National Guidance Research Forum

Skip to content.

NGRF - UK National Guidance Research Forum

Sections
Log in


 
Funding Support

Adolescence

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Contribution from Nelica La Gro, Centre for Guidance Studies, University of East London.

1. BELIEFS ABOUT ADOLESCENCE: Some common questions

The questionnaire that follows aims to help you start thinking about your own views, and also how society views, this period of development.

Decide whether you agree or disagree with the following statements and think about your reasons. You can then view a short summary of current views and research about the statement.

  • The definition of adolescence is "children aged between 13 and 19".
  • Adolescence is a period of "storm and stress" and essentially problematic.
  • Adolescence is a transition that follows predictable lines.
  • Adolescents typically reject their parents have different values and attitudes and are influenced only by the peer group.
  • The quality of family relationships has an impact on how young people face this transition
  • The experience of parental divorce has a negative impact on the adolescent.
  • There is a relationship between social class and career steps of young people.
  • Most adolescents leave home on a permanent basis.
  • 'Between cultures' is a term used to describe the experiences of young people from minority ethnic groups living in the UK. Adolescence raises particular issues for such groups.
  • There are gender differences in the experience of adolescence.

1. BELIEFS ABOUT ADOLESCENCE: Answers

The definition of adolescence is "children aged between 13 and 19": Adolescence has been viewed as the transition between ‘childhood’ and ‘adulthood’. It starts with the onset of puberty (with its accompanying physical and emotional changes), but the end is less easily defined. In the West, the end of adolescence has often been signaled by people leaving home, setting up an independent household, involvement in a long-term relationship and gaining financial and material independence, and/or finding a fairly permanent job. Recent conditions in society have affected the achievement of such tasks and a sizable majority of those who are legally adults do not fit all these conditions. Researchers have noted that the pace and extent of young people’s transition into employment has been delayed (see Roberts, 1997) and a recent OECD report indicated Britain has one of the worst records of industrialised nations for getting young people successfully from school into work. Currently writers describe this period as one of ‘multiple transitions, involving education, training, employment and unemployment as well as transitions from one living circumstance to another ( Coleman & Roker, 1998, p593).

Adolescence is a period of storm & stress and is essentially problematic:

Western societies tend to perceive adolescence as a time of rebellion and personal distress. However, this is not necessarily the experience for all teenagers and there may be differences between cultures. The term ‘storm & stress’ dates from research in 1904. Weiner (1992) summarised the results of 4 decades of research into adolescence and suggested it is a relatively small group (10-20%) of teens who exhibit more serious behavioural disturbance. Current approaches to adolescent research emphasise the process of change and adjustment taking place in response to developmental transitions rather than viewing it as a period of 'storm & stress; a less problem-centered concept.

Adolescence is a transition that follows predictable lines:

Increasingly it is viewed as necessary to consider the interplay between social context and the individual to understand the differences in how young people negotiate this period. Research now emphasises that the ‘goodness-of-fit’ between individual’s social circumstances and psychological development determines how this period is experienced (Graber & Brookes-Gunn, 1997). This means although there may be broad similarities, the nature of the pathways followed through the transition of adolescence may vary widely between individuals.

Coleman (1974,78) put forward a ‘focal theory’ suggesting that anxiety or difficulty arising from a particular sort of relationship pattern or issue comes into focus at a particular stage and can be replaced by another focal issue. This has implications for young people. Those who have to deal with more than one issue at a time may be considered more at risk than those for whom issues are well spaced out. Focal theory is generally supported but still being tested with more longitudinal studies (see Coleman & Roker, 1998).

A recent study of a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Northeast England (Johnston et al, 2000) found that young people’s confidence and approach to decision making were severely affected by the impact of living in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood. They suggested that ‘processes of inclusion and exclusion were often spurred by early experiences (at 12 or 13) which had a significant impact on later destinations in there twenties’.

Adolescents typically reject their parents, have completely different values and attitudes and are influenced only by the peer group.

A common perception of teenagers is that they go through a stage where they reject their parents (and anything to do with their parents) and instead follow the negative influence of their peer group, creating a teenage 'peer culture' which has different values to the rest of society. The concept of a `generation gap' implies a divergence of viewpoint between adults and teenagers and, partly as a result of this, a degree of conflict between the generations. For a proportion of young people relations are strained and for many there are conflicts, often short-lived and focusing on certain limited topics and preferences. However a wide variety of studies show generally positive relationships and convergence of opinions between adolescents and their parents.

Research has indicated that neither adolescents nor parents perceive the influence of social relationships accurately. Teenagers perceive their parents to be less influential than they really are, while adults perceive that they are more influential than they actually are. Furthermore young people, in assessing the magnitude of the differences between the generations, appear to over-emphasise the extent of these differences, while conversely, parents underestimate such differences.

Noller and Callan (1991) suggest that the conflict that occurs during early adolescence is actually a healthy event. It may be necessary for young people to assert their rights forcefully at a time when parents may not be voluntarily softening the rules.

At the same time, the decline in traditional family structures and the absence of strong role models may lead some young people to turn to peer-groups for emotional support or a sense of belonging. If the pull of family and educational institutions is weak they can become part of an alternative culture which provides its own sense of ‘inclusion’. Cullingford & Morrison (1997) studied the complexities of peer-group pressure. They also used the term ‘doubly excluded’ to describe those who are rejected by mainstream peer-group, with a sense of academic and social failure, and turn to other marginalised peer-groups.

The quality of family relationships has an impact on how young people face this transition:

Evidence shows that family relationships can affect the success with which young people negotiate the major tasks of adolescence, the extent to which they become involved in problem behaviour generally associated with this time and their ability to establish meaningful relationships. Aspects of the family that seem particularly important are the encouragement of autonomy and independence, degree of control desired by parents, amount of conflict between family members, closeness of family bonds, levels of support and communication.

Studies (e.g., Arnold at al, 1988, Cherry & Gear, 1987) have shown that families are seen as extremely influential when it comes to making decisions or taking advice about their own careers. The quality of parent child relations and the interest and expectations of parents are very important components in adolescent career development. Parents may influence directly through advice and instructions or indirectly through roles.

The experience of parental divorce has a negative impact on the adolescent:

Divorce, particularly when associated with inter-parental conflict, is commonly, though not constantly, a risk factor for adolescent psychological health. The breakdown of a marriage cannot be considered a time-limited event and often divorce follows years of marital strife. In the long term it may not be the divorce itself, which affects the young person most strongly, but the altered circumstances that flow from it, e.g. economically deprived conditions. One important component remains the level of conflict between parents.

Family transitions such as divorce and parental remarriage are now more prevalent. We are looking at new forms of living and relationships, for example, between visiting parents or young people who belong to two households simultaneously, when parents have set up new family arrangements.

There is a relationship between social class and the career steps of young people:

Research indicates that social class still has a major effect on young people's careers with higher proportions of those from professional backgrounds continuing in academic or vocational education, compared to those from unskilled backgrounds. The evidence of a significant desire of the British working class teenager to leave school and find employment can also be related to accessible role models and opportunities. Research into aspirations of 13-year-olds (Furlong & Cartmel, 1995) showed that the relationship between social background and aspirations is stronger than the relationship between schools attended and background, although many more young people were realistic about the need for geographical mobility.

Most adolescents leave home on a permanent basis:

Many young people who want to leave home for work or other options are unable to leave due to lack of money and accommodation. Others leave home and then return. Leaving home is not as permanent a step as often assumed. Young people who leave home to find work rather than go into further or higher education often need support. At University or college there may be welfare systems but those seeking work can have more problems such as homelessness, loneliness and poverty and fewer sources of help.

'Between cultures' is a term used to describe the experiences of young people from minority ethnic groups living in the UK. Adolescence raises particular issues for such groups:

Adolescence is an important period for identity formation. This can be more problematic for minority adolescents who often find themselves in a conflict situation between cultures. However there is also evidence that many young people participate effectively in both cultural systems. For some minority groups choice of career and transitions are likely to be made within the framework of family aspirations and interests. Within contemporary British culture emphasis on the family is experienced differently by various ethnic groups. However stereotypes are also prevalent, e.g. that all Asian young people are under pressure from their parents to be upwardly mobile.

There are differences in how boys and girls experience adolescence:

Evidence indicates girls achieve better academically while within the education system, yet are still underrepresented in prestigious occupations. There are also arguments that changing labour markets have an impact on opportunities for females. Research has indicated that during adolescence self-efficacy and self esteem often decreased for young females, while at the same time girls tend to demonstrate relatively high levels of career maturity. There is evidence that the tendency for young women to inhibit career options is diminishing. At the same time research indicates that working class young males are operating at an increasing disadvantage both in education, training and employment opportunities.

2. ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT

Adolescence is a period of rapid change in different domains (e.g. biological, social), often accompanied by confusion and anxiety for young people as they struggle to develop their own sense of identity. Much attention is currently given to the challenges adolescents face in modern society (e.g. the current government re-focusing agenda).

Over the last decades on-going work has been carried out on the stages of adolescent career development (e.g. Super,1971) and the issue of how 'career maturity' is achieved during the period of adolescence. This also includes the relationship between the development of identity and confidence to engage in career planning. Identity is viewed as a central element in any concept of adolescence. As this 'life stage becomes longer and more fragmented and as entry into adulthood becomes more problematic, notions of identity and identity formation are likely to receive more attention from researchers' (Coleman & Roker, 1998) , particularly the theme of the interplay between the social context and the individual's developing sense of identity.

Ref. Coleman, J. & Roker, D. (1998). Adolescence. The Psychologist, Dec. 1998.

3. INFLUENCES ON CAREER DEVELOPMENT

a) People:
Family (expectations, attitudes, role models), peers, teachers.

Young people may feel pressure from parents, peers, society or themselves to make one ‘right’ decision. At the same time, confusion over their own identity can lead to difficulty in making occupational decisions.

Career awareness can be limited if there is no access to adults who model successful employment & networking experiences

b) Experiences:
Work experience, leisure, jobs, voluntary work, training schemes, observations, careers education programmes i.e. reality testing.
  • Young people need to develop awareness of skills/abilities needed for work areas and an accurate knowledge of labour market information.
  • Using such experiences can help young people when they are exploring options or searching for congruence between ‘self’, preferred lifestyle & aspects of occupations (prestige, availability).
  • Media and peer or family influences may distort adolescent’s perceptions of realities of work (e.g. in relation to sex typing of occupations)
c) Context:
Socio-economic background, ethnic background, genders.
  • Career decisions are embedded within adolescent’s dynamic social context.
  • Identity formation, which is an integral part of adolescent development, is affected by cultural, ethnic and geographical contexts.

4. CAREER MATURITY

Career development is related to overall maturation. Career maturity can be characterised by:

  • greater self awareness;
  • career-related knowledge leading to systematic exploration of the world of work;
  • career planning behaviour/ ability to use decision-making skills;
  • self-esteem;
  • awareness of preferred lifestyle & work values;
  • shift in focus from ‘self’ to world of work.

5. ROLE OF GUIDANCE

An implication of the points set out above is the importance of working with a holistic understanding of the young person (e.g. values, interests, passions, family setting, and skills)

Guidance has the potential to provide the following:

  • Develop self- knowledge & promote thought rather than a quick fix:
  • Exploration with an impartial adult can build greater awareness of ‘self’, e.g. values, interests, abilities, different roles in relation to the world of work,
  • Provide information: broaden awareness, information on educational & occupational areas, skills & abilities required.
  • Planning skills: help develop realistic goals, planning & decision making skills
  • Self-confidence: help promote self-esteem.

Ref: Seligman, L. (1994) Developmental Career Counselling & Assessment, Sage

6. TECHNIQUES TO ASSIST ADOLESCENTS’ CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Developing ‘career literacy’

  • exposure to careers education programmes
  • observation, media
  • work experience, part-time employment that offer opportunities to experience the functions of work and develop employability skills.
  • networking: seeking wider range of positive encounters in the working world
  • mentoring
  • community based interventions (e.g. internet café, Deptford, London)

One-to-one guidance interviews

  • can help people explore & deal with how they see themselves in the world of work.

Structured programmes within the education system

The QCA publication, Learning Outcomes from Careers Education & Guidance (1999) identifies 3 aims for careers education & guidance:

  • Self-development
  • Career exploration
  • Career management

In today’s world there is a lack of linear career paths & the notion of young people being able to choose & plan a predictable career is less accurate. Effective careers education and guidance can help young people to gain self-awareness and self-assessment together with developing strategies to navigate the changing labour market.

References

Arnold et al 1988

Arnold, J. Budd, R.J. & Miller, K. (1988) Young people's perceptions of the uses & usefulness of different sources of careers help, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, Vol. 16, No 1.

Banks et al 1992

Banks, N., Bates,I, Breakwell,G. Bynner,J. Emler, N, Jamieson,L, Roberts,K. (1992) Careers and Identities, Milton Keynes, Open University Press

Basit 1997

Basit, T.N. (1997) ‘I’d hate to be just a housewife’: career aspirations of British Muslim girls. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling. Vol. 24,(2)

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Cherry et al 1987

Cherry,N. & Gear,R. (1987) Young people's perceptions of their vocational guidance needs : priorities and preoccupations, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, Vol. 15, No1.

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Coleman et al 1998

Coleman, J. & Roker,D. (1998) Adolescence. The Psychologist, Dec. 1998.

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Cullingford et al 1997

Cullingford, C. & Morrison, J. (1997) Peer group pressure within and outside school. British Educational Research Journal, 23(1), 61-80

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Furlong et al 1995

Furlong, A. & Cartmel, F. (1995) Aspirations and opportunity structures: 13 year olds in areas with restricted opportunities. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, Vol. 23, No 3

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Johnston et al 2000

Johnston,L. MacDonald,R. Mason, P. Ridley,L. & Webster, C. (2000) Getting By: Young People, Transitions and Social Exclusion. Implications for the Connexions Service. Paper presented at Connexions Conference, London, June 2000. (contact Dr Colin Webster, University of Teeside, tel. 01642 342339)

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Noller et al 1991

Noller, P. & Callan,V. (1991) The Adolescent in the Family,London, Routledge.

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Roberts 1997

Roberts,K. (1997) Prolonged transitions to uncertain destinations: the implications for careers guidance. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 25, 3.

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Siann et al 1990

Siann,G.,Knox,A. Thornley E., Evans,R. (1990) Parents, careers & culture: the view of ethnic-minority & ethnic majority girls, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 18, 2 May

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Weiner 1992

Weiner,I.B. (1992) Psychological Distubance in Adolescence, New York, Wiley

Adolescence can be described as a period of transition between 'childhood' and 'adulthood' and a critical time of career decision-making. This section considers some relevant issues for guidance prctice with clients in this age group.

Bookmark and Share Last modified 2004-08-30 10:04 AM
Last cached: 2012-04-09 04:56 PM
 

Software and site design and implementation by KnowNet, based on Plone 2.