Adolescence, Diversity, & Development: The Transitioning Teenager

 Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Public Health  By Dr. Monique M. Chouraeshkenazi 

Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Public Health

By Dr. Monique M. Chouraeshkenazi 

        I grew up in a small town called Gallagher, West Virginia. The town has less than 600 people-- no stop signs, stores, gas stations, parks, etc.—just one church (that I can remember) that coincidentally my female cousin is now the pastor. Additionally, there were only four black families that lived there (including mine), so it was not diverse at all. Some of the kids I grew up within this town did not go to school all the time. In Gallagher, I had three friends that I rode the bus with to and from school. Plus, we hung out a lot because our families knew each other well. We did not hang out as much when my grandfather died in 1998 and my family moved to Pratt (about three miles from Gallagher). It was such a short distance, but it was like a different world. It was during this time, I grew much closer to my peers and developed meaningful friendships. The population in Pratt, which is approximately 585, has a little more civilization: volunteer fire department, police department (sheriff is the Mayor and two police officers) one church, the elementary school I attended, the water company, post office, and a town hall). Even though there was more civilization, diversity still did not play a role. When we moved to Pratt, I believe my grandmother was the only black person to live there. 

Diversity

        Dr. Jacquelyn H. Gentry and Mary Campbell (2002) identified patterns such as recognizing diversity, physical development appearance, cognitive and emotional development are key elements of adolescent development. It is difficult to describe the patterns of my peers back then, because in hindsight, I believe there were so many different factors involved. Because I lived in a small town, many of my friends lived in surrounding towns or a little bit further. Growing up, we did not experience gangs, school shootings, drugs, suicides, or violence. The most serious offenses were houses getting egged on Halloween and your occasional fights in high school. Racism existed, but it was not as prevalent as what we see today, which is strange because you would think in the twenty-first century we have evolved. It directly affected me one time in middle school (an isolated incident), but nothing that mentally affected or traumatized me, as I stood up for myself and the parents apologized. Because I grew up in a predominantly white town in a majority white school, diversity was not something that was discussed. In my high school, there was about 200-250 black students with nearly 1,200 population in total. There were a handful of Asian/Latino/Indian Americans, but not enough to establish a diverse and cultural student environment. The friends I had did not judge by the color of my skin and it was not even an issue. 

my experience: adolescent development

        As for physical appearance, I believe my friends and I were on the same track. Per the National Institute of Health, “girls’ growth spurt peaks around 11.5 and slows around age 16” (2018, para. 2). I know our growth spurt was earlier than 11.5 years, but for the most part, I believe it to be accurate.  Mentally and spiritually, I believe I developed earlier and thought it was because of my background and family. I believe I am an “old-soul,” and it has to do with being raised by my grandparents. When I was 13, my friends’ parents were in their late 20’s, early 30’s and my grandmother was 62 and grandfather 78, so I lived in a totally different world. 

        Cognitive and emotional development, I believe can be based on biological and environmental influence. “Biological changes in brain structure and connectively in the brain interact with increased experience, knowledge, and changing social demands to produce rapid cognitive growth” (Boundless Psychology, 2017, para. 1). Going through puberty, obviously was a different stage for each person, but seemed to be something we all experienced. Additionally, I believe our upbringing influenced thinking and expressive responses. For example, I had a close circle of friends and their parents consisted of: teachers, firefighters, nurses, coal miners, and office workers. I believe the influence the parents had over my friends when it came to education and running the household developed their personalities and how they handled school and teenage life. For instance, I have a friend who was smart in every subject (straight A’s) and has a great personality. Both of her parents worked at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. I have another friend who was also smart, yet cared about friendships, clothes, nice things, and hanging out at the mall. Her mother was a nurse and dad, an executive. Another one excelled in school, very nice, and was the definition of a country girl—loved her family’s farm and was just a free spirit. Her mother was a firefighter and dad, a coal miner. Then there is me, who has two grandparents: grandmother graduated from high school and worked her whole life and grandfather, who quit school in the eighth grade to work in the coal mines. They were very adamant about my education, but I had to work even higher to excel. In all, I believe my peers (as well as myself) aligned with the adolescent development patterns. It is somewhat cool to reminisce and think about because it is so different than I believe how my daughter is developing as an adolescent vs. how I did.

Developmental Milestones: What are lasting impressions?

        In my opinion, transitioning through teenage years is the most challenging part of human development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it “Developmental Milestones” for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years (2017). The agency also stated during this stage this is how teenagers “think, feel, and interact with others, and how their bodies grow” (2014, para. 1). Olukunle Omotoso (2007) quoted that adolescence is a “phase of life beginning in biology and ending in society” (p. 1). I find this quote fascinating because the development of an infant into an adolescent is a scientific phenomenon. Being an adult is something that is sustained. Yes, we can see the physical changes from adulthood to geriatric phase, but the body and mind is pretty much developed (understanding there are various biological matters that exist during adulthood i.e. mental illness, diseases, aging, etc.). The new phase from adolescence to an adult is understanding how this adult work integrate within society. I believe what an adolescence is influenced by during this phase will have significant influence as an adult. The author states there are three phases of adolescence: early, mid, and late (Omotoso, 2007, p. 3). I believe the phases are in line with adolescents’ ages and biological developments, which is consistent with what we are discussing this week. How do you believe the adolescent stages affect adulthood?A former classmate stated, “teenagers will go through a stage of trying to fit in with their friends and the latest trends.” I know this is something I experienced as a teenager, but not because I wanted to fit in. It was because it was what everyone was doing at the time. With fundamental curiosity begins -- Why is it so important to for teenagers to feel like they belong and fit in, especially when they know once they get older, they will start a new life beyond middle/high school (i.e. college, moving, jobs, etc.)? I have always been fascinated by that. Why do we feel the need to want to fit in when such relationships are not necessarily permanent and life changes?

References

Boundless Psychology. (2017). Cognitive development in adolescence. American Public University System. Retrieved from https://apus.intelluslearning.com/lti/#/document/104988099/1/c420256583502cdbf64da4a63e475ff4/a8cf1bafa88d4e6d85d9048515ab2e7c/browse_published_content/3648/10896/29189/9/lesson/lessonhideClose=false&tagId=32607&external_course_id=368786&external_course_name=CHFD342%20I001%20Win%2018 (accessed on 5 March 2018).

Developmental Milestones. (2017). Teenagers (15-17 ages). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/adolescence2.html (accessed on 8 March 2018). 

Gentry, J. H., & Campbell, M. (2002). A reference for professionals: Developing adolescents. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/develop.pdf (accessed on 5 March 2018). 

National Institute of Health. (2018). Adolescent development. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002003.htm (accessed on 5 March 2018). 

Omotoso, O. (2007). Adolescents transition: The challenges and the way out (African perspective). Princeton University. Retrieved from http://uaps2007.princeton.edu/papers/70720 (accessed on 9 March 2018).