Write a Caution: Teenager Under Construction: Evaluating stereotypes.
Adolescence, sometimes referred to as the “teen” years can be a time of both disorientation and discovery. G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) was the first psychologist to advance the concept of adolescence, scientifically. He argued for a physical demarcation, namely, puberty to mark its onset. Hall described this period of lifespan development as Stum und Drang (storm and stress). Over 150 years later, American author and filmmaker Nora Ephron (2006) echoed this sentiment writing, “When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone I the house is happy to see you”.
Many social, behavioral and life scientists throughout history have and continue to explore what it means to an adolescent. And while some, beginning with Hall were confident in a biologically based origin, others have not been so sure of its universality.
Critics of this nativist approach to understanding adolescence argue that it is a social construction, a stereotypical label, a superficial exercise in the convention of naming.
And for those that do find categories important or useful, some like the American Academy of Pediatrics, further subdivide adolescence into three substages: early adolescence (10-14), mid-adolescence (15-17] and late adolescence (18-24).
Perhaps none were more outspoken and respected than Margaret Mead. A contemporary of Hall, Mead was an anthropologist, among the first of her generation to take issue with what had and to a large extent continues as of this day to be described as a period of interpersonal conflict, rebelliousness, moodiness, and risky behavior (Arnett, 1999).
More recently, the work of Alice Schegel and Herbert Barry (1991) seem to provide contemporary support, suggesting that the experience of adolescence may indeed vary culturally.
Similarly, Tulane University sociologist, Lisa Wake (2011) writes, “The idea that young people take a decade to grow up, in the meantime inhabiting a space called “young adulthood” is rather new in American culture. A bit older is the idea of “adolescence,” the idea that there is a stage between childhood and (young) adulthood that is characterized by immaturity and capriciousness: the teenage years.”
Others, like Hill, R.F. & Fortenberry, J.D. (1992) have gone so far as to suggest there is nothing inherently wrong with or problematic about this period of development; claiming instead it is western society who has and continues to medicalize or pathologize those who happen to fit this age range.
A transitional stage, adolescence is marked indeed marked by physical and psychological changes as one advances from childhood to adulthood. In the western world, “teenager” is the moniker assigned to those ranging from 13 [teen] to 19 [teen] years of age. To some, adolescence is a mental shortcut “grown-ups” (particularly in the western world) use to stereotypically demarcate younger members of society. To others, adolescence is an actual stage of human development that links teenagers the world over. And while there had been and continues to be much disagreement over the particulars, what we can agree upon according to Bonnie L. Hewlett (2013) is that this period of lifespan development seems to be a more “intense and challenging time of risk and change, of learning and growth, of biological cognitive and social development.
As a teenager, you may encounter many stereotypes, both positive and negative, that are associated with your age group. It is important to recognize and evaluate these stereotypes, as they can influence how you see yourself and how others see you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Stereotypes are not always accurate.
Stereotypes are generalizations that are often based on limited information or biased perspectives. Just because someone is a teenager, it does not mean they are lazy, rude, or rebellious. It is important to recognize that individuals are unique and cannot be defined sole
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Stereotypes can be harmful.
Negative stereotypes about teenagers can lead to prejudice and discrimination, which can have real-world consequences. For example, a teenager may be unfairly judged or denied opportunities because of negative stereotypes. It is important to speak out against stereotypes and work to create a more positive image of teenagers.
Positive stereotypes can also be limiting.
While positive stereotypes about teenagers may seem flattering, they can also be limiting. For example, if someone assumes that all teenagers are tech-savvy and interested in social media, they may overlook the talents and interests of teenagers who excel in other areas. It is important to recognize that positive stereotypes can be just as limiting as negative ones.
Stereotypes can change over time.
Stereotypes are not static and can change over time. As society changes, so do the stereotypes that are associated with different age groups. It is important to stay aware of how stereotypes are evolving and to challenge them when they are inaccurate or harmful.
As a teenager, it is important to recognize and evaluate stereotypes, both positive and negative. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and others, and work to create a more positive and inclusive society.