The growing interest in social research has increased the focus on adolescent studies by scholars and researchers. There is a renewed interest in theoretical construct of behavioral, temporal, psychological, cultural, and psychological studies in a bid to enhance the understanding of youths, particularly adolescents. The behavioral complexity associated with adolescence has puzzled researchers and renewed interest in the subject in a bid to improve the theoretical and practical knowledge. This critical development period (adolescence is commonly understood as the years between the onset of puberty and maturity/ social independence. The lack of conceptual clarity regarding existing research on adolescence is the key driver of this study. The research explores the conceptual underpinning by Steinberg to help improve understanding adolescence.
Based on the arguments presented by Steinberg (2014), adolescence is viewed as beginning in biology and ending in culture. This notion by Steinberg (2014) has attracted the attention and focus of researchers as it attempts to examine the different stages of adolescence and its progression into further life stages. Steinberg (2014) highlights the challenge associated with adolescence research, particularly with deciding when it starts and when it ends, a factor that is highly subjective. Experts use puberty to mark the commencement of adolescence since the biological changes can be easily detected and identified; and it is universal. Steinberg (2014) uses the example of menstruation to describe the biological component of adolescence. Notably, there is no consensus on when the period ends. The end of adolescence is subjective depending on communities which use social indicators to draw the line between adulthood and adolescence (Steinberg, 2014); such as attaining the age of majority. Notably different communities disagree on the social indicators that mark the end of adolescence, and thus adolescence dependent on culture.
The concept by Steinberg (2014) is relevant to the varying experiences that are common in adolescent development. Modell and Goodman (1990) equate the process of adolescence development to the other stages of human development. For instance, Modell and Goodman (1990) indicate that the phase of adolescence is imminent with emergent adult biology, although it is not yet completely coordinated with adult roles. The research by Steinberg (2014) is relevant in the modern community considering the societal changes that have been experienced within the past century. There is uniformity when it comes to the commencement of adolescence as the associated characteristics are evident from biological examinations. However, the end of adolescence is subjective and is dependent on the prevailing culture or societal beliefs. Although majority communities are more inclined to the assumption of end of adolescence at the age of majority (18 years), traditional/ earlier societies viewed its end at a much earlier age (13 years to 16 years).
Steinberg (2014) offers various theories related to adolescence growth, among them the concept of arrested development. According to Steinberg (2014), this concept is based on consequences as opposed to causes. The concept of arrested development is based on the notion that healthy development is driven by the demands of adulthood, such as marriage and parenthood. The concept reveals the current trend among modern youths who are taking longer to grow and avoiding responsibilities that are associated with adulthood (Steinberg, 2014). The above arguments are in line with the literature by Modell and Goodman (1990) who asserts that the growing demand on children to grow up and take an economic role is driven by an economy of scarcity. Modell and Goodman (1990) further claims that the experiences and expectations of adolescents is dependent on social class. Young adolescents in lower social classes are driven to participate in income generating activities compared to those in higher social classes.
There is growing demand to train the youth to improve their responsibilities. Notably, greater emphasis has been put on parenting to help develop a generation that is independent, responsible, and successful. However, institutions and parents have taken the concept of arrested development to far, and are pushing children far beyond their cognitive and physical limits in an attempt to shape their behavior and future. Nicholls (2018) discusses an article highlighting the importance of sleep among teenagers amid the growing educational and parenting pressure. Although it is important to control the development environment of youths, institutions and parents should also consider the cognitive and physical well-being of their children. Nicholls (2018) further notes that insufficient sleep reduces attention and impairs memory, thereby hindering the mental and physical growth of the students. Turner (2015) concurs with the above claims and indicates that adolescents should be given the opportunity and freedom to grow without the growing societal pressures. Similarly, Fertig (2015b) indicates that students are bombarded by psychological and physical changes, thereby increasing the need for flexible teaching methods/ systems. This notion is boosted by the story of ‘Education of Omarina’ which indicates how an innovative and flexible education program to stem the high dropout rate shaped the success journey of a young girl (Koughan and Robertson, 2016). As such, there is need to reconsider the current education and parenting methods rather than pushing adolescents towards independence in the current sophisticated and challenging environment. Studies have shown that adolescents have similar risk-prone brains and are part of their cognitive development (Damour, 2017).
Based on the literature by Steinberg (2014), developmental plasticity is the process whereby personal experiences shape the developing brain and this process continues until the mid twenties. Steinberg (2014) indicates the importance of experience in the development of new knowledge and abilities among teenagers and adults. Developmental plasticity entails the growth of new brain cells which aid in the decision-making capacity of an individual. The concept can be discussed based on the criminal liability of an individual. Rampell (2009) poses the question: ‘how old in enough?’ in a bid to understand whether children ought to be sentenced to life. Based on the concept, children do not have the appropriate mental capacity in decision-making, and thus should not be criminally liable for some offenses. However, Rampell (2009) underlines the need to shape children’s behaviors.
Based on the investigation by Spinks (2002), scientists have attempted to understand the brain functionality of teenagers and indicated that the teenage brain undergoes extensive changes during puberty, and this contributes to brain development. This illustrates the curiosity among teenagers and the associated bad choices which contribute to their experiences and future decision-making. Although personal experiences shape the personal growth of youths, parents should also contribute positively towards their growth and development. Fertig (2015) underlines the importance of parenting guidelines particularly in guiding adolescents through relationships.
To sum up, there is need to enhance the understanding of the theoretical underpinning of adolescence studies. The commencement of adolescence can be easily identified based on biological tests, although its ending is subjective across societies and cultures. The concept of arrested development illustrates the need to encourage the growth and maturity of the youth. However, this should be done guarantee the physical and psychological health of youths. This is supported by the concept of plasticity which illustrates how personal experiences shape the developing brain and this process continues until the mid twenties.
Damour, L. (2017). Teenagers Do Dumb Things, but There Are Ways to Limit Recklessness. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/08/well/family/teenagers-do-dumb-things-but-there-are-ways-to-limit-recklessness.html
Fertig, B. (2015). When Relationships Reign Supreme. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/being-12-when-relationships-reign-supreme/
Fertig, B. (2015b). Middle School: A ‘Hot Mess’ of Distractions. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/cutting-through-distractions-with-care/
Koughan, F., and Robertson, M. (2016). The education of Omarina. In D. Fanning, Frontline. Boston, MA: WGBH.
Modell, J. & Goodman, M. (1990). “Historical perspectives.” In S. Feldman & G. Elliott (Eds). At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 93–122). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nicholls, H. (2018). Let Teenagers Sleep In. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/opinion/sunday/sleep-school-start-time-screens-teenagers.html
Rampell, C. (2009). How old is enough? The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/weekinreview/15ramp.html
Spinks, S. (2002). Inside the teenage brain. In D. Fanning, Frontline. Boston, MA: WGBH (PBS).
Steinberg, L. D. (2014). Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Turner, C. (2015). This Is a 12-Year-Old Brain on Peer Pressure. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/12-year-old-brain-peer-pressure/