May 28, 2012
Adaptation of Adolescence: Past and Present
Adolescence became an important part in development a half-century ago; a transitional area needed identifying for the young adults that maintained a small fraction of the population in school and the men already working (Settersten & Ray, 2010). Recently, that definer requires re-evaluation because societal norms and major markers of adolescence have changed in the past few decades. A new transitional area for development has already begun. Keeping an organized life-span development perspective joined with societal norms is necessary. This serves as a pathway for individuals to chart their developmental progress by and assert or reevaluate themselves in the bigger scheme of life. In the last half-century, many theorists and researchers have contributed important developmental theories to the life-span perspective. Some are relied on today, but others are outdated through new research and changing times, such as society is adapting to adolescence with a different attitude over the last few decades. This requires re-evaluating the prerequisites of the adolescence developmental stage; what theories remain influential, those that are now outdated and no longer practical in emotional, social, physical, or cognitive-development.
The Terms of Adolescence
A Half-Century Ago
When the word adolescent was solidified in the earlier part of this century, it came with distinct lines that young adults would pass through, mature to, or accomplish that would catapult them into adulthood at very early ages (Settersten & Ray, 2010). “To leave home quickly in the 1950’s was “normal” because opportunities were plentiful and social expectations of the time reinforced the need to do so” (Settersten & Ray, 2010, p. 24). A high school diploma in mid-century guaranteed the ability to establish a concrete standard of living. According to Furstenberg (2000), the term adolescence emerged discretely as a life stage when the transition from childhood to adulthood was “…more predictable, rapidly accomplished, and socially organized (p. 897). “ Typically, marriage was the central event that orchestrated the many aspects of the passage to adulthood, including school departure, entrance to the labor force; the onset of sexual relations…. departure from natal household” (Furstenberg, 2000, p. 898). The definition became kinetic when “Unemployment, the extension of education, and the decline of the family-based farms began to create a social class of people who were neither children nor adult” (Furstenberg, 2000, p. 897). Affected by the Great Depression and World War II, markers of adolescence redefined, conforming to societal pressures. The Great Depression slowed the timing in family formation, then World War II changed the pace of adolescence, again, as young adults proceeded to marry and have children right away. While the century progressed, young adults started forming their families in their late teens (Settersten & Ray, 2010). In the Last Few Decades
Adolescence has been the hallmark period of transitioning into adulthood that begins with puberty, generally 12 years of age for girls and 14 years of age for boys (An Encyclopedia Britanica Company, 2012). Furstenberg (2000) explains that the familiar trails of adolescence began to change in late 1960, as unfamiliar paths emerged preventing the transition into adulthood, by extending adolescents beyond their twenties and well into their thirties. Berk (2010) compares U.S. adolescents’ sexual attitudes today to those attitudes a generation ago, noting they are more liberal now. The past 40 years has allowed that sex before marriage is okay, usually occurring today by ninth grade, and whereas sex and marriage were previously major milestones in the transition from adolescence, they are now a practical part of being a teenager. “First, both...