Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years

Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years

Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years

Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years

Excerpt

Of all stages of life, adolescence is the most difficult to describe. Any generalization about teenagers immediately calls forth an opposite one. Teenagers are maddeningly self-centered, yet capable of impressive feats of altruism. Their attention wanders like a butterfly, yet they can spend hours concentrating on seemingly pointless involvements. They are often lazy and rude, yet, when you least expect it, they can be loving and helpful.

This unpredictability, this shifting from black to white and from hot to cold is what adolescence is all about. The years from twelve to nineteen are special because they offer a developing person the opportunity to experiment with contrasting life styles, with different selves. Without this period of trials and errors, the adult would grow up to be just a larger copy of the child it had been earlier. During adolescence all bets are off: The shy, obedient child has a chance to be a show-off or a bully; the friendly extrovert might become a recluse. If human life is such an exciting mystery, it is to a large extent due to the choices that biology and culture open up during the teenage years.

The fluidity of adolescence allows freedom to alter the course of life, but it does make the job of social scientists a great deal harder. Psychologists like to be able to explain what people have done and to predict what they will be doing. Confronted with the provocative contradictions of this age, they are likely to be frustrated.

One way out of this dilemma is for the social scientist to focus on the "hard facts" of adolescence; to tabulate the number of . . .

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