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ADOLESCENCE: A PERIOD OF STRESS AND STRAIN DR. SUVARNA SEN,Faculty Member, ICFAI Business School Kolkata, India. Citation: Sen, S. (2006) Adolescence: a period of stress and strain. Mental Health Reviews, Accessed from <> on ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr.Suvarna Sen has completed her PhD in Psychology from Calcutta University. She has 15 years of teaching experience and is presently associated with ICFAI Business School – Kolkata, (IBS-K) as a faculty member. Suvarna has participated in various Seminars and Workshops across the country, including institutions like NIMHANS (Bangalore), ITM (Mumbai), The Eastern Zonal Psychological Association (Kolkata), NIRMA (Ahmedabad) and so on. She regularly conducts various Management Development Programmes for Indian Institute of Coal Management, Alstom India Ltd., and Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. She is also associated with Sikkim Manipal University as a visiting faculty. She also lends her services as a Consultant Psychologist, Joint Secretary of the Eastern Zonal Psychological Association and as an active Member of the Social Development Sub-Committee of Confederation of Indian Industry. Her key knowledge areas are OB, HRM, LSCM and Soft Skills. ABSTRACT The adolescent period is considered to be difficult and critical. It is so because of the numerous qualitative shifts that take place, at this time, which at times assume the character of a radical break with the previous properties, interests, and the relationships of the child. Moreover, the changes that take place are often accompanied, on the other hand, by the manifestation in the adolescent him/herself of significantly subjective difficulties of various orders. The adolescent begins to have a sharpened sense of his/her own dignity, he/she sees himself as someone who may not be browbeaten, humiliated and deprived of the right to independence. The type of relationship with adults that existed during childhood becomes unacceptable to him/her as not corresponding to his/her assessment of the level of his/her own maturity. At that stage, the life of an adolescent contains many contradictions. They strive for recognition; but do not get it! Consequently – they cling to their own age group – peers play the most important role in their lives! They suffer from an identity crisis! What am I? What will I be? – are the questions that bother them. To minimize this crisis, we should sit down with them, give them a patient hearing and suggest things in way acceptable to them. Lest, we might lead them the wrong way.

“I’ll be fifteen, And soon a man! The very thought of its delights me But even now none dares to slight me To look with scorn at me, none can Treat me disdainfully or lightly I’m no pink-cheeked smiling laddie I’ve sprouted a moustache already A gaffer’s mien is mine, it’s proud My voice is gruff and also loud And for a fight I’m always ready” -Alexander Pushkin
Today’s adolescents little resemble this famous literary figure, perhaps because they mature earlier. The formula ‘no longer a child-not yet an adult’ vividly expresses the transitional character of adolescent life. It is a state in which the person has already broken with the happy age of childhood, but has not yet found himself in adult life. That is why the adolescent’s mind is confused. The age of adolescence is marked by psychological manifestations that have caused it to be described as “an age of crisis and transition”. Some consider adolescents to be merely savage because of their boundless imagination, rashness, craftiness, forgetfulness, inconsistency, explosive temper and lack of cares. Some say an adolescent is a madman in view of his/her inclination towards superstitions, pride and extreme sensitivity concerning one’s honor. It has been asserted that an adolescent is a potential criminal in view of his/her fits of rage, crudity, extreme vanity and egoism a tendency towards moral degradation. But why does it so happen? Children must pass through several stages, or take specific steps, on their road to becoming adults. For most people, there are four or five such stages of growth where they learn certain things: infancy (birth to age two), early childhood (ages three to eight years), later childhood (ages nine to 12 years) and adolescence (ages 13 to 18 years).

If one or more of the earlier psychosocial crises have not been resolved.the sort of intimacy that makes possible good marriage or a genuine and enduring friendship. is independent and dares the new. 3. The child. Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence) Erikson believes that the fourth psychosocial crisis is handled. and in the sense of working productively and creatively. to broaden one’s skills through active play of all sorts. 4. Erikson believes. develops trust and security and a basic optimism." or the later preschool years. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope) Chronologically. for the first time. from about 13 or 14 to about 20 years of age) the child. learns how to answer satisfactorily and happily the question of "Who am I?" But even the bestadjusted of adolescents experiences some role identity diffusion: most of them experiment with minor delinquency. During it. but through wide-ranging experience in psychotherapy. Badly handled. including extensive experience with children and adolescents from low. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will) The second psychosocial crisis. Immobilized by guilt. Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom) If the other seven psychosocial crises have been successfully resolved. or lack of realism. occurs during early childhood. According to Erikson. self-doubts flood the youngster. work." presumably up to and possibly including some of junior high school. The "well-parented" child emerges from this stage sure of one’s self. and so on. 8. the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment and integrity. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity) During the fifth psychosocial crisis (adolescence.the "eight stages of man. and he/she is proud of what he/she creates – one’s children. regret. and has developed a self-concept with which he/she is happy. nurtured. has found a well-defined role in life. and arithmetic." His eight stages of man were formulated not through experimental work. rebellion flourishes. and middle social classes. 5. during what he calls the "school age. elated with his new found control. one is: (1) fearful (2) hangs on the fringes of groups (3) continues to depend unduly on adults and (4) is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination. Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love) The successful young adult. for better or worse. this is the period of infancy through the first one or two years of life. now an adolescent. such as baseball and (3) mastering social studies. probably between about 18 months or two years and 3½ to four years of age. 7. reading. guilt. upper. He/she works hard. Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a "psychosocial crisis. This is based on the Eight Stages of Development developed by Psychiatrist Erik Erikson in 1956. Here the child learns to master the more formal skills of life: (1) relating with peers according to rules (2) progressing from free play to play that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork. including fantasy (2) to cooperate with others (3) to lead as well as to follow. the psychosocial crisis demands generativity. 2. or one’s hobbies. the socialization process consists of eight phases . Erikson's Eight Stages of Development 1. He/she can be intimate without strain. and proud rather than ashamed.STAGES OF SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN ADOLESCENTS This is an overview of the developmental tasks involved in the social and emotional development of children and teenagers which continues into adulthood. and loved. one may view . both in the sense of marriage and parenthood." which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care) In adulthood. 6. well-handled. he/she becomes insecure and mistrustful. Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose) Erikson believes that this third psychosocial crisis occurs during what one calls the "play age. can experience true intimacy . the healthily developing child learns: (1) to imagine. He/she trusts.

Discovery of new ways to produce the same consequence or obtain the same goal such as the infant may pull a pillow toward him in an attempt to get a toy resting on it. However. there is still a tendency to focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others. Perceptions dominate judgment. Reflexive behaviors occur in stereotyped repetition such as opening and closing fingers repetitively. Period of Concrete Operations (7-11 years) Intuitive Phase (4-7 years) . less egocentric. Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months) Coordination of Secondary Reactions (8-12 months) Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months) Invention of New Means Combination (18-24 months) Through The Preoperational Period (2-7 years) Preoperational Phase (2-4 years) Increased use of verbal representation but speech is egocentric. Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development Developmental Stage & Behavior. Concepts formed are crude and irreversible.24 months) Reflexive Stage (0-2 months) Primary Circular Reactions (2-4 months) Simple reflex activity such as grasping. Transductive reasoning. Deferred imitation. Symbolizing the problem-solving sequence before actually responding. Can think about something without the object being present by use of language. The child has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts in some areas. Easy to believe in magical increase. only uses simple do's and don'ts imposed by authority. Actions take on an "intentional" character such as the infant reaches behind a screen to obtain a hidden object. Repetition of change actions to reproduce interesting consequences such as kicking one's feet to more a mobile suspended over the’s self and one’s life with disgust and despair. Approximate Age Characteristic Sensory Motor Period: (0 . The beginnings of symbolic rather than simple motor play. Mental Evidence of an internal representational system. Reality not firm. Responses become coordinated into more complex sequences. disappearance. Rules of a game not develop. In moral-ethical realm. Speech becomes more social. the child is not able to show principles underlying best behavior. sucking. decrease.

) Class logic-finding bases to sort unlike objects into logical groups where previously it was on superficial perceived attribute such as color. reinforcement of positive behavior More effective management techniques include exercising reasonable control along with being flexible and encouraging independence (authoritative) As a child begins to enter adolescence. as-if and if-then steps. Can use aids such as axioms to transcend human limits on comprehension ADOLESCENTS AND THEIR SOCIAL CONTEXTS Peer relations are extremely important for the teen in that they experience a whole new realm of reality unique to themselves. etc. active understanding. The frequency of time spent with peers increases as the time spent with parents and family decreases throughout the course of adolescence (Savin-Williams and Berndt. and doubts. The child is capable of concrete problem-solving. order objects in a logical sequence. teens are looking for a different kind of support from their family and this may be a stressful time for the family until a new system of equilibrium is established. emotional tensions. Acceptance. The amount of conflict differs from family to family and is dependent on many factors. discipline. If ma/ca = IQ = 1. there appears to be a rise in conflict between the adolescent and parents. This conflict increases between the ages of 10 and 15 and then decreases. and getting along with siblings. other purely abstract processes. common perspectives. doing schoolwork. 1990). and parental expressions of individuality and connectedness can help the teen to mature without feeling left out or alienated from his/her family. Can handle proportions. It is mainly due to the changing characteristics and growing of the adolescent and the way in which the rest of the family adjusts to these changes. Conflict is considered temporary and necessary to reorganize the parent-adolescent relationships. Here are some concepts of conflict and some areas to look out for - .00 then MA = CA. incorporating the principles of formal logic. interests. Thinking becomes less tied to concrete reality. algebraic manipulation. Parent-adolescent interaction styles: • • • Parents' beliefs on adolescence may influence their interactions with the adolescent. Less effective management techniques include monitoring. multiple hypotheses and their possible outcomes is evident. feeding the pets. Prepositional logic. Teens tend to spend more time with peers outside of the classroom (approximately 20 hours per week). personal experiences. bickering. Some reversibility now possible (quantities moved can be restored such as in arithmetic: 3+4 = 7 and 7-4 = 3. Characteristics of parents and adolescents • • As adolescents usually spend more time with mothers than fathers. Formal logical systems can be acquired. Teens are more self-disclosing to peers about things like dating. If a + b = x then x = a . thinking becomes less transductive and less egocentric. and minor conflicts with parents over the everyday details of family life. The ability to generate abstract propositions. During adolescence. Family Functions The roles of the family established during childhood have helped the family unit to keep a system of equilibrium. PARENT-ADOLESCENT RELATIONS Adolescence is marked by disagreements. Categorical labels such as "number" or animal" now available. There is the ability to perform multiple classification tasks. Period of Formal Operations (11-15 years) Thought becomes more abstract. conflict (although minor) is more common. logical thought. Here is a list of changes you can expect to see in the family system: There will be a shift from the parents providing nurturance.Evidence for organized. views on sexuality.b. and socialization for the child to providing support and direction for the teen. protection. and comprehend the principle of conservation. such as doing the chores.

it tends to be problematic in later adolescence. and The family itself is unstable. elopement. Insomnia or hypersomnia. the disorders go unrecognized and untreated. Adolescents often "act out". Low energy or fatigue. less sensational yet far more frequent adolescent dramas occur among our youth on a daily basis. occurs with greater frequency among teenagers today than in the past. 1991). depression is a major factor. become so despairing that they attempt suicide. Showing or describing their mood as sad (This may be shown as irritability rather than depression) Poor appetite or overeating. When does conflict become problematic? Conflict has a tendency to increase during early adolescence (around ages 12-14). who believe their problems to be unsolvable. Because many adolescents’ behaviors are attributed to "normal adjustments". frustration. while other. It is not usual that conflict will involve major difficulties such as drugs and delinquency. Anger is the major emotion associated with conflict. Low interest. 1992). If these behavioral signs are considered by parents and professionals as natural to adolescence. Talking long on the phone.17). i. Five criteria for problematic anger that is associated with parent-adolescent conflict are: • • • • • Anger Anger Anger Anger Anger becomes too frequent becomes too intense is long lasting leads to aggression disturbs work or relationships Who is at risk? When conflict tends to be problematic in early adolescence. they are often not identified as troubled and do not get the help they need. This anger is accompanied by anxiety. or guilt. Manic-depressive disorder also begins in post-puberty and may be manifested by impulsive episodes. Feelings of hopelessness. Whether homicide or suicide. according to the National Institutes of Health. and many succeed. Dressing neatly. Many teens. Although other causes of teen suicide and violence exist. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions. and Not doing chores. . irritability and loss of control alternating with periods of withdrawal and excessive sleeping. more days than not. even out during midadolescence (approximately ages 14 . What are some coping techniques? Depression. violence among adolescents has forcibly brought these problems to the forefront of our attention. but when the conflict begins to disrupt the family it becomes problematic (Santrock. obscuring depression with aggression.What is considered as normal conflict? Conflict between parents and adolescents usually revolves around common daily events that take place within the family. This day-to-day conflict includes things like: • • • • • Keeping a bedroom clean. Being home at a certain time. parents being inconsistent with the adolescent (Steinberg & Belsky. Adolescents and parents are more at risk for conflict if: • • • There is marital conflict or divorce taking place within the family Adolescents are in the situation of having to adjust to a new step family. The Warning Signs of Depression • • • • • • • • • Chronically depressed mood occurring for most of the day. and decrease during late adolescence (ages 17-20). or antisocial acts. Low self-esteem.e.

a friendly home and a friendly parental figure in school. But. (c) the retention of one’s childish characteristics – all these lead the adult to regard the adolescent as being still a child who should conform and obey. But this does not so happen always and there starts conflicts of generations! Adolescents are then misunderstood. i. Feeling constantly disrespected. The reasons for which are. we should sit down with them. the numerous qualitative shifts that take place. No doubt they should be criticized. Secondly. by the manifestation in the adolescent him/herself of significantly subjective difficulties of various orders. various forms of disobedience appear. while expanding one’s own. limits the right of adults. This requires that the adult ceases to regard the adolescent as a child. The adolescent period is considered to be difficult and critical. Poor school performance. No such behavior should be showered on them that forces them to maintain a low profile. a certain equality of and tries to obtain a recognition of this equality by them. the changes that take place are often accompanied. imparting to the process of development of an uneven. as well as resistance and protest (stubbornness. at this time. one’s personality and human merits. told to be obedient – or punished. or ineffective. and the relationships of the child. but also makes the task of bringing up children of this age-group. in the first place. but do not get it! Consequently – they cling to their own age group – peers play the most important role in their lives! Every adolescent needs to have certain ‘very good friends’. their problems not cared for and their aspirations thwarted. especially guns. but the criticism has to be constructive. Having been a victim of bullying.. Access to or fascination with weapons. the adolescent does yield the influence of adults. with the self-concepts of being uninteresting. interests. The adolescent begins to have a sharpened sense of his/her own dignity. like – (a) the unchanged character of the adolescent’s social position. give them a patient hearing and suggest things in way acceptable to them. we might lead them the wrong way. factors. They strive for recognition. on the other hand. he/she should be provided with the opportunity to prove him/herself in one other. If the adult does not have a logical attitude towards the adolescent. negativism. guided. indifference and hostility – but rather they should be helped to establish self identity and meaningful standards of conduct to follow. The adolescents suffer from an identity crisis! What am I? What will I be? – are the questions that bother them. Withdrawal from friends and usual activities. the latter becomes the initiator of the . certain. It gives rise to tension and frustration. relationships and opinions are not taken with consideration. History of discipline problems or frequent run-ins with authority. he/she is offended and protests when a limit is placed on his/her independence and when he/she is treated like a ‘Youngster’ and protected.• Self-criticism. A successful form of transition to the new type of relations is possible if the adult takes the initiative to change one’s attitude towards the person. Lest. more difficult. humiliated and deprived of the right to independence. The Warning Signs of Violence • • • • • • • • • • • • Serious drug or alcohol use. the life of an adolescent contains many contradictions. trust and increased independence. At that stage.e. turbulent character. The type of relationship with adults that existed during childhood (reflecting the unequal position world of adults) becomes unacceptable to oneself as not corresponding to one’s assessment of own maturity. at this point. Threatening others regularly. Failing to acknowledge the feelings or rights of others. Gang membership or strong desire to be in a gang. of the child in the the level of one’s claims respect for rights with adults. he/she has to ‘handle with care’! Neither should they be spoilt or pampered nor should they be beaten or scolded unnecessarily. thus leading to abnormalities and mental disorders. We should not misunderstand their resentment. The adolescent begins to resist requirements which he/she previously carried out willingly. Their age can be compared to ‘electronic goods’ . rudeness.if one wants it to work. This is the age that weaves the thread for their future! Each step they take can take them to either destiny or destruction! To help them take themselves to that Promised Land where sunshine and bliss awaits them-one should be kind and considerate with them. Such an attitude by the adults contradicts not only the inclinations of the adolescent. and when his/her interests. Feeling rejected or alone. controlled. To minimize this crisis. which at times assume the character of a radical break with the previous properties. and by difficulties in one’s upbringing. incapable. This can take place over a relatively short period of time and often it is unexpected. The claims of the adolescent to new rights apply first and foremost to the entire sphere of relationships with adults. he/she sees himself as someone who may not be browbeaten. The adolescent. and secrecy). (b) his material dependence on parents. Trouble controlling feelings like anger. If one fails in one aspect. They should be open to exposures.

R. (1952) Developmental tasks and education. To help them to be in shape. and imposes new type of future (adult) relationships on him.S. It is at this stage. Reading in child behavior and development.. & Belsky. (1991) Infancy Childhood. 54.K. If such a situation persists. L. evaluations and opinions of the adult and the latter may completely lose the possibility of influencing the adolescent during this important period in the shaping of moral and social aspects of the personality. One should establish that degree of independence which corresponds to the capacities of the adolescent in general. J. Erikson. to one’s social requirements and which establish the adult to guide and influence the adolescent.J. become systematic while the negativities of the adolescent become more and more persistent. 5. New York: McGraw-Hill . Santrock. Three rules for addressing school violence. we should mean good health to them and filter and fiber their blood! We should be extra attentive and conscious about this age because. F. when an individual is said to be ‘too young’ for certain things.. & Shaffer. J. C.R. the termination of the former relations may extend over the entire adolescent period and take on a form of a never-dying-out conflict.H. The existence of these opposite tendencies produces collisions that. Belmont. Iowa: WC Brown. (1992) Title Life-span development. (1991) Life-span Human development. 7.W. Stendler. (1999) Adolescent Storm and Stress. New York: Hartcourt Brace Janovich. E. 317-326. D. Steinberg. in a situation in which the attitude of the adult does not change. The adult’s opposition merits various types of misconduct and protest on the part of the adolescent.transition to a new type of relationship. W. 1. together with the conviction that adult does not understand the adolescent. who can make their lives ‘just right’ for the world to live in! BIBLIOGRAPHY Arnett.. C. (1999). New York: David McKay. A sense of alienation appears. these years of one’ life form a part that is larger than the ‘whole’ and can only be compared to a mathematical paradox. Knapp. The conflict can continue as long as the adult does not change one’s attitude toward the adolescent. Havighurst. Piaget. Sigelman. J. The Pennsylvania Psychologist. In Lavatelly. S. Norton. (1968) Identity youth and crisis. This may lead to a conscious refusal to accept the requirements. (1972) Development and learning. Conflict relations are conducive to the development of adaptive forms in the behavior and emancipation of the adolescent. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (1994) Washington. The adolescent breaks the former ‘childish’ relationships with the adult through various forms of non-compliance and protest. Inc. & Adolescence. and ‘too old’ for the others! It is we. CA: Wadsworth. American Psychologist.J. New York: W. DC: American Psychiatric Association. Reconsidered. J.

the golden age Many times. then it is very close connected to the social environment. no one and nothing could replace the elementary rubs of education received from the parents. are these conflicts necessary? Is adolescence always the same? The answers are different because there are different points of view. in early childhood. physiological or sociological fact? One thing is for sure: this “age” is a very complex phenomenon. there is something that limbs all these points of view: the teenagers of our days greatly defer how teenagers of the last centuries. Is adolescence a biological. the feelings.Adolescence-a danger . But. but also to a more delicate one. But is it true that these conflicts are more numerous and more powerful than in the other periods of our lives? And if it is. Among the “dangers” of this stage we can mention the difficulties connected not only to a physiological level. in the same time it is referred to as “the golden age”. or does every person have their own personality? There is no doubt that. Is there any “adolescence crisis” or not? If there is one. These two syntagms are only apparently in contradiction with one another. But. The effects of this “process of building” can be seen in time and maybe adolescence is a more stable period when its results can be “measured”. which should be studied one by one. up to a certain age. irrespective of the answer. Is adolescence a period of crisis or is it only a more difficult stage of our lives. we call it “the dangerous age”. In this period there are many conflicts. either between generations (socalled “generation gap”) or between the different age groups. which can be passed trough very easily if we are well-prepared. Is there something characteristic to all the people passing through this stage. which contains all these three aspects. This is the period of time when our personality stands to be “built”. . when we speak about adolescence.

Personality is unique. But this age can raise problems not only for children. things go right. but they react differently. these are some who express their feelings. try to find out more about these things and so. is still “the golden age” that each of us would like to return. With its ups and downs. The point is that. On the contrary. This age represents the most beautiful years of our lives and it would be a pity not to live them properly because of some problems that the adults don’t understand us. they are afraid to talk about them and that’s why this period is very difficult for them. with a little understanding. and it makes us different than the others and helps us pass the obstacles of our lives. Some of them don’t understand the changes from their life. . their problems. A survey showed that 80% of the people that were interviewed agree that teenagers do have something in common but they also have characteristics that make each of them unique. Adolescence is nothing but a normal and beautiful stage of our live that we should not be afraid of. Adolescence cannot be regarded as dough if you know how to overcome its obstacles. All the teenagers of our days have quite the same problems and preoccupations. Some youngsters think that the ones who have a great personality can more easily overcome the problems of adolescence. but also for some parents. this period has nothing special for them.