The common dictionary definition of adolescence, as the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, gives little hint of the concerns and controversy which surround it. There is little doubt that adolescents often receive a bad press, with lurid tales of blackboard jungles in school, and car theft, drug use and sexual promiscuity, outside school. For reasons such as these, adolescence has been described as a time of 'storm and stress', but is this reputation justified?
There are two limitations in the reports about adolescence in the popular press. They focus on the more sensational news and tend to ignore that which is routine or mundane. Secondly, they tend to offer simplistic explanations. For example, awkward adolescents are dismissed as being 'hormonal'. Of course biological factors are part of the story, but they do not directly and inevitably lead to a particular behaviour. Social factors, the influence of adults and peers, are also involved and sometimes these reinforce the biological factors and at other times they conflict. However, adolescents have minds and can take responsibility for their actions. They do not have to do what others tell them and they are not totally a slave to their biology.
Therefore, we have to unpick each issue in order to understand the underlying causes. A recent concern has been with binge drinking and a 'yob' culture. Presumably adults have to accept some of the responsibility, but precisely how much depends on whether you believe in Original Sin or Original Virtue. The former belief, located in the Bible, in many traditional cultures and vividly described in Golding's Lord of the Flies, suggests that children are naturally selfish and aggressive. In this event, adults have to socialize youngsters into more civilized values and the anti-social behaviour reflects a failure by adults to assert appropriate authority. If, however, you