Overviews of Categories Common Conceptions of Adolescence
The four dominant discourses that are discussed in the Stevens et al. article are:
a. Cognitive Psychology Developmental Perspectives- a perspective that emphasizes what adolescents are lacking; i.e.- higher order thinking, hormonal balance, and self-regulation. The focus of this conception is controlling the individual.
b. Biomedicine: Pathologizing Perspectives- a perspective that historically pathologizes any adolescent profile that is outside of the “superior” hetero-normative adolescent.
c. Oppressed/ Resistant Bodies- a perspective that views adolescent individuals as easily duped by societal messages. The focus is on interrupting this societal trickery.
d. Unruly Youth: Postmodern Perspectives- a perspective that views adolescents as a homogeneous group with problems. The tendency with this perspective is for youth to be marginalized- not heard.
Erik Erikson posited that adolescence is a stage of critical identity formation. In Erikson’s age/stage model, adolescents are trying to make sense of themselves within a new understanding of social order. This critical grasping for sense of self incorporates budding awareness of sexuality, modeling after people who are admired, and gaining identity through accomplishments.
Erikson coined the concept of psychological moratorium- a period when adolescents take a “time-out” from their predictable path of commitments to travel or explore various endeavors. I think this assignment of psychological moratorium to modern Youth culture is dated. One must consider that it was the 1950’s when this expectation that an adolescent would take a little time out to veer off the “rational” path of life was accepted. In this place in history it is common for adults at all stages to take what would be called a psychological moratorium. Moreover, I don’t find this perspective to be considerate of the fact that taking time to explore the world and try out different jobs as a youth is not departing from making a commitment to life, it IS life. It has become rare for an individual in modern Western society to take hold of one occupation or location in life and stay with it until old age. Therefore, I don’t think it is useful to uphold a dated discourse that upholds exploration and experimentation in youth as disregard for commitment to self or a civilian life.
Stevens et al. recommend post structural concepts of discourse that are helpful in remedying any stagnant and controlling perspectives of adolescence. They posit that the most crucial reference for identity is the lived experience of the subject. This experience is steeped in specific social, cultural, and historical- and can only be known through our bodies, not from an external, archaic age/stage developmental framework.
Stevens, L.P., Hunter, L., Pendergast, D., Carrington, V., Bahr, N., Kapitzke, C., & Mitchell, J. (2007). Reconceptualizing the possible narratives of adolescence. The Australian Educational Researcher, 34(2), 107-127.
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