Another purpose of being a teenager is to allow time for role change and new relationships to form. During adolescence the child-parent relationship must change into a young adult-parent relationship, with the adolescent steadily gaining more freedom. Adolescents strive for independence and autonomy and this may cause teenagers to withdraw into their peer groups away from adult control. This change in relationships may make adolescence a more stressful time than childhood.
Both peer groups and parents have some role to play in helping teenagers through his time, peer groups are important for leisure and discussing clothes and music whereas parents are important for discussing careers or the future. Different generations may have different experiences, as shown in a study by Rossi (’90) who looked at child- parent relationships in the ’40s to ’50s and the ’60s to ’70s, both groups had the worst relationships with their parents at 16 but there was a lower ebb in the later generation.
This suggests that adolescence may not be such a time of stress and turmoil as it used to be because relationships with parents are now better. Hendry et al (’93) found that adolescents were more likely to discuss problems about friends and doubts about their abilities to their mother. It may be that adolescents without a mother figure in their lives are more prone to a stressful transition because most teenagers find it harder to discuss problems with their fathers.
The difficulties experienced by adolescents in Western cultures may not be so likely in cultures where the beginning of adulthood is marked by a ceremony. Initiation ceremonies are often dramatic and painful for boys so that they can prove their manhood, this is very different to the way childhood and adulthood are separated by adolescence in our culture. In our culture it is unclear exactly when childhood ends and adulthood starts because there are differences between when someone id legally an adult and when they are treated as one. Mead described adolescence in the 1920’s in Samoa as ‘the age of maximum ease’ with no emotional turmoil, so adolescence may not cause stress and turmoil in some cultures.
However, Freeman (’83, ’96) questioned these findings because Mead’s understanding of the local language was poor and she may have been conned by teenage girls she interviewed. In some cultures there is no recognition of adolescence and young people are economically self sufficient by mid childhood and can marry and reproduce as soon as sexual maturity is reached. These children do not seem to have the same identity crisis as those in Western cultures because it is clear what is expected from them from an early age and they are treated as adults in the teenage years.
In conclusion, the teenage years are necessary to allow a transition into adulthood, to develop identity and to go through puberty to become physically mature. These years are likely to cause some degree of stress due to the number of changes people must experience but most evidence would suggest that the claim that adolescence always causes stress and turmoil is greatly exaggerated and that in most cases adolescence is a relatively smooth transition.
The extent to which a teenager feels stress or turmoil is largely dependent on individual, time and cultural differences. Stress and turmoil are more likely if the individual experiences non-normative shifts, if they grow up in a culture where the beginning of adulthood is unclear, if puberty occurs early or late or if they experience an identity crisis. It may also be the case that adolescents now experience a different amount of stress than in previous generations because teenagers tend to have more freedom to explore new identities than they used to.