Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

David Elkind and the Crisis of Adolescence: Review, Critique, and Applications

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

David Elkind and the Crisis of Adolescence: Review, Critique, and Applications

Article excerpt

The study of adolescence has always challenged both practitioners and researchers. For over two decades, David Elkind has argued that today's children and adolescents are being required to fulfill unrealistic societal expectations to accept roles and responsibilities before the child is developmentally ready to accept such obligations. More current studies and Elkind's own work prompts a review, analysis, and potential applications of his contributions in engaging and studying today's teenager.

Review of Elkind's Views

Elkind is particularly concerned about the current status of adolescents and their families. No longer is adolescence viewed as a transitional stage preparing the child to gradually grow into adulthood, argues Elkind. Teens can ill-afford to demonstrate immature beliefs and behaviors. Instead, adolescence is now its own sophisticated demographic, stating "(w)e now look upon adolescents as worldly-wise in matters of sex, drugs, music, computers, and consumerism. The teen years are no longer seen as a training period for adult life; they are considered, to be, rather a different form of adult life, with its own unique indices of maturity" (Elkind, 1994, p. 145). Elkind asserts that the culture of children has made a qualitative-and potentially harmful-alteration. Whereas precocity was once viewed with suspicion ("early ripe, early rot"), he believes children and teenagers are instead being pushed to become miniature adults, a phenomenon that he calls the hurried child (Elkind, 2001). Adolescents may particularly lose in this scenario. Elkind (1984) has stated that, "there is no place for teenagers in today's society; consequently, teenagers are made more vulnerable to stress than ever before" (pp. 18-19). He also believes the consequence of the present crisis of adolescence is to make these teenagers vulnerable to stress while exposing them to Stressors never experienced by previous generations (Elkind, 1984).

Using the constructivist theory of developmentalist Jean Piaget, Elkind argues that teens are developing, but have not yet mastered, the sufficient cognitive maturity necessary for adult decision-making and processing. For example, a teen's thoughts may be characterized more by idealism than realism (Elkind, 1984, 2001b; Opper, Ginsburg, & Brandt, 1987). Elkind proposed what is now his well-known theory of adolescent egocentrism (Elkind, 1907, 1985), which partly expands and elaborates features of Piaget's theoretical developmental stage called formal operations. Elkind describes at least three characteristics of teenage thinking. One is the self-conscious nature of adolescents which he calls "the imaginary audience," that teens are constantly being observed and judged. Another is the self-cent eredness of teens which Elkind calls "the personal fable." He states this also helps explain the risk-taking behaviors exhibited by many teenagers, a belief that the teen is invulnerable. A third feature is what Elkind refers to as "apparent hypocrisy," which helps distinguish between supposed bad motives by teenagers and intellectual immaturity. In effect, Elkind (1978) credits Piaget for providing important insights and helping to shift views of adolescent conduct "from the realm of the 'bad' to that of behavior typical for this age group" (p. 127).

Being "hurried" has unique consequences for the teenager. The traditional view of adolescence includes opportunities to grow into adulthood, which includes teenage experiences of awkwardness, rebelliousness, mood swings, and social gaffes (Elkind, 1994). Erikson's psychosocial developmental theory argues the teen years are a time to find and refine one's identity, the so-called identity crisis, which by definition involves sometimes confusing experiences of growth and instability (Erikson, 1950). Elkind (1994) stated that the demand for today's adolescents is to be sophisticated, not immature, with the potential for selfdestructive results. …

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