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The early adolescence years are a time of important growth in the social, emotional, and cognitive domains of an individual’s life. The psychosocial development theory by Erickson predicts that at this time an individual goes through role and identity psychosocial issues. During this stage, there are other developments that deal with psychosocial functioning which have an impact on the effectiveness of counseling. My research was based on observation made on students in early adolescence between the age of 12 and 18 years; the observation analyzed the behaviors which are representative of their applied developmental behavior and their implications for counseling. In addition, the paper discusses the characteristics of psychosocial stage five, the psychosocial crisis, linked to this stage, the prime adaptive ego qualities, and the core pathologies that are associated with this stage. Finally, the paper discusses other relevant developmental theories that deal with social, emotional, and cognitive development of adolescents.
Developmental psychology involves the scientific analysis of the psychological transformation which takes place in the course of the life of human beings. Human development covers the entire life span of an individual from the time they are infants up to when the individuals are adults. Developmental psychology analyses the changes across a variety of fields that encompass psycho-physiological processes and motor skills. There are different stages in life that present specific competency demands and prototypic challenges for effective functioning and this has an influence on counseling. The ever-changing perspectives, aspirations, and societal systems over the lifetime can change how individuals evaluate, regulate and structure their lives. The psychosocial transformations that come with age, do not symbolize the stages that each individual must inevitably go through as part of a pre-determined sequence of development. There are numerous options through the life span of an individual, at any specific time; individuals vary considerably in their ability to run their lives.
Early adolescence is usually a very stressful time in the stages of development since it entails a fundamental evolution from childhood to self sufficiency and adulthood dependence. It is a period between the beginning of puberty and the responsibility given to an adult such as work. This period is characterized by the formation of social and personal identity and the identification of moral purpose. During this stage of development intelligence is portrayed by logically relating symbols to formal reasoning and abstract concepts.
The psychosocial development theory was formulated by Erik Erikson, he proposed 8 stages that an individual goes through from the time he or she is an infant up to when the individual is an adult. In every stage, the individual meets new challenges and each stage sets a foundation upon which the next stage is based on. The theory proposes that when an individual fails to complete a previous stage successfully, then it is likely that the problems associated with that stage may appear in the future.
One aspect of the psychosocial development theory is ego identity development. Ego identity can be defined as the realization of self that an individual develops by interacting with others socially. Erikson argued that an individual’s ego identity is ever-changing due to new information and experience that is acquired through interactions with others daily. Additionally, a sense of competence is developed together with ego identity and it acts as a motivator of actions and behaviors.
Under the psychological theory, Erikson discussed early adolescence under psychosocial stage five. Under this stage the psychosocial crisis is between role confusion and identity, with the main question that the adolescents struggle with being on their identity and their role in society. Early adolescents are continuously occupied by how the appear or how they are viewed by peers (Newman & Newman, 2006).
From my observation, as the adolescents move from childhood to the state of independence associated with adulthood, they think a lot about the responsibilities that they will have in the world of adults. In the beginning, during early adolescence they will normally go through role confusion. Role confusion is characterized with mixed feelings and ideas about the precise means of how they will become incorporated into society, this leads to some experimenting through numerous activities such as joining certain religious or political groups, playing with cars, or even offering to baby-sit. Nevertheless, most adolescents get some sense of identity of where they are headed in life and who they are in the society (Newman & Newman, 2006).
This stage is characterized by what Erikson described as an identity crisis, similar to other types of crises experienced in previous stages; this identity crisis arises from the passage from childhood into adulthood. This transition is crucial since an individual adapts many identities from infancy, but the identity formed in youth is the most important. This stage is viewed as a turning point in the development of human beings as it is seen as a form of reconciliation between what an individual has become and what the expectations of the society are for that individual. The acquired sense of self is built by forging the experiences of the past with future expectations. Of all the eight stages, this stage represents a point of crossroads; Erikson argued that this stage is unique because it is some kind of combination of the earlier stages with the anticipations of the future stages. The adolescent stage has a specific special quality in life of an individual because this stage acts as a turning point between childhood and maturity. The adolescence period is a time of quick change; it involves the changes of the body associated with puberty, the capability of the mind to explore the intentions of an individual, the expectations of others, and the rapid recognition of the roles that the society presents in the future life.
It is crucial for the adolescents to put up boundaries that will act as a guide in a world that is potentially hostile. This is usually very challenging because they are faced with responsibilities even before the necessary identity roles have been fully formed. This results in the identity confusion that adolescents go through. Nevertheless, the society usually leaves room for what Erikson called the moratorium which is a process of finding oneself. Role confusion is the main problem for adolescents; it entails the unwillingness to commit which may trouble an individual in adulthood. Erikson was of the idea that providing the adolescents with sufficient time, space, and psychological moratorium in an environment where one is able to explore and experiment freely can lead to the acquisition of a solid sense of identity, a deep and emotional sense of awareness.
Unlike in the earlier stages, the biological, psychological and social influences are at work in this stage. Regardless of how an individual has been raised, the personal ideologies of that person are independently chosen. On many occasions this results in conflict with adults regarding political and religious orientations. This limits the effectiveness of counseling because that individual has his/her own ideologies. The other field whereby the adolescents choose for themselves is in their choice of careers. However, on many occasions their parents may want to make decisions on their children behalf with regards to careers. Nevertheless, if the society insists on a given issue, then the adolescent might concede to external pressure and this in essence restricts the adolescents’ ability to experiment. When an individual settles on a vocation or worldview, that individual will be able to incorporate this element of self definition into numerous areas of the society. Erikson argued that identity can only be established once an individual balances both what they have and what they will do with what they have (Cavanaugh, 2004)
Early adolescence is normally a very critical period in the stages of development since it entails an essential evolution from childhood to self sufficiency and adulthood dependence. The psychosocial development theory by Erikson attempts to explain the behaviors of adolescents during this period when the psychosocial crisis is between role confusion and identity, with the main question that the adolescents struggle with being on their identity and what their role in society. Early adolescents are continuously occupied by how they appear or how they are viewed by peers. This period is also characterized by numerous changes in psychological and biological aspects in relation with counselors, teachers, and peers. Middle school transition can be hard for early adolescents, particularly for adolescents who are faced with other problems in their lives. Teachers and counselors can ease the transition process by helping adolescents to successfully negotiate the transformations that they go through. Administrators, Counselors, and teachers can achieve this by cooperating, involving the parents of adolescents, giving responsive counseling especially on personal issues, formulating curricula and programs that enhance the development of students in different domains, campaigning for the different needs of all adolescents, and promoting cultural sensitivity and awareness.