Positive Psychology and Adolescent Mental Health: False Promise or True Breakthrough?

By Kelley, Thomas M. | Adolescence, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Positive Psychology and Adolescent Mental Health: False Promise or True Breakthrough?


Kelley, Thomas M., Adolescence


While president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman (1998), called for a Manhattan Project for the social sciences. Seligman's vision was that the social sciences look beyond human weakness, damage, and remediation to reclaim one of its fundamental missions: the understanding and facilitation of human strength and virtue. In response to Seligman's call and similar pleas by others (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 1999; Goleman, 1992; Myers, 1992), positive psychology emerged as a long-overdue alternative to the field's traditional focus on pathology and dysfunction (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Its proposed mission was the scientific study of human strength, resilience, and optimal human functioning.

The promise of positive psychology for American adolescents is apparent to anyone who has had contact with a cross-section of these youth. In such a group, one encounters a surprising number of youngsters who are bored, unmotivated, and pessimistic about their future. This malaise was strikingly illustrated by Larson and Richards' (1991) random sampling of self-reports on 16,000 moments in the daily experience of a representative sample of white, working- and middle-class adolescents, a group that seemingly had everything going for them. These youth reported being bored for 27% (4,300) of these random moments. What particularly surprised the researchers, however, was that honor students were as likely as those involved in delinquent activities to be among those reporting high rates of boredom, in many cases for more than 50% of random moments. According to Larson (2000): "Many do their schoolwork, comply with their parents, hang out with their friends, and get through the day, but are not invested in paths into the future that excite them or feel like they originate from within.... They communicated an ennui of being trapped in the present, waiting for someone to prove to them that life is worth living" (p. 120).

Positive psychology promises to get adolescents' internal fires lit, to help them develop the complex skills and dispositions necessary to take charge of their lives, to become socially competent, compassionate and psychologically vigorous adults. Yet, without causal principles that accurately explain optimal adolescent psychological functioning, any explanation of "the good life" for these youth is as possible and as feasible as any other. Only principles will bring discipline to the proposed mission of positive psychology and provide a consistent standard upon which to judge the truth and integrity of its findings and propositions. Without a unifying principle-based conceptual foundation, positive psychology (like traditional psychology) will inevitably splinter into ever-increasing numbers of separate and often competing theories, practices, and areas of specialization, each with its own research agenda based on its own set of variables. Thus, the efforts of positive psychology to evolve all will be done separately and simultaneously, rather than systematically and in concert. If this occurs, positive psychology will inevitably fail to keep its promise to our young people.

HEALTH REALIZATION MODEL

The purpose of this paper is to offer a principle-based model of optimal adolescent mental health that can serve as a unifying conceptual framework to help guide positive psychology as it seeks to achieve its proposed mission. This model has been previously known in the literature as Psychology of Mind (POM), and Neo-Cognitive Psychology (NCP). Presently, it is commonly referred to as Health Realization (HR) and the Three-Principle Understanding. The pioneering work on this paradigm was done by psychologists, Robert Mills (1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2000) and George Pransky (1990, 1997). The HR perspective has been applied extensively to the areas of at-risk youth, delinquency, and criminality by Thomas Kelley (1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, in press).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Positive Psychology and Adolescent Mental Health: False Promise or True Breakthrough?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.