Social & Personality Development

Prepared by Ethel Cantu

Based on Development Across the Lifespan, 2nd Ed

by Robert Feldman, Prentice-Hall


Social & Personality Development
in Adolescence

•      Search for Identity

•      Relationships with Family & Friends   

•      Sexuality

Search for Identity (Erikson)

•      Identity vs identity confusion

•      Become a unique adult with coherent sense of self and a valued role in society

•    Crisis not fully resolved in adolescence

•    Issues of identity resurface during adulthood

•      Some degree of identity confusion is normal

•      Search for commitments of personal choice

•    Occupation

•    Life values

•    Sexual identity

Identity Status (Marcia)

•      Crisis: period of considering alternatives

•      Commitment: adherence to a path of action

•      Identity Achievement

–    crisis leading to commitment

•    made personal choices after thought and struggle over major life issues

•      Foreclosure

–    commitment without crisis

•    no questioning or exploring; accepting another’s plan for one’s life

Identity Status (Marcia)

•      Moratorium

–   crisis, but no commitment yet

•   exploring and struggling with decisions

•      Identity Diffusion

–   no crisis, no commitment

•   no serious exploration or struggle; avoidance of decisions

•      Status changes as people continue to develop

Identity Formation

•      Gender Differences

–   Women develop identity and intimacy together

•   establishing relationships and cooperation more important than separate identity and competition

•   may no longer be true due to changes in women’s roles since 1970s

–   Adolescent girls may accept stereotypes and lose self-esteem and self-confidence

Identity Formation

•      Ethnic Factors

–   Minority groups integrate multiple identities

–   Ethnicity may or may not be central to identity

–   Problems surface when ethnic value system clashes with larger society

–   Prejudice and discrimination may limit choices


•      Adolescent suicide rate has tripled in last 30 years

–    3rd most common cause of adolescent death

•      Contributing factors include:

–    Stress

–    Depression

–    Family conflicts

–    Abuse/neglect

–    Drug/alcohol abuse

–    Cluster suicide (copy cat)


Relationships With Family

•      Adolescent rebellion

–   Emotional turmoil, alienation, and sharp break with family standards experienced by only 20%

–   Assumption that storm and stress is normal may lead to failure to recognize troubled teens

–   Most teens’ fundamental values are close to those of their parents

•   Most conflict with parents is over day-to-day matters: dress, chores, money, curfew, friends

Relationships With Family

•      Family conflict

–   Seek autonomy & control

•   Need to assert independence

–   Renegotiate balance of power between parent and child

–   Most conflict is in early adolescence

•   Parents have difficulty letting go

•   Teens are immature in judgments

•   Time when peer group has greatest influence

Relationships with Peers

•      Functions of Peer Group

–   Source of emotional support       

–   Place for experimentation

–   Setting for independence from parents

–   Place to form intimate relationships

•      Influence of peer group can be positive or negative

Family and Peer Interactions

•      Parents have indirect influence on choice of friends

–   Early parent-child interactions set the stage for prosocial or antisocial behavior which leads child to seek friends and approval from particular groups

•      Authoritative parenting style helps children internalize social standards and resist negative peer influences


•      Sexual orientation is determined largely by biological processes: genetics and hormones

–    Heterosexual: attracted to opposite sex

–    Homosexual: attracted to same sex

•      Homosexual fantasies and experiences are common in adolescence

•      Changes in sexual attitudes and behavior

–    More acceptance of homosexuality

–    Greater approval of premarital sex

–    Decline in double standard

–    Acceptance of masturbation as normal

Sexual Risk Taking

•      When sexual activity begins

–    By age 15           33% males       25% females

–    By age 19           86% males       80% females

•      Reasons for early sexual activity

–    Peer pressure

–    Curiosity

–    Sexual feelings and desires

–    Coercion (date rape)

–    Love

Sexual Risk Taking

•      Protection against pregnancy and STDs

–    Most sexually active adolescents (2/3) use condoms and contraceptives

–    Those who don’t are usually in early teens, have low aspirations, are uninvolved, use drugs

•      Reasons for not using protective measures

–    Did not expect to have intercourse: unprepared

–    Lack of knowledge or access

–    Embarrassment

–    Fear their parents would find out

Sex Education

•      Most parents don’t give enough information

•      (Mis)information comes from friends

•      Advantages of adequate sex education

–   More likely to consistently use contraceptives

–   More likely to postpone sexual activity

–   More likely to avoid pregnancy and STDs

Teen Pregnancy

•      Teen birth rate

–    Us (1994)           37.6 per 1000

–    TX (1995)          41.3 per 1000  (2nd highest state)

–    80-95% of pregnancies are unintended

•      Poor outcomes

–    Little to no prenatal care

–    Higher rates of low birth weight and prematurity

–    Immature body: still growing girl competes with fetus for nutrients