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Storm and Stress

By mchunka Nov 18, 2008 1158 Words
Introduction
For my final interview, I decided to do the phase of development that has nearly been completed in my own life: adolescence. In order to get adequate detail, I chose to interview a close friend of mine who is also nineteen. We ate lunch while I briefed her on the types of questions I would be asking her. Once we had finished off the queso and chips, we headed to her apartment where the real debriefing would begin. My goal in conducting the last interview was to find genuine, honest answers to the perplexity that lies in adolescence. According to Piaget, this stage is crucial to identity formation, so I wanted to focus on the role self esteem and self concept play into shaping our development (Belsky 307). Interview & Discussion

To start with an ice breaker between friends I asked at what age she had achieved the delight that is puberty. She recalled the event occurring at age twelve. Although a century ago, this number would be shockingly below the average, Belsky reveals a dramatic decline in which girls are reaching menarche, or first menustration. In the 1800’s the average was about seventeen compared to 1960 when the average dropped to a mere twelve and a half (Belsky 241). Many factors account for individual differences in the timing of menarche. I asked her if any of the early markers applied to her. Being African American, overweight, under considerable stress around the time of maturation, or simply being raised by a single mother can all contribute to an early start (Belsky 248). Mary was only slightly below the average, but she concluded that her parents’ divorce must have been the trigger. At eleven years old they decided to split, but sometimes divorce can take years to be finalized. Coincidentally, the court hearings took place a few weeks before her first menustration. For early maturing girls life stress can trigger the onset, and sometimes that is not where the turmoil ends. Early maturing girls are at risk for developing anxiety or depression (Belsky 251). I asked Mary if she had experienced any problems as an early starter, and she said no. Next, I asked about her body image, and that was somewhat of a different response. Another concern with early development lies in our society’s obsession with being pencil thin. Since the growth spurt occurs earlier, they end up being shorter than other girls. (Belsky 251). Mary confided that she had struggled with her body image and self esteem since middle school. Surveys show that one in two U.S. girls are trying to lose weight (Belsky 254) With this in mind, it is clear to see how dieting has progressed to a more serious threat known as disordered eating. This includes patterns of eating and other behaviors that can lead to a full blown eating disorder (NEDA.org). As young as fourteen Mary skipped meals and excessively exercised. Fortunately, her parents saw the signs and sent her to a counselor that specialized in eating disorders and restoring a healthy body image. “I learned a lot about what really makes us beautiful as people.” Useful interventions such as these can vastly improve self esteem and correct neglectful habits before developing into something more life threatening. (NEDA.org). Not only can counseling improve body image, but it also allows self-confidence to flourish in all aspects of life. For example, the next few questions were pertaining to teen sexuality. Another risk of developing early is early sexual activity that is more likely to be unprotected (Belsky 251). When I asked if she felt she could abstain in the event her boyfriend was ready before her, she confidently responded yes. She also said she would never engage in sexual activity without the use of birth control. This contends with contemporary research that states teens feel more comfortable charting their own sexual path now more than ever before (Belsky 263). Playing out hypothetical situations led me to ask about hypothetical reasoning. I inquired as to when it was she thought she felt capable of manipulating abstract thought. She recalled being sixteen and questioning politics for the first time. “I remember hearing about the war on the news. It was the first time it had really struck me what was going on, and from then on I started asking a million questions.” The last phase of Piaget’s cognitive development called formal operations occurs when we are able to manipulate abstract concepts (Belsky 272). According to Elkind, it is at this point in a person’s life that he/she will use their new mental abilities to question everything (Belsky 276). Mary realized that what the government says it will do and what it actually does is not always the same thing. Moreover, analyzing the flaws of others leads to an obsession with how others are viewing us. The tendency for teenagers to think everyone else is also focused on them is called adolescent egocentrism (Belsky 277). When I explained this concept to Mary, she decided that must have contributed to the cause of her disordered eating. When teen girls set unrealistically high expectations of themselves, they believe others are holding the same standards of them. This unneeded anxiety stems from the belief in the imaginary audience. Not only are others aware of their flaws, they are also watching their every action (Belsky 277). Unfortunately for parents, this does not play in decision making when it comes to risk taking. Instead, the component known as personal fable allows teens to believe they are special and perhaps invincible (Belsky 277). Risky behavior and adolescence go hand and hand. A 2005 survey showed that majority of high school seniors had consumed alcohol at least once (Belsky 281). Mary relayed that she is a typical teen, since she has tried alcohol. This should not be a concern if teens possess other qualities that promote thriving. To be considered thriving, teens must exhibit a passion for something or show connectedness to others, especially family members (Belsky 284). Mary has been involved with a show choir since the beginning of high school. She also volunteers at the local animal shelter and loves animals. When I asked who she felt closest to, she answered that she felt her mother was her best friend. Conclusion

In summation, I have learned about many major milestones that contribute to our self-concept and how we come to view ourselves. I learned that I am not the only actor on the egocentric stage of adolescence. I learned about the inner workings of my best friend and came to understand her on a much more personal level. Most importantly, I learned the storm of adolescence is needed for the flowers of human nature to bloom!

Works Cited
Belsky, Janet. Experiencing the Lifespan. New York, New York: Worth Publishers, 2007. "Disordered Eating." NEDA.org . 2008. National Eating Disorders Association. 14 Nov 2008 .

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