6.10: Psychological Development in Adolescence (2023)

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    Learning Objectives: Psychosocial Development in Adolescence
    • Describe the changes in self-concept and self-esteem in adolescence
    • Summarize Erikson’s fifth psychosocial task of identity versus role confusion
    • Describe Marcia’s four identity statuses
    • Summarize the three stages of ethnic identity development
    • Describe the parent-teen relationship
    • Describe the role of peers
    • Describe dating relationships

    Self-concept and Self-esteem in Adolescence

    In adolescence, teens continue to develop their self-concept. Their ability to think of the possibilities and to reason more abstractly may explain the further differentiation of the self during adolescence. However, the teen’s understanding of self is often full of contradictions. Young teens may see themselves as outgoing but also withdrawn, happy yet often moody, and both smart and completely clueless (Harter, 2012). These contradictions, along with the teen’s growing recognition that their personality and behavior seems to change depending on who they are with or where they are, can lead the young teen to feel like a fraud. With their parents they may seem angrier and sullen, with their friends they are more outgoing and goofy, and at work they are quiet and cautious. “Which one is really me?” may be the refrain of the young teenager. Harter (2012) found that adolescents emphasize traits such as being friendly and considerate more than do children, highlighting their increasing concern about how others may see them. Harter also found that older teens add values and moral standards to their self-descriptions.

    As self-concept differentiates, so too does self-esteem. In addition to the academic, social, appearance, and physical/athletic dimensions of self-esteem in middle and late childhood, teens also add perceptions of their competency in romantic relationships, on the job, and in close friendships (Harter, 2006). Self-esteem often drops when children transition from one school setting to another, such as shifting from elementary to middle school, or junior high to high school (Ryan, Shim, & Makara, 2013). These drops are usually temporary, unless there are additional stressors such as parental conflict, or other family disruptions (De Wit, Karioja, Rye, & Shain, 2011). Self-esteem rises from mid to late adolescence for most teenagers, especially if they feel competent in their peer relationships, their appearance, and athletic abilities (Birkeland, Melkivik, Holsen, & Wold, 2012).

    (Video) Adolescence: Crash Course Psychology #20

    Erikson: Identity vs. Role Confusion

    Erikson believed that the primary psychosocial task of adolescence was establishing an identity. Teens struggle with the question “Who am I?” This includes questions regarding their appearance, vocational choices and career aspirations, education, relationships, sexuality, political and social views, personality, and interests. Erikson saw this as a period of confusion and experimentation regarding identity and one’s life path. During adolescence we experience psychological moratorium, where teens put on hold commitment to an identity while exploring the options. The culmination of this exploration is a more coherent view of oneself. Those who are unsuccessful at resolving this stage may either withdraw further into social isolation or become lost in the crowd. However, more recent research, suggests that few leave this age period with identity achievement, and that most identity formation occurs during young adulthood (C t , 2006).

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    Expanding on Erikson’s theory, James Marcia (2010) identified four identity statuses that represent the four possible combinations of the dimension of commitment and exploration (see Table 6.2).

    Table 6.2 Marcia’s Four Identity Statuses
    Commitment to an Identity Exploration
    Absent Present
    Absent Identity Diffusion Identity Moratorium
    Present Identity Foreclosure Identity Achievement

    The least mature status, and one common in many children, is identity diffusion. Identity diffusion is a status that characterizes those who have neither explored the options, nor made a commitment to an identity. Those who persist in this identity may drift aimlessly with little connection to those around them or have little sense of purpose in life.

    Those in identity foreclosure have made a commitment to an identity without having explored the options. Some parents may make these decisions for their children and do not grant the teen the opportunity to make choices. In other instances, teens may strongly identify with parents and others in their life and wish to follow in their footsteps.

    Identity moratorium is a status that describes those who are activity exploring in an attempt to establish an identity, but have yet to have made any commitment. This can be an anxious and emotionally tense time period as the adolescent experiments with different roles and explores various beliefs. Nothing is certain and there are many questions, but few answers.

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    Identity achievement refers to those who after exploration have made a commitment. This is a long process and is not often achieved by the end of adolescence.

    6.10: Psychological Development in Adolescence (2)

    During high school and the college years, teens and young adults move from identity diffusion and foreclosure toward moratorium and achievement. The biggest gains in the development of identity are in college, as college students are exposed to a greater variety of career choices, lifestyles, and beliefs. This is likely to spur on questions regarding identity. A great deal of the identity work we do in adolescence and young adulthood is about values and goals, as we strive to articulate a personal vision or dream for what we hope to accomplish in the future (McAdams, 2013).

    Developmental psychologists have researched several different areas of identity development and some of the main areas include:

    Religious identity: The religious views of teens are often similar to that of their families (Kim- Spoon, Longo, & McCullough, 2012). Most teens may question specific customs, practices, or ideas in the faith of their parents, but few completely reject the religion of their families.

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    Political identity: The political ideology of teens is also influenced by their parents’ political beliefs. A new trend in the 21st century is a decrease in party affiliation among adults. Many adults do not align themselves with either the democratic or republican party, but view themselves as more of an “independent”. Their teenage children are often following suit or become more apolitical (C t , 2006).

    Vocational identity: While adolescents in earlier generations envisioned themselves as working in a particular job, and often worked as an apprentice or part-time in such occupations as teenagers, this is rarely the case today. Vocational identity takes longer to develop, as most of today’s occupations require specific skills and knowledge that will require additional education or are acquired on the job itself. In addition, many of the jobs held by teens are not in occupations that most teens will seek as adults.

    Gender identity: This is also becoming an increasingly prolonged task as attitudes and norms regarding gender keep changing. The roles appropriate for males and females are evolving. Some teens may foreclose on a gender identity as a way of dealing with this uncertainty, and they may adopt more stereotypic male or female roles (Sinclair & Carlsson, 2013).

    6.10: Psychological Development in Adolescence (3)

    Ethnic identity refers to how people come to terms with who they are based on their ethnic or racial ancestry. “The task of ethnic identity formation involves sorting out and resolving positive and negative feelings and attitudes about one’s own ethnic group and about other groups and identifying one’s place in relation to both” (Phinney, 2006, p. 119). When groups differ in status in a culture, those from the non-dominant group have to be cognizant of the customs and values of those from the dominant culture. The reverse is rarely the case. This makes ethnic identity far less salient for members of the dominant culture. In the United States, those of European ancestry engage in less exploration of ethnic identity, than do those of non-European ancestry (Phinney, 1989). However, according to the U.S. Census (2012) more than 40% of Americans under the age of 18 are from ethnic minorities. For many ethnic minority teens, discovering one’s ethnic identity is an important part of identity formation.

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    Phinney’s model of ethnic identity formation is based on Erikson’s and Marcia’s model of identity formation (Phinney, 1990; Syed & Juang, 2014). Through the process of exploration and commitment, individual’s come to understand and create an ethic identity. Phinney suggests three stages or statuses with regard to ethnic identity:

    1. Unexamined Ethnic Identity: Adolescents and adults who have not been exposed to ethnic identity issues may be in the first stage, unexamined ethnic identity. This is often characterized with a preference for the dominant culture, or where the individual has given little thought to the question of their ethnic heritage. This is similar to diffusion in Marcia’s model of identity. Included in this group are also those who have adopted the ethnicity of their parents and other family members with little thought about the issues themselves, similar to Marcia’s foreclosure status (Phinney, 1990).
    2. Ethnic Identity Search: Adolescents and adults who are exploring the customs, culture, and history of their ethnic group are in the ethnic identity search stage, similar to Marcia’s moratorium status (Phinney, 1990). Often some event “awakens” a teen or adult to their ethnic group; either a personal experience with prejudice, a highly profiled case in the media, or even a more positive event that recognizes the contribution of someone from the individual’s ethnic group. Teens and adults in this stage will immerse themselves in their ethnic culture. For some, “it may lead to a rejection of the values of the dominant culture” (Phinney, 1990, p. 503).
    3. Achieved Ethnic Identity: Those who have actively explored their culture are likely to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of their ethnic heritage, leading to progress toward an achieved ethnic identity (Phinney, 1990). An achieved ethnic identity does not necessarily imply that the individual is highly involved in the customs and values of their ethnic culture. One can be confident in their ethnic identity without wanting to maintain the language or other customs.

    The development of ethnic identity takes time, with about 25% of tenth graders from ethnic minority backgrounds having explored and resolved the issues (Phinney, 1989). The more ethnically homogeneous the high school, the less identity exploration and achievement (Umana- Taylor, 2003). Moreover, even in more ethnically diverse high schools, teens tend to spend more time with their own group, reducing exposure to other ethnicities. This may explain why, for many, college becomes the time of ethnic identity exploration. “[The] transition to college may serve as a consciousness-raising experience that triggers exploration” (Syed & Azmitia, 2009, p. 618).

    It is also important to note that those who do achieve ethnic identity may periodically reexamine the issues of ethnicity. This cycling between exploration and achievement is common not only for ethnic identity formation, but in other aspects of identity development (Grotevant, 1987) and is referred to as MAMA cycling or moving back and forth between moratorium and achievement. Bicultural/Multiracial Identity: Ethnic minorities must wrestle with the question of how, and to what extent, they will identify with the culture of the surrounding society and with the culture of their family. Phinney (2006) suggests that people may handle it in different ways. Some may keep the identities separate, others may combine them in some way, while others may reject some of them. Bicultural identity means the individual sees himself or herself as part of both the ethnic minority group and the larger society. Those who are multiracial, that is whose parents come from two or more ethnic or racial groups, have a more challenging task. In some cases their appearance may be ambiguous. This can lead to others constantly asking them to categorize themselves. Phinney (2006) notes that the process of identity formation may start earlier and take longer to accomplish in those who are not mono-racial.


    What are the psychological development during adolescence? ›

    The most important psychological and psychosocial changes in puberty and early adolescence are the emergence of abstract thinking, the growing ability of absorbing the perspectives or viewpoints of others, an increased ability of introspection, the development of personal and sexual identity, the establishment of a ...

    What did Erikson say about adolescence? ›

    According to Erik Erikson, the main task of adolescents is to solve the crisis of identity versus role confusion. Research has shown that a stable and strong sense of identity is associated with better mental health of adolescents.

    What are examples of psychological development? ›

    Some of the many issues developmental psychologists assist with include:
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    • Developmental challenges and learning disabilities.
    • Emotional development.
    • Language acquisition.
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    • Motor skill development.
    • Personality development.
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    What are the most common psychological problems adolescence? ›

    The most common mental illnesses in adolescents are anxiety, mood, attention, and behavior disorders. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15–24 years.

    What is Erikson's psychosocial development theory? ›

    Erikson's theory postulates that people advance through the stages of development based on how they adjust to social crises throughout their lives. These social crises instruct how individuals react to the surrounding world.

    Which of the following best describes adolescence? ›

    Which of the following best defines adolescence? The transitional period between childhood and adulthood.

    What is the psychosocial conflict of adolescence? ›

    Psychosocial theories explore the psychosocial crisis of adolescence, personal identity vs identity confusion. This concept highlights the need for individuals to find self-definition as well as a sense of meaning and purpose that will guide decisions as they transition into adulthood.

    What are the 6 important development of adolescence? ›

    During adolescence young people will negotiate puberty and the completion of growth, take on sexually dimorphic body shape, develop new cognitive skills (including abstract thinking capacities), develop a clearer sense of personal and sexual identity, and develop a degree of emotional, personal, and financial ...

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    A theory of adolescent development usually can be attributed to one of four major fundamental schemes: psychoanalytic theory; cognitive theory; learning theory; and ecological, contextual theory.

    Why is adolescent psychology important? ›

    What is the importance of adolescent psychology? The importance of adolescent psychology is that it is a psychological and physical transition in human development from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence psychology is important to help teens understand the changes they are going through.

    What is the summary of psychological development? ›

    psychological development, the development of human beings' cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of a normal life span, from infancy through old age. It is the subject matter of the discipline known as developmental psychology.

    What are the 6 stages of psychological development? ›

    Our new Thrive philosophy is born from six stages of human development: social-emotional, intellectual, moral, psychological, physical, and spiritual.

    How do you develop psychological development? ›

    In order to understand yourself, you must continue to examine yourself, develop, and grow every day. Practice discipline and challenge yourself to accomplish new heights.
    1. Do not be a slave of your desires. ...
    2. Be Obedient to your parents and respect them. ...
    3. Early to bed and Early to rise… ...
    4. Exercise daily.

    What are the three problems of adolescence? ›

    Growth and development, education, childhood illnesses that persist into adolescence, mental health issues, and the effects of risky or illegal conduct, including injury, legal consequences, pregnancy, infectious diseases, and drug use issues, are the most common problems among teenagers.

    Why is psychosocial development important? ›

    One of the strengths of psychosocial theory is that it provides a broad framework from which to view development throughout the entire lifespan. It also allows us to emphasize the social nature of human beings and the important influence that social relationships have on development.

    What is meant by psychosocial development? ›

    Psychosocial development is just a fancy phrase that refers to how a person's individual needs (psycho) mesh with the needs or demands of society (social). Erikson's theory of psychosocial development gives us a way to view the development of a person through an entire lifespan.

    What are 3 characteristics of adolescence? ›

    The five leading characteristics of adolescence are biological growth and development, an undefined status, increased decision making, increased pressures, and the search for self.

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    Behaviorally, adolescence is associated with volatile emotions and boundary-testing behavior as individuals explore and assert personal identity, learn to navigate peer relationships, and transition to independence.

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    The characteristics are: 1. A period of Rapid Physical/Biological Changes, has Psychological Repercussions Too 2. Appearance-Consciousness 3. Attraction Towards the Opposite Sex 4.

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    In childhood, parents are responsible for regulating the behavior of their children. Adults are responsible for regulating their own behavior. [1] This shift in primary responsibility for behavior, and all that this entails, is perhaps the greatest task of adolescent development.

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    For both boys and girls, these changes include a growth spurt in height, growth of pubic and underarm hair, and skin changes (e.g., pimples). Boys also experience growth in facial hair and a deepening of their voice. Girls experience breast development and begin menstruating.

    What is an example of development of adolescence? ›

    During adolescence the body usually experiences a growth spurt, which is a time of very rapid growth in height and weight. Puberty, which also happens during adolescence, is the time period of maturation where sexual organs mature. Rapid changes in the body can be exciting, scary, and/or confusing.

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    This chapter explores three key domains of adolescent development: puberty, neurobiological development, and psychosocial development.

    What factors affect adolescent development? ›

    Answer and Explanation: Factors affecting adolescent development include physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral development. It is important to discuss puberty and sexual development as well as physical appearance and body image under physical development.

    What happens to the brain during adolescence psychology? ›

    Adolescence is a time of significant growth and development inside the teenage brain. The main change is that unused connections in the thinking and processing part of your child's brain (called the grey matter) are 'pruned' away. At the same time, other connections are strengthened.

    What are the 5 stages of psychological development? ›

    Sigmund Freud proposed that personality development in childhood takes place during five psychosexual stages, which are the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages.

    What are the five psychological characteristics of adolescent? ›

    The five leading characteristics of adolescence are biological growth and development, an undefined status, increased decision making, increased pressures, and the search for self.

    What are the psychological and emotional changes in adolescence? ›

    Your teenager might begin to feel more empowered to take on new responsibilities and make their own decisions. They may also develop a strong need for social connections outside the family and may seek independence in some aspects of their lives.

    What are three emotional or psychological changes in adolescence? ›

    Most are progressing through puberty, intensely aware of physical changes, often leading to many body image issues. They have rapid wide mood swings, become easily upset and emotional, and alternate between extreme cooperation and extreme resistance to adult guidance.

    What are the 6 stages of psychosocial development? ›

    This Article Contains:
    • Stages of Psychosocial Development.
    • Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust.
    • Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt.
    • Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt.
    • Stage 4: Industry Versus Inferiority.
    • Stage 5: Identity Versus Role Confusion.
    • Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation.
    • Stage 7: Generativity Versus Stagnation.
    Aug 5, 2020

    What are the three types of psychological development? ›

    Developmental psychologists aim to explain how thinking, feeling, and behaviors change throughout life. This field examines change across three major dimensions, which are physical development, cognitive development, and social emotional development.

    What are the three factors that are important to adolescent development? ›

    Adolescent development is characterized by biological, cognitive, and social changes.

    What are the most common emotional changes that occur during puberty and adolescence? ›

    Their mood might change more frequently, quickly and randomly. Your child may have strong emotions that they've never experienced before. It's common for them to feel confused, scared or angry and not know why. They also might be more sensitive and become more easily upset than usual.

    What are the psychological effects of puberty? ›

    Young people may experience higher risk of mental health issues with early puberty. Those most frequent in the teenage years include anxiety and depression, eating disorders, conduct disorder (serious antisocial behaviour), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and self-harm.


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