AdolescenceA Stage or a Passage

There are numerous theories of adolescence, which mostly refer to one of two paradigms: at one end of the continuum, adolescence is perceived as a passage, characterized by certain transitions, leading to pre-fixed developmental endpoints. This is concisely exemplified in the concept of developmental tasks (7). At the other end, the characteristics of adolescence are rather described as a stage or developmental "moratorium," a period characterized by experimentation and defining one's own identity and self. While the transitions approach focuses on pre-fixed developmental tasks and is directed to the future, the "moratorium" approach (most prominently purported by Erickson) focuses on the individual's autonomy and identity formation and is centered on the present (14,10). As outlined by Reinders (14), both theoretical concepts differ with respect to the underlying dimensions: time (future vs. present) and generation (adulthood vs. peers). They should not, however, be perceived as exclusive. On the contrary, adolescent development may be described within these coordinates (Table 2).

As Reinders (14) further exemplifies, internal (personality and personal resources) as well as external influences (family, society) may determine the course of the developmental pathways: there is either potential and appeal to speed up transition in order to fulfill adult roles or to remain in the adolescent orientation stage and to protract the "moratorium." This typology may serve as a useful tool to describe developmental pathways beyond the well known but exaggerated lament of adolescence as a turmoil or as a notoriously rebellious phase (which wrongly equates adolescence with the "segregation" pathway; Table 2). As Ingersoll rightly states, "an

Table 2 Typology of Adolescent Pathways

Assimilation High identification with standards of the adult world, low intergenerational conflict; strongly future oriented

Stage orientation


Undetermined as to whether to relate to peers or to adults, low future orientation and low engagement in peer activities e Integration ,¡2

J3 Socio-cultural autonomy

§ equally important as w a

Cu the transition to the adult world


Demarcation from adults and focus on peer-related culture and values, ("sub-culture"-type); strongly r oriented to the present

Source: Adapted from Ref. 14.

image of adolescents as generally stressed, tumultuous, and anxiety-ridden is misleading and potentially harmful" (8). Weiner even goes one step further, highlighting the fact that psychosocial adaptation is the rule and if there are overt signs of conflict, these must not be played down as a transient adolescent unrest, "symptom formation is pathologic" (12). According to the same author, findings from comparative studies on healthy adolescents with minor symptoms versus disturbed adolescents provide guidelines for differentiating normal from abnormal development: the more symptoms are displayed, the longer these persist, and the more the symptom picture is marked not only by feelings of anxiety and depression but also disturbed thinking or antisocial behavior, the more likely it is that the young person has a definite psychopathologic condition.

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