Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Counseling Adolescent Students Affected by the War in Iraq: Using History as a Guide

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Counseling Adolescent Students Affected by the War in Iraq: Using History as a Guide

Article excerpt

The schemes of war of today's generation of adolescents might be heavily influenced by the War in Iraq because it is the first war this generation is likely to remember living through. Although the War in Iraq has produced a unique set of circumstances and concerns for adolescents who have experienced it, there is much to be learned from past wars about the types of counseling that would be helpful and appropriate. Considering developmental theories and information gleaned from previous wars is helpful in establishing best practice methods for counseling adolescents during times of current and future international conflict.

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Historically significant events of the time periods from which students' life experiences are based are of great consequence when exploring developmental challenges (Elder, 1994). Reflecting on these significant events, such as wars, is crucial for understanding the context from which students tell their stories. Furthermore, developmental theories serve as frameworks for connecting historical events to students' lives. When applied to adolescents, Erik Erikson's psychosocial stages of development, Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development, and William Purkey and John Schmidt's self-concept theory provide counselors with insight into the implications for counseling students whose schemes of war are being shaped by the War in Iraq.

Adolescents construct schemes based upon what they have learned or experienced. The scheme serves as a means for organizing declarative knowledge or factual information (Eggen & Kauchak, 2003). Adolescents' war schemes are likely to be shaped by what they learn about through school coursework, messages from peers and adults, and the media. The schemes of war of today's generation of adolescents might be heavily influenced by the War in Iraq because it is the first war this generation is likely to remember living through. The schemes of war that adolescents are constructing are the foundation for interpreting international conflicts as the War in Iraq continues to unfold and future international conflicts ensue.

ADOLESCENCE: THREE DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES

Erikson (1950/1963) cited adolescence as a time of identity versus role confusion. Young adults are challenged to develop an understanding of themselves in relation to the world; adolescents try on different roles in an effort to discern a stable sense of self and personality (Santrock, 1998). Kohlberg indirectly addressed the historical impact on development. His "conventional level" of moral development, which is characteristic of adolescence, is driven by a need to maintain social order while what is "right" depends on the approval of others (Good & Cartwright, 1998). Drawing upon the approval and influence of others' ideas is a preliminary component of individual moral reasoning. Purkey and Schmidt's self-concept theory (1996), when applied to adolescents, incorporates perceptions of self with roles held. Some of the roles adolescents often hold include student, son or daughter, and friend. These roles in turn influence attitudes and perceptions surrounding war.

The process of working toward an understanding of an individual's developmental history can be central to the counseling process, especially when applied to one's perception of a specific event or construct, such as war. Applying Erikson, Kohlberg, and Purkey and Schmidt's theories of development to adolescent groups who experienced World War II, the Vietnam War, or the Persian Gulf War facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of those adolescents whose schemes of war have been shaped by the War in Iraq.

DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES APPLIED TO ADOLESCENTS DURING WORLD WAR II

During World War II, adolescents were surrounded by peers who were joining the war efforts with a patriotic fervor that has not been experienced since (Gallup Organization, 2001). There was a personal connection to servicemen; many adolescent males were part of the service and many females held a personal connection to those servicemen. …

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