Through the course of this essay I will evaluate the different theories of adolescences in order to account for some of the deviant behaviour that is associated with adolescence, it will therefore be necessary to discuss the physical and psychological process that occur at this distinctive stage of lifespan development and the effects that these have on behaviour.Adolescence comes from the Latin word adolescere, which means ‘to grow into maturity’ its start is generally marked by the biological onset of puberty, which signals the end of childhood, this brings with it an array of psychological, sociological and biological changes, which cause a period of turmoil and anxiety which extends rouffly from the age of eleven to twenty in western societies.
Hall is seen as the father of scientific study of adolescence, he emphasized the hormonal, biological and physical changes of puberty as the driving force of ‘storm and stress’ experienced by adolescences. The psychoanalytic approach to adolescences is characterised by three ideas and concentrates on the psych-sexual development, which starts with the upsurge of instincts, which occur as a result of puberty. Freud (1937) states, ” this upsets the psychic balance that was achieved at the end of childhood, causing internal emotional upheaval, leading to a greatly increased vulnerability of personality.” Secondly maladaptive behaviour can result from the inability of the psychological defences to cope with inner conflicts and tensions leading to behaviours such as extreem mood changes and low self-esteem. Thirdly the adolescent must go through a process of disengagement, which is necessary if mature. Emotional and sexual relationships are to established outside the home.
The onset of adolescences is a period characterised by rapid and uneven growth and research into deviant behaviour as a result of puberty has concentrated on the early or late onset of puberty. There are two principle theories that are associated with the reaching of puberty ‘of time’; the ‘deviance hypothesis’ suggests that being of time causes difficulties for adolescence adaptation, placing the adolescence in a socially deviant category of individuals (Alsaker 1995). Secondly the ‘developmental stage hypothesis’ which maintains that early maturation rather than late maturation puts the individual at risk of developmental difficulties, Petersen (1980) states, “early maturation is though to interrupt the developing identity and thrust the individual from childhood to adulthood without consolidating adaptive skills.” Therefore as a consequence of this the early maturer may be unable to cope with the developmental tasks expected of them.
A growing amount of research has concentrated on the psychological effects of pubertal timing in adolescent girls and concluded that as a result of the biological changes in early maturing girls, height gain, breast development, weight gain and changes in body proportions which can lead to stress, at a time when Shirley (2000) states, ” they must accommodate to the physical changes in a culture milieu that, for girls values the prepubertal over the female body.”
Happening at a time perhaps cutting short the childhood development process early, and as a result of social and emotional complications leads to feelings of awkwardness at a time when inner self evaluation is heightent and very critical due to an increased ability to think hypothetically and abstractly, consequently developing feelings of low self-esteem, depression and dieting which has the potential to be serious, puberty is a crucial age for the onset of eating disorders, Rutter (1993) states, “marked increase in fat is a key influence inducing dieting in adolescence girls, this when extreme and associated with a profound dissatisfaction with body image shows parallels of the psychiatric condition of anorexia nervosa and bulimia.” This reflects the severe standards of our society and individual pathologies in trying to meet those standards.
These early maturing females are in a minority in regard to physical appearance, at a time when social expectance is important, rejection by peers means that they have a smaller social network of same age peers to look for support, many adolescence in this situation begin to seek an older more mature group of friends, and this association of older peers can render them more vulnerable to deviant behaviour and sexual pressures.
Magnusson (1988) found that early maturing girls were more likely to be involving in taking alcohol, drugs, breaking social norms and behaviour problems in school; however this was not true of all early maturers only of those who associated with a older peer group. Adolescences respond to peer group influences more readily because of the crucial role that peer relationships play in identity formation, the desire for acceptance and approvals renders them more susceptible to peer influences.
Boy’s reactions to early puberty are different to that of girls generally it is viewed as positive giving them status among peers. Williams (1999) carried out research on pubertal timing and delinquency among male adolescence and concluded fairly consistent findings that there was significantly higher reporting of deviant behaviour among ‘of timers’ whether early or late. Late maturers have been variously found to feel inadequate rejected and dominant to more independent, aggressive and insecure, and to rebel more against their parents. Of those studies that do report an association between pubertal timing and delinquency among boys, early maturers have most often been shown to engage in higher rates of deviance (Buchanan (1992).
The gains in physical and physiological development that take place during adolescences are accompanied by gains in intellectual and cognitive development. Piaget provided a theory that changes in adolescent behaviour might be associated with cognitive abilities. The final stage of cognitive development in Piaget’s theory is that of ‘formal operations’, which emerges at the time of adolescences and with this stage, mental operations become more abstract, complex and logical. This could account for adolescences becoming more vocal and argumentative that what they previously have been
The relationship between parents and children during adolescence generally gathers greater distances, triggered by biological and cognitive changes, disagreements between teenagers and parents increases and this is a critical time for rearrangement and redeveloping of family ties. This is most intense during the middle stage of adolescence and is associated with autonomy and as this is an important issue for identity, the struggle for autonomy becomes more and more an important issue in the adolescence battle for independence from the family, however Coleman states, “this establishing rights to freedom and independence happens at a stage when parents least wish to lose control.” Research carried out by Steinburg (1987) found that, irrespective of when puberty occurred, it was associated with increase behaviour autonomy, decreased emotional closeness to parents and increased conflict.