Adolescence is a period of time in an individual’s life when they undergo the transition from childhood to adulthood. During this time there are a number of changes that occur within a person which can characterise the remainder of their life. Throughout history many intellectuals have made attempts to gain a better understanding of this time and a plethora of different theories on the subject now exist. The thread that binds them is the idea that adolescence is a time of significant ‘storm and stress’, fraught with hardships which are necessary to develop the skills one needs for life. Before describing these theories it is important to understand the definitions of the word ‘adolescence’ as well as gaining an insight into the intellectual origins of the study of adolescence and the notion of ‘storm and stress’.
Adolescence is derived from the Latin word adolescere which means ‘to grow in maturity.’’ Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman (2010) Boyd & Bee (2008) define adolescence as a ‘transitional period between childhood and adulthood’. Through both of these definitions it is clear that adolescence is a time of transition and thus this is a naturally fertile ground for an individual to endure stress.
Adolescence is a short period of time in which an individual has to develop, mentally, physically and socially; childhood is but a memory and adulthood is in front, this itself causes individuals stress as they set out to explore their capabilities and at the same time discovering their inner selves. When individuals start to experience problems at this stage, the period of ‘storm and stress’, then makes its way into their lives as a coping mechanism. This stage in Erikson’s psychosocial theory is called the ‘identity versus role confusion’.
Erikson (1969) was a neo-Freudian theorist who looked at the interaction between internal drives and cultural demands Boyd & Bee (2008). Erikson claimed that in a kind of ‘moratorium between adulthood and childhood’ Boyd & Bee (2008):341. Their old identity will not be enough in adolescence so a new identity should be created, one that will help the young person with all the complex roles they will have to play in adult life. When the individual is confused with these roles they will undergo a critical transition called the identity crisis. Erikson believed that when the individual is undergoing this stage they will identify with peer groups as a defence to the emotional state they go through whilst finding their true selves. This can be a confusing and difficult part in the adolescents life and they will feel stressed and agitated with their lives, this could lead to them feeling suicidal, involving themselves with the wrong company, taking drugs and drinking and being disrespectful to peers and parents. This concept of identity crisis may be relevant to the western societies however the whole concept of identity crisis has been influenced by the cultural assumptions in the western societies where there is a gap between childhood and adulthood where the person is left to find itself and in less industrialised cultures the shift to childhood to adulthood is done without any crisis at all. Boyd & Bee (2008)
Lawrence Kohlberg (1976) is another theorist who has explanations of the why adolescents undergo antisocial behaviour in this part of their lives. He had three stages within his theory of model development. The stage which will be looked at is the second stage which is the ‘conventional moral reasoning’ stage. This Kohlberg believed refers to adolescents who look at society for moral guidance. This could be through media, parental expectations, society expectations and the society norms and values. The adolescent will behave accordingly to receive approval from others as well as participating in behaviours with the social order. In this stage what the individuals...