You are on page 1of 7

Adolescent Essay

Ben Maynard


MUSE 353

Dr. Gerrity
The period of adolescence is compact with various drastic changes. During this stage of

life, humans are not only enduring changes themselves, but undergoing immense changes

around them. Numerous synapse connections are forming at this age. This means that these

pre-teens or teenagers are learning and soaking up information that heavily affects their

knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. Vital physical and cognitive changes are also occurring

due to the process of puberty. When considering the abundance of change that an adolescent

endures, aspects of their everyday lives are deeply affected. Self-image, self-identity, and self-

concept are all components of adolescents that will develop over the course of this select time

of life. Self-image and self-concept can be described and defined as The individual known to

the individual (Simmons, 554).

Self-image, self-identity, and self-concept are extremely broad terms and cover a

spectrum of developmental and personal characteristics. Krystal McCoy has studied middle

school students in depth and has written about several developmental stages of adolescence

including self-identity and self-concept. She explains, According to Erickson, the fifth stage of

development, or adolescence, occurs when young people begin to collect and integrate their

personal experiences to develop their own sense of personal identity (McCoy, 2). This includes

but is not limited to clothes, makeup, hairstyles, sexual orientation, religion, personal values,

and attitude. In the book, Not Much Just Chillin, Lily is a prime example of an adolescent that

is struggling with elements of their self-image. She struggles with the clothes and makeup that

she will wear to school along with what music to listen to, what to watch on television, whether

they drink, and what friends she should acquire. Moreover, the book mentions that her skills

such as ballet dancing and sewing simply dont matter because kids are defined by what they

have or dont have (Perlstein, 148). Similarly, chapter thirteen in Not Much Just Chillin, talks

about varying clothing style and trends within Wilde Lake Middle School. For example, its

common for boys to wear their pants low and baggy; Girls like to wear tight jeans low on their

hips, shirts that reveal their chests, and shirts that show their lower bellies (Perlstein, 149). The
kids mentioned in this chapter are simply dressing how they want to be perceived by

themselves and how they want to be perceived by others. That being said, how they want to be

perceived by themselves and others will most likely change as the end of adolescence


Various physical and cognitive changes occur during adolescence that cause for kids to

have a particular self-image of themselves or to change it. To begin, adolescence face the

typical changes that occur in human life while additionally having to deal with their own bodies

physically changing and growing. Blyth Dale and Carol Traeger explain in their article, The Self-

Concept and Self Esteem of Adolescents, that puberty can be a contributing factor to how an

adolescent thinks of himself/herself. They write, For most individuals, both males and females,

early adolescence is the time during which their bodies undergo the transformation from child to

virtually adult stature and proportion (Blyth, 92). Puberty will heavily influence how kids want to

present themselves, what clothes they wear, and who they befriend due to physical change.

Blyth and Traeger continually state that their research doesnt point to age being a direct factor

of disrupting an adolescent's self-concept, rather the changes in school environment in addition

to physical change does (Blyth, 95). To further prove this statement, a research study was

commenced in the public schools of Baltimore City and displayed that environment affects self-

image disturbance during adolescence. Some students surveyed in this school district were

twelve years old, but they were spread apart between two grades and two different schools. The

students that had already moved to the junior high school opposed to the middle school

measured a higher amount of self-image disturbance (Simmons, 561).

Cognitive changes in adolescents additionally contribute to disruption and change of

self-image. To start, kids at this age are beginning to have interests in sexual behaviors. With

added sexual desires, both the body-image and self-image drastically change (Simmons, 553).

Sexual tendencies and cognitive sexual thoughts can change how someone physically views

themselves. This can heavily disrupt and change an adolescents view of themselves. Another
cognitive component to self-image is the relationships to important people such as parents or

siblings. Identification with parents determines several aspects of ones self-image. For

example, Erickson stated in his development theory that identification with ones mother is the

core influence of self-definition during adolescence (Long, 225-226). Kids are more than likely to

model their everyday actions and thought processes after their parents or siblings before and at

the beginning of adolescence. Moreover, important figures in the lives of adolescents can also

gauge how much they have changed in terms of self-concept. Middle-school kids no longer crib

their older siblings cultural identity--theyve got their own (Perlstein, 148). At this point,

adolescents are gathering their own values, clothing styles, and establishing their own self-

identity. Self-image disruption and change are both directly affected by physical and cognitive

elements in adolescence.

Self-image can be viewed as an umbrella over four different elements of ones cognitive

health. These elements are known as the self-image dimensions (Simmons, 554-555). Various

people are either more focused on tasks that they are completing rather than thinking about

other people while other people are more focused on what people are thinking about them. This

can be referred to as self-consciousness. Adolescents are more inclined to constantly be

thinking about how they are being viewed by others while completing a certain task. Stability

can be defined as how one thinks of himself/herself and how that affects their decisions.

Adolescents may lack stability simply because kids at this age might be unsure of themselves,

affecting decision making skills. Another dimension is self-esteem, which is the attitude the one

has towards himself/herself. This element of self-image may act as a disturbance of self-

concept of adolescents if they have a negative attitude towards themselves. Last but not least,

perceived self can also be a disruption to an adolescents self-image. If a student in middle

school is imagining that others are viewing them in a negative light, they are most likely going to

be unconfident with their identity which may consist of choice of clothes, values, sexual
orientation, and more. The dimensions of self-image can contribute to disruption or change of

self-concept specifically in the adolescence stage.

With the abundance of changes that adolescent students endure, what can teachers do

to make this life transition smooth and comfortable while also teaching appropriate content?

Teachers can most certainly teach classes with approaches that help these students through

these changes. Making connections with students can be one of the most supportive ways that

teachers can uplift adolescents. Learning names, attending student athletic/academic events,

and sharing stories with students are all effective ways to support them. Teachers of

adolescents must find ways to achieve a delicate balance that we do not expect of educators at

other levels (Blyth 96). Furthermore, teachers must also treat discipline in a way that doesnt

hinder a students self-confidence or self-concept. Referring to the dimensions of self-image,

teachers can easily damper a students self-esteem by handling disciplinary issues in a negative

way. Instead of yelling, scolding, and criticizing students, teachers must understand the change

that adolescents are going through by handling these types of situations one-on-one. Once we

acknowledge that these changes are normal, it frees us to work with these adolescents in new

ways. It helps us help them feel good about themselves (Blyth 96). If teachers can incorporate

these fundamental actions in their classrooms, adolescents can focus more on learning and

avoid/diminish worrying about issues such as disruption of self-image.

In conclusion, adolescence can be a very tough time period for students due to drastic

changes in the physical and cognitive makeup of their bodies. Moreover, teachers can make

this stage of life more enjoyable honoring these changes and how they might affect a students

performance or behavioral choices in a classroom setting. An important element that is

commonly disrupted and/or changed during adolescence is self-image. Such disruptions or

changes are frequently influenced by puberty, change of social environment, added sexual

desires, and emotional relationships with important figures such as parents and siblings. These

influences may additionally affect an adolescents appearance, values, attitude, and more. At
the end of the day, educators should be more aware of how self-image affects the everyday

decisions of adolescents.

Blyth, Dale A., and Carol Monroe Traeger. The Self-Concept and Self-Esteem of Early

Adolescents. Theory Into Practice, vol. 22, no. 2, 1983, pp. 9197. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Long, Barbara H., et al. Developmental Changes in the Self-Concept during Adolescence. The

School Review, vol. 76, no. 2, 1968, pp. 210230. JSTOR, JSTOR,

McCoy, Krystal L. Rickard. Adolescent Development and the General Music Classroom. Music

in the Middle. pp. 1-9.

Perlstein, Linda. Not Much, Just Chillin: the Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers. Farrar, Straus

and Giroux, 2004.

Simmons, Roberta G., et al. Disturbance in the Self-Image at Adolescence. American

Sociological Review, vol. 38, no. 5, 1973, pp. 553568. JSTOR, JSTOR,