Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Spiritual Abuse and Masculinity Construction among African Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Spiritual Abuse and Masculinity Construction among African Adolescents

Article excerpt

Introduction

Adolescence is the transitional stage of development between childhood and full adulthood, representing the period of time during which a person is biologically adult but emotionally not at full maturity. The age range of adolescence varies by culture. In the United States, it is generally considered to begin around age 13, and ends around 24. By contrast, the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2005) defines adolescence as the period of life between 10 and 20 years of age. In the African (and Nigerian) context it is relatively between 11 and 21 years.

The transition to adolescence is characterized as a time of dramatic change for youth (Larson and Richards, 1994, Orji and Anikweze, 1998). Uwakwe (1998), describes the adolescence period as the most challenging and tasking phase in the developmental process of the human organism. The challenges, which are often traumatic to most people, stem from the fact that the adolescents are faced with the task of biological, sexual and physical maturity. The challenges also include the adult society and culminate in induced demand for emotional stability. During this stage of the life cycle, youth experience puberty (Steinberg, 1993, Akinboye, 1987), expand their cognitive abilities (Lapsley, 1990), and develop a sense of self and identity (Hair, 1999; Harter, 1999). They may alter expectations from school and academic achievement (Eccles and Midgley, 1990; Hoffman, Levy-Shiff, Ushpiz, and Schlatter, 1993).

With the onset of adolescence, there is an increase of elements that affect the shaping of goals and goal-oriented behaviours (Jarvinen and Nicholls, 1996). It is at this time that an individual begins to spend less time with their family and more time with their peers. The satisfaction with the latter peer relationship is important to the development of a good self-concept. Adolescents are more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem and academic achievement if they are accepted by their peers. Those who are less accepted tend to be at greater risk for problems in later social and psychological functioning (Parker and Asher, 1987). Academic performance and educational aspirations have also been shown to have an effect on self-concept (Richman, Clark, and Brown, 1985).

For a very long time, humans have been known to be spiritually inclined. Although many reasons have been postulated as to why religion has become part of humans' life, the reality is that a person has to draw on invisible strength within or without to bear on the problem they perceive that they have. Thus Akinboye (1992) concludes that religious (or spiritual) value is one of the eight personality dimensions of humankind. In recent studies of the pattern and strength of religiosity among the world's peoples, out of the 76 countries investigated, Nigeria expressed the strongest level of religiosity by scoring 93 per cent (Razib, 2004; Inglehart and Norris, 2005).

The Malaise of Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse is a relatively new term but its practice is probably as old as civilization. In the last decade literature on spiritual abuse has been available, mainly from the United States of America. Also, in New Zealand, awareness and emerging evidence of this issue has occurred more recently. Spiritual abuse appears to be a significant problem facing modern society (Cochraine, 2004). Bhaktavatsala and Dhyanakunda-devi (1999) note that some people may see the term "spiritual abuse" as a theological oxymoron because something defined as spiritual is something pertaining to the flawless nature of God and something within the realm of divine love cannot be exploitative or abusive (Dhyanakunda-devi Dasi, 1999), yet it is an accepted term within the field of abuse counselling.

Linn, Linn and Linn (1994) define spiritual abuse quite broadly as "denying other's spiritual freedom through claiming that only one's own way to God is valid" (The Linns, 1994, p. …

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