Chapter 12 : Socioemotional development, adolescence

Was your adolescence better described as a stormy and stressful time or as one of trying out new identities as you sought to find an identity of your own? Explain.

Adolescence is a large period of change. Children grow physically in height and weight as well as changing shape with the rush of hormones that arrive for puberty (Santrock, 2019). Puberty follows its unique course in each human body (Santrock, 2019, p. 342). Hidden to the naked eye, the brain also undergoes rapid change, primarily maturing in the corpus callosum (information processing), and the limbic system (emotions), notably the amygdala, become increasingly solicited (Santrock, 2019). Erikson deemed adolescence a period in which we live a phsychosocial moratorium that acts as the bridge between the dependence of childhood and the independence of adulthood (Santrock, 2019, p. 372). It is a time of self-discovery, when our quest for identity rages (Santock, 2019, p. 372).

I experienced my own adolescence as a stressful time. My identity was tightly interwoven with my parents and twin sister. In adolescence, I realized that I wanted to be very different from them, but struggled to find the way to remain close interpersonally while differentiating. Creating my own identity felt like a delicate and dangerous mission because it was hard to differentiate without hurting or disappointing those around me. I felt pulled between the family ideologies, and those of my social group, and I spent a lot of the time feeling lost. Most of my teenage years were spent in crisis, a time in which I tested alternative identities (Santrock, 2019). They were all subtle, and many only played out in my head.

What were your peer relationships like in adolescence? What peer groups were you involved in? How did they influence your development? What were your dating and romantic relationships like in adolescence? If you could change anything about the way you experienced peer relations, what would it have been?

Intimacy and relationship status become increasingly important for adolescents (Santrock, 2019). Adolescents tend to seek out close relationships with their peers and as they separate from the intimacy of the relationships with their parents, they bring this displaced intimacy to their peers (Santrock, 2019). Some of these bonds can be so strong that they may hold the same role as the family, or as people in the circus would call it, the "chosen family". The sensation of belonging is a strong motivator, and cliques (small groups of friends) and crowds (larger categorical groups or peers) form (Santrock, 2019, p. 382). Peer pressure increases risk taking (Santrock, 2019). Teenage years are also typically the time in which we discover romantic relationships (Santrock, 2019).

I had many different peer groups. I had friends from the many schools that I attended, from playing soccer, from being in a youth circus troupe, and from the dance program at my school. Each group had a different sub-culture. The soccer team was a funny mash up of friends who grew both together over the years of playing soccer and of being as a team, and also apart as we reached teenage and were in such incredibly different crowds off of the field. My circus troupe was a partying group and introduced me to sex, drugs and alcohol. Risk taking was central, as was learning to make friends quickly and network. The dance group was obsessed with image and had a much more self-conscious way of relating to each other. Sociability was at times competitive. And my school friends were all fairly dorky and totally lovable. They tended to be less socially outgoing than me and stuck together. I had romances throughout high school, but I feared the judgement of my family, so none of the relationships took as much space as they may have taken for my other peers.

If I could change one thing, I would have reassured myself that I was doing a fine job. I always saw that other people were more popular, or looked more confident, or had deeper friendships, and I always felt like I could not fit in. In retrospect, I did the best that I could given all my activities and the family dynamics! Some self-compassion would have helped me quite a bit.

Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

© 2016 by Aviva Rose-Williams.

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