PSY 206 – Dr. Greenspan
Montgomery County Community College
April 15, 2013
Adolescence is defined as the transition between childhood and adulthood. Many changes happen at this stage. Adolescence involves things such as puberty, greater independence, and a time when someone begins to construct their identity. Identity means their life value and goals including a secure sense of who they are in terms of sexual, vocational, and moral ethics. In the next few paragraphs I will be discussing my Virtual Child, Maeve as she went through adolescence (ages 11- 16). I am going to delve into the different changes I saw in her and how they relate to theories proposed by Piaget, Erikson, Marcia, and Gardner. Each theory deals with development through adolescence and will help give a better understanding of this time in Maeve’s life.
According to Piaget, around age 11 young people enter the formal operational stage. Here they develop the capacity for abstract, systematic, scientific thinking. Whereas concrete operational children can “operate on reality,” formal operational adolescents can “operate on operations.” They can come up with new, more general logical rules through reflection, rather than just using concrete things as objects of thought. (p.301). Formal operational thought invokes verbal reasoning about abstract concepts. Adolescents doing things such as physics are examples of their operating within this stage. Maeve always did well in her math and science grades but, by 10th grade she was very enthusiastic about physics. She even went and entered one of her science projects into a county-wide science fair. Maeve has also taken, and done well, in art since the 7th grade. At age 14, Maeve's English class required she submit a poem into a school-wide contest. Maeve's poem took home first place in the contest, and her work was placed in a state-wide contest. Her work on art and poetry were reflections of her inner feelings and were not just focused on concrete objects. As Maeve grew cognitively through this stage of her adolescence, she also went through a great deal of emotional and social change. These changes were obvious to us as her parents. These changes were signs that she could think logically and scientifically and was trying to put it all together to form her own identity.
Identity is defined as a well-organized conception of the self, consisting of values, beliefs, and goals to which the individual is solidly committed. Erikson was the first to recognize identity as the major personality achievement of adolescence and as a crucial step toward becoming a productive, content adult. (p.314) Identity is planted in an individual early in life, but it is not until late adolescence and early adulthood that people really take on the task and delve into finding their own identity. By age 12, Maeve began to argue with us over little things such as clothes, bedtime, and household chores. These weren’t things we usually argued over, in fact we rarely argued at all, but as she changed emotionally, so did our arguments. She would talk frequently about what is and isn’t “fair.” Her moral development was forming as she started to differentiate her thoughts like this. As Maeve progressed through adolescence, she continued to grow morally and socially, but remained relatively easy going and well-behaved. She did well in school, saved her money, and was involved in after school activities. By the time she was 16, these actions proved she was responsible, and after practicing with me, she went for her driving test. She was just like any other teenager who wanted to hang out, go shopping, and drive around. But, she still always checked-in with us and was rarely late. She had begun to find her identity through independence and was doing well. Maeve was involved with sports and was looking happily ahead on her path towards college. But, late in 11th grade, Maeve started to change for what could...
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