Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Attainment of Developmental Tasks by Adolescents with Hearing Loss Attending Special Schools

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Attainment of Developmental Tasks by Adolescents with Hearing Loss Attending Special Schools

Article excerpt

THE INVESTIGATORS compared the perceived attainment of developmental tasks by 181 German adolescents with hearing loss and 254 peers without hearing loss. The adolescents with hearing loss were attending special schools for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. On average, the two groups perceived similar levels of success across the assessed developmental tasks. Nonetheless, the adolescents with hearing loss had fewer friends and were less likely to be peer-group leaders. While the adolescents who were deaf or hard of hearing perceived similar levels of attainment of their developmental tasks, those with congenital hearing loss reported less success in gaining access to a peer group than those with acquired hearing loss. However, the reverse was found for perceived attainment of occupational skills. The results indicate that students with hearing loss attending special schools tend to be successful at solving age-typical developmental tasks.

Keywords: developmental task, deaf, hearing impairment, hearing loss, goal attainment

Developmental Tasks and Hearing Loss

An important question of applied developmental psychology and clinical child and adolescent psychology is how sensory disabilities affect the development of young people. In the present study, we focus on the perceived attainment of developmental tasks by adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The concept of developmental tasks was introduced by Robert Havighurst (1948). He defined developmental tasks as age-specific goals that correspond to individual needs and social expectations. He saw developmental tasks as motivated by normative demands (e.g., expectations regarding the appropriate age for the school-to-work transition), physical maturation (e.g., the onset of puberty), and personal values and aspirations. Havighurst defined eight developmental tasks of adolescence: to accept one's body, achieve emotional independence from parents, adopt a masculine or feminine gender role, develop close relationships with peers, prepare for an occupation, prepare for marriage and family life, establish a personal value or ethical system, and achieve socially responsible behavior. This list of developmental tasks has been updated slightly, for example, by replacing preparation for marriage with forming a romantic relationship (e.g., Schleyer-Lindenmann, 2006). Studies based on Havighurst's framework that are conducted with adolescents who do not have disabilities show that 11-to-18-year-old students perceive these tasks as important life goals (Massey, Gebhardt, & Garnefski, 2008). Perceived success with attaining these tasks has been associated with increased subjective well-being in 14-to-17-year-old adolescents (SeiffgeKrenke & Gelhaar, 2008). Thus, the list of developmental tasks provides a useful framework for identifying important and widely held life goals of adolescents.

The present study asked whether adolescents with and without hearing loss may differ in the attainment of developmental tasks. It is estimated that about 5% of American adolescents have at least a mild level of hearing loss (= 25 dB; Shargorodsky, S. G. Curhan, G. C. Curhan, & Eavey, 2010); similar numbers can be expected in other industrialized countries. The attainment of some developmental tasks may be complicated by hearing loss. First, hearing loss often restricts the development of social competence, for example, due to a compromised ability to communicate orally with normally hearing individuals, which may cause difficulties with making hearing friends or gaining access to a peer group (Antia, Jones, Luckner, Krei - meyer, & Reed, 2011; Kluwin, Stinson, & Colarossi, 2002; Watson, Henggeler, & Whelan, 1990). Second, young people with hearing loss may be confronted with reduced expectations on the part of hearing individuals, which could lead to limiting of personal goals and a related reduction in goal attainment (Bat-Chava, 2000). Third, hearing individuals may be less interested in socializing and forming friendships with adolescents with hearing loss. …

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