Helping Teens Answer the Question "Who Am I?": Social Development
The journey from childhood to adolescence is very challenging. Between the ages of 10 and 17 there are major changes in physical, cognitive, social, and moral development. The major task for adolescents is to establish their self-identity. By determining--as best they can--a sense of who they are, they attempt to find a group that reflects or reinforces this self-identity. The group allows them to feel that they stand out from the crowd. This phase of development allows the adolescent to search for their sense of self. This is in order to answer the increasingly important question that they could not consider in earlier stages of development: "Who am I?"
The next phase of adolescent development that is occurring at this same time is that of the teens social development. With the help of cognitive development, they begin to form an organized system of personality traits. These traits allow them to form a self-concept. Self-concept is a set of attributes, abilities, attitudes, and values that an adolescent believes defines who he or she is. The ability to think in new ways allows them to add new aspects of self-esteem (how they feel about their "self"). This can occur through life experiences such as learning to do a job, romantic appeal, and close friendships.
Self-esteem continues to rise during adolescence. As they gain confidence and self-awareness, they begin forming a self-identity. This sense of self makes them more comfortable with others. How they develop as a person is based on their perceptions of organized character sketches. These sketches come together through new perspective taking. This happens largely as the result of their social interactions. They become more able to develop friendships that are based on loyalty and intimacy. These are different than their younger friendships, which are based more on mutual trust and assistance. These social milestones occur slowly over time. Social experiences allow them to take on new adult-like behaviors. Remember, they are trying to learn how to function in a more grown-up world.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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