweight , more
influenced by media, more sexually forgiving or
permissive, and more preoccupied with self.
Adolescents are often
preoccupied with media, music and fashion. These
parts of the culture provide "role equipment" necessary
for them to perform their achieved roles. Because
virtually all popular culture has a commercial
component, children and teenagers have become target
markets for the industry. Technology, coupled with
commerce can have positive and negative effects on the
Setting the stage for development, an example:
I was born in Lubbock in
1948. The social response to these disparate innovations
was a real departure from the normal environment for a
child's development. After the Great Depression and the
world war, parents were adjusting to a new period of
affluency (more family resources), the economy was
adjusting to record profits and expanding into new
markets, including popular music aimed at teenagers. and
the educational system was historically retooled to
respond to the threats of new war technology from the
Soviets. My peer group and I were viewed as the bright
and hopeful future for our families and for our
society. There was also the danger that we
were going to hell in a hand basket - via sex, drugs and
rock and roll. As a result of all this, I have a
perspective on the world and myself that is almost
completely influenced by my training and my life in an
environment characterized by change.
Discovery of Adolescence 1890-1920
Hall introduced the debatable notion of adolescence as a period of storm and stress (Sturm und Drang) where thoughts and feelings and actions oscillate between conceit and humility, goodness and temptation, happiness and sadness, kindness and cruelty. These mood swings, in an adult, would be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, but for adolescents, this is said to be quite normal.
Study of Adolescence in the 20th Century
A stereotype is a broad category that reflects our general (and uninformed) impressions about people. For example, all African-Americans people have rhythm, all Latino men are all good lovers, the Irish are prone to alcoholism, all redheads have bad tempers, all big people are jolly, all teenagers are rebellious and selfish. The adolescent generalization gap Adelson's concept of widespread generalizations about adolescents based on information about a limited, highly visible group of adolescents.Studies are showing that most adolescents, especially those with competent parents are good people who aren't overloaded with deep emotional turmoil or other social short-comings. For example, in international studies, 73% of the teens sampled had healthy self-images, expressed confidence about their sexual selves, and positive feelings toward their families, and felt they could cope with troubles as they come along.This refers to stages through which each person will pass during their lifetime. Development means a pattern of movement or change that begins at conception and continues through out the life cycle. Most development involves growth, maturation, and involves several processes at once.
The Nature of Development
Throughout the course, we will try to keep three themes in mind:
Changes in Population Diversity
In 1950 the percentage of the population as a whole that was considered "minority" was 10.7%. Today that percentage is closer to 19-20% overall and will likely climb to 25% by 2080. Thinking in terms of geographical differences and rural vs. urban differences, these changes in diversity make for very real social differences and changes in the culture. We are seeing political leadership becoming more diverse, as is economic, educational and religious leadership. Louis Wirth (1945) defined minority as a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in a society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. Minority status carries with it the exclusion from full participation in the life of the society, by this definition. Minorities can be set apart by: race religion nationality or other characteristics, such as: age gender disability, or by BEING ADOLESCENT.
More diversity makes for vaccinations against discrimination and unequal treatment. The Assimilation argument that minorities are absorbed, over time, into the larger society was to be accomplished largely through public schools. This worked for most all Caucasian groups - Irish, Polish, Hungarians, leaving people of color unassimilated in many ways until more recently. The Acculturation argument suggests that assimilation to the social system occurs only to the extent that strong cultural ties to one's own group can be diminished. Our economy is partially based on target markets, some of which are comprised of minorities, most of which are not. Thus, we can have much in common with African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans by eating the same food, singing the same songs, experiencing similar family lives, living under the same rules, having the same chances in life to achieve, learn, and work.
The truth probably is that we are all facing many of the same challenges and opportunities. The ability to individually recognize and capitalize on what life will bring us depends, almost completely, on the quality of our environment as we develop from infancy, through childhood and adolescence, and on into adulthood.
Next time, we will begin our study of how this all works from a theoretical perspective, looking at theories of human development.