The individual interviewed in this study was 14 years old Jester White, third child in the family that has two boys and two girls (ages 17, 15, 14 and 12). He stands 5’5 tall, weighs 109 lbs. and is in 9th grade in High School. His G.P.A. in the previous grade was 2.8. Jester loves Science, which happens to be his favorite subject, and hates History (because it is boring). His mother and father disapprove of his computer game playing, which is his primary hobby. He also loves to draw, and is very good at it. He can play the guitar. He plays basic drums and bass. His mother believes he can be also great at those two instruments if he makes the effort to develop them. Jester goes to Catholic Church every Sunday with his family, and he reads the Bible. He enjoys reading fantasy books. His favorite sport is basketball, which he regularly plays with his father and siblings. His ambition is to become a doctor.
Basic Information about Adolescence
Puberty marks the start of adolescence. During this period, rapid physical maturation involving hormonal and bodily changes occur. Most noticeable signs during this stage are sexual maturation and increase in height and weight. According to Life-Span Development (Third Edition) by Santrock, MacKenzie-Rivers, Leung and Malcomson, adolescence involves the transition from childhood to adulthood. It begins around ages 10 to 12 and ends around 19 to 20. In adolescence, individuals more intensely pursue independence and seek their own identity. Their thought becomes more abstract, logical and idealistic. The book Psychology (Eleventh Edition) by Wade and Tavris, states that adolescence refers to the period of development between puberty, the age at which a person becomes capable of sexual reproduction, and adulthood. In Western societies, adolescence lasts several years, and teenagers are not considered emotionally mature enough to be full-fledged adults with all the rights, responsibilities, and roles of adulthood.
Table 11-1 (PowerPoint, slide 3), indicates that the “Usual Sequence of Physiological Changes in Adolescence” for boys, are: Growth of testes, scrotal sac, which appear between the ages 9-13.5; Growth of pubic hair, 12-16; Body growth, 10.5-16; Growth of penis, prostate gland, seminal vesicles, 11-14.5.
In reference to data above, Jester White, being 14 years old, has already undergone, or completed, the sequence of physiological changes that occur in the adolescence stage. This is likewise evident in his physical appearance. Looking at him you will see a picture of a full-grown adolescent boy. At 5’5 and 109 pounds he amazes his mother about his sudden and rapid growth. She always remembers him as only a small kid yesterday. This can be expected, since growth spurt for boys occur at 12 years old and rapidly gains its peak at 13.5 years old. White’s mother believes that her son is still growing, which is likely to happen considering that boys’ attain full height development at age 17, which is three more years to go from now for 14 year old White.
Over all, physically, White has already attained complete development of the primary sex characteristics necessary for reproduction (testes and penis). Likewise, he has already undergone complete development of secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair, facial hair and muscular development, which are physiological signals of sexual maturation that do not directly involve sex organs.
Jester White, though shy and speaks in a low voice, appears to have very good learning and reasoning abilities, and the fact that he can solve Mathematical problems proves theorist Jean Piaget correct on her assumption about the formal operations stage (age 12 to adulthood) that in this stage individuals begin to show capability for abstract reasoning. Piaget calls this stage the formal operations stage, the last of four stages of mental development in individuals. In this stage, “thought is more abstract. An individual is no longer limited to actual, concrete experiences as anchors for thought, and he can conjure up make-believe situations, abstract propositions, and events that are purely hypothetical, and can try to reason logically about them (powerpoint, slide 40). In his spiritual growth, Jester White learned and practiced his Catholic religion through the example of his parents who prays and goes to church every Sunday, bringing with them their children even when they were still toddlers. Since White’s parents take him to church ever since he was a little boy, he developed the habit of praying and going to church regularly. As a young boy, White saw that going to church is a part of his family’s regular activity, and being so, he thought that he also has to pray and go to church as the whole family does. As an adolescent, White’s formal operations stage began and he developed a new thinking about going to church. Now, he doesn’t go to church because he sees his family going to church, but he goes to church because of his higher belief, a belief in a supreme Being, or God, who wants him to worship or pray with God in church every Sunday . White did not actually see God, but his growing knowledge and belief in God has taken place his previous objective, as a young boy, of going to church because he saw his family doing so.
Another concept by Piaget is that of Adolescent egocentrism, a heightened self-consciousness among adolescents, which anchors on (1) an imaginary audience, a belief that others are as interested in them as they themselves are, this can also be an attention-getting behavior, and an example of this is when one walks into a room and he thinks everyone is looking at him; (2) personal fable, which is a sense of uniqueness and invincibility (or invulnerability), and an example of this is an individual who feels “none can understand how I feel.”
Above concepts has been linked to engaging in risky behaviors like smoking, drinking, alcohol and delinquency (for sense of invincibility or invulnerability), and depression and suicidal thoughts (for sense of personal uniqueness).
Fortunately, there is no egocentrism observed in the Subject of this study. As mentioned above, White is shy and speaks in a low voice, qualities that most possibly will not lead to egocentrism, or self-centeredness. Likewise, he does not smoke and drink, he does not use alcohol and he is neither a delinquent child. He does not look to be someone who is depressed and having suicidal thoughts, either.
Piaget also introduced a concept on Moral Development. According to him, older children consider the intentions of the individual; believe that rules are subject to change; and they are aware that punishment does not always follow wrongdoing PowerPoint, slide 48).
Based from Piaget’s moral development concept, Lawrence Kohlberg proposed six stages which he believed are universal (PowerPoint, slide 48). These are encompassed in three levels: (1) Preconventional reasoning (4-10 years old), where children interpret good and bad in terms of external rewards and punishments; (2) Conventional reasoning (10 years old-adolescence), where individuals apply certain standards, but they are the standards set by others, such as parents or the government; and (3) Postconventional reasoning (adolescence-adulthood), where individuals recognize alternative moral courses, explore the options, and then decide on a personal moral code. (PowerPoint, slide 49). According to Kohlberg, by early adolescence, reasoning is increasingly based on Level 2; most adolescence reason at higher part of Level 2 and; not everyone progresses beyond Level 2, even in adulthood, but by early adulthood a small number reason in postconventional ways, based on Level 3.
Kohlberg’s moral development theories gained some criticisms, one of which was that it did not view family processes as especially important on children’s moral development. Accordingly, while peer interactions are important there were evidences that family interactions also influence. This observation maybe proven true in White’s case. The fact that White was cited above as not egocentric, that behavior can be attributed to family influences and interactions, or due to family upbringing.
Developmental theorist Erik H. Erikson believed that the chief conflict facing adolescents at this stage is one of Identity vs. Identity Confusion. According to him, the psychosocial task one must develop at this stage is individuality, and that is to form an identity. Adolescents must define a personal role in society, and they must wrestle with such issues as selecting a career, college, religious system, and political party.
Accordingly, this is the crisis of adolescence where teenagers must decide what they are going to be and what they hope to make of their lives. Those who resolve this crisis will come out of this stage with a strong identity, ready to plan for the future. Those who do not will sink into confusion, unable to make decisions. The term identity crisis describes what Erikson considered to be the primary conflict of this stage.
Jester White appears to have no identity crisis. He shows confidence of his choice of career in his future which is to become a doctor. He has no religious concerns as he appears happy and content with his Catholic religion always looking forward to his family’s Sunday trips to Mass. He has some political insights but he pays little interest to any political matters, which is just right for a 14 year old boy.
White currently does not have conflict within the family affecting his parents and three siblings. But while he can be relied upon to always help in the family household chores there are times (according to his mother) that he misses out on an assigned errand. This may indicate a behavioral transition as he moves forward to a higher developmental stage. And, perhaps he feels like he is being treated like a child as he is always the one asked to do certain chores like bringing out of trash outside the house.
From this little behavioral indication, one can imagine the possibility of a conflict arising within the family concerning White once he reached adulthood and started dating. White doesn’t have close friends in the opposite sex, and he doesn’t have any special girl friend at the moment. This is a welcome development for his parents who wanted their children to have boy/girl friends only after college. The fact, however, that there were times that White received presents from girls, there is a possibility that he may not be able to live up to his parents’ expectation affecting “matters of the heart” when he reaches adulthood, unless perhaps, his parents are able to maintain close supervision and guidance on their adolescent child.
Unmet/Met or On/Off Track Areas
Jester White is right on track on his stage of development as adolescent. Physically, he has already attained complete development of both primary and secondary sex characteristics, which include development of testes, penis, pubic hair, facial hair and muscular development.
His mental development is likewise on track having advanced from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. He has no identity crisis, which indicates great psychosocial development. The issue of his being the only one in the family that is made to do certain errands that he could do on rotation with his siblings is minor and may not necessarily pose a problem with identity crisis. Significantly, White knows what he wants to become in the future and he is confident of his goal to become a doctor. Having a full support from his family, and a clear understanding of what he wants in life White may attain great success in the future as he journeys towards becoming the person that he is meant to become. As long as his parents are always by his side able to guide him always and veer him away from any temptations, especially affecting the opposite sex White will likely complete his adolescent stage of development without going through any major conflict within himself, his family and his expanding world.