Adolescence: A Sociological Analysis

Adolescence: A Sociological Analysis

Adolescence: A Sociological Analysis

Adolescence: A Sociological Analysis

Excerpt

Rarely in the history of man has the process of entering adult status become as difficult and uncertain as it is today. The life of the American teen-ager is characterized by the confusion and uncertainty of not knowing exactly what his role expectations are during the period of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is this vague no-man's land that is defined as "adolescence."

The difficulties, frustrations, and anxieties which accompany the transition from the child to the adult status express themselves in various ways. Many of the expressions, dysfunctional to society, are variously called juvenile, teen-age, or adolescent "problems." Symptoms of this type are responsible for the popular attention that is lavished on adolescence. Unfortunately, popular analysis and explanation often fall short of precision and objectivity. Indeed, most popular attempts should not even be called "analyses" because they fail to understand and formulate the antecedents of the problem. These ubiquitous popular statements are primarily value judgments or, at best, disgruntled descriptions of existing or even imagined youth problems.

An assessment of adolescence should be both analytical and comprehensive -- analytical in the sense of showing the causes and the consequences of adolescence, and comprehensive in the sense of describing the broader social context in which adolescence occurs. This book attempts to present a systematic synthesis of these two qualities by using the structural-functional approach. In less technical language one might call this approach the antecedent-consequent framework -- the framework that actually is sociology, according to the prevailing opinion of sociologists. The basic principle of the structural-functional question is relatively simple: Given a certain structure, what are its consequences (functions)? In the course of this book, a number of conditions and their effects on adolescence are examined. The inquiry focuses primarily on sociological and social psychological variables.

A meaningful portrayal of adolescence requires the coordination of interdisciplinary aspects. A number of these aspects have traditionally been regarded as the "property" of sociology of the family, sociology of education, social psychology, psychology, anthropology, the study of mass communication, the study of collective behavior, the study of social problems, etc. Such an arbitrary division of labor has disadvantages and tends to violate the correct representation of reality. Reality itself is obviously not subdivided into . . .

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