Psychology of Human Development

How does postformal thinking go beyond formal thinking? Is everyone capable of formal or post formal thought?

Postformal thinking refers to the principles a person learns from adolescence, which imply not only one valid option, but many plausible solutions. The application of these principles can provide practical guidance on resolving apparent logical contradictions and social conflicts. Postformal thinking pays particular attention to interconnections and the context, understanding how the system works, and equilibrium within the system (body, group of objects, production). Moreover, postformal thinking points out the usefulness of identifying contradictions between statements.

Besides, it is essential to recognize that opposites complement each other and better contribute to understanding a problem than following only one point of view. Post-formalist psychologists believe that events should be considered as moments of a general process, and as not static incidents that happened on their own (Human Development: A Cultural Approach. Chapter 9 Emerging Adulthood, 2016). Partly due to the particular focus on changing and the influence of various factors that make up the context, postformalists also find it necessary to admit to the subjectivity of all knowledge (Veraksa, 2019). Formal operations can only be deduced by inference; they cannot be taught as the moment of the end of adolescence forms them. Learning to think abstractly after reaching this age is no longer possible; every adult has the same rules of formal logic. For formal thought, one needs to think abstractly, while some adults are deprived of this ability due to a specific education or life experience. As long as an adult has not received formal knowledge, he or she cannot think abstractly about those situations that he or she has never encountered. It depends on the specialization, for example, some psychologists may apply formal thinking methods in their professional activities, while they cannot use abstract reasoning in physics or chemistry.

Marcia’s ethnic identity model: Chuck’s case

Marcia considered identity in the scope of the ability to take responsibility and life decisions. Identity achievement is ensured through internal self-development, determination of need patterns, abilities, and beliefs. It occurs after a teenager survives a crisis; he or she obtains a particular set of personal goals, providing a sense of direction and meaningfulness (Meeus, 2017). A teenager makes an informed decision in terms of professional, ideological, and sexual certainty which are the main guidelines of identity formation.

Taking into account Chuck’s situation, his current ethnic identity status can be identified as an identity moratorium. Marcia uses the term “moratorium” to describe a person in a state of identity crisis and is actively trying to resolve it, using all capabilities (Meeus, 2017). Chuck choose college himself, always had the intention to keep studying and leaving his community, which has been proven due to his actions. Teenagers are always in a state of searching for themselves and their place in the world. The justifying of that statement is Chuck’s choice to change his name and avoid being identified through his cultural background. Passing from one extreme to another, they undergo either a feeling of joyful expectation and anticipation or a sense of hopelessness and anxiety.

Chuck’s current identity status is not diffusion or foreclosure states. Concerning identity diffusion, neither crisis nor commitment is experienced. This identity model is standard for adolescents who lack goals and values and do not define social behavior patterns. In contrast, Chuck planned to pursue his education. Foreclosure is attributed to teenagers who did not experience the identity crisis, but at the same time, they determine their own goals and beliefs (Meeus, 2017). The content of these elements of identity may be the same as for persons who have achieved status, but the process of its formation is much different. The components are formed due to identification with parents or significant others. While adopted goals, values, ideals are most often similar to parental or reflect their projections, Chuck distinguishes him from the community background by hiding his given name and preferring being called by another one.

Concerning his family’s status, it is clear that there was considerable pressure to follow the family’s members’ values. The explanations, which can clearly illustrate it, are the facts that Chuck’s parents did not allow him to socialize beyond the African Muslim community, decisions about what to wear were also made by his family. As Chuck solves problems regarding himself and his life, the identity is filled with content based on his ideas; self-esteem is in the process of development about future elections and decisions.

What is a puberty ritual or rite of passage? How does this influence adolescence, i.e., are there pros and cons to rites of passages?

Puberty rites of passage are cultural events that mark a child’s maturation, often called initiation ceremonies. These ceremonies can take a comparatively short time or last for years; they can be simple ceremonies or elaborate performances that require special constructions and lengthy preparation. They can take the shape of a joyful celebration or an important rite with overcoming dangers, physical deprivations, and ritual surgery such as polishing teeth, incisions on skin, and genital mutilation. Psychological interpretations of puberty ritual come down to a discussion of conflicts related to the Oedipus complex, to the assertion of gender identity, and the stabilization of sex roles. Roscoe (2016) recognizes that rite passages are intended to prepare a child for his or her future status and to familiarize a teenager with it. The purpose of such ceremonies is to ensure transitions from adolescent state to socially recognized adult status. The primary negative outcome of the rite of passage might be the unreadiness of children to become adults. Consequently, it can negatively affect the formation of their identity and intentions, developing the abruption from the community.

One of the most interesting cases in this regard is the practice of initiating maturation in ancient cultures. Rite of passage was one of the transition rituals that accompanied the most significant social and personal changes in a person’s life: birth, growing up, marriage, maturity, death (Salamone, 2019). Initiation ceremonies for boys often take place in public: future participants gather, breaking down into age categories in the village square or a specially designated area. Female puberty rituals happen in an inner circle of relatives and rarely turn into public festivities (Salamone, 2019). The most characteristic feature of female initiation is the social recognition of the first menstrual period.

Initiation ceremonies provide for the simultaneous transition from adolescence to adulthood and the unification of generations with established norms, clearly and publicly set social roles and statuses. Initiation helps a teenager to master cultural and social rules and guarantees him or her recognition from others (Roscoe, 2016). This event has a significant psychological advantage, and teenagers are eager to undergo initiation trials, even if its rite is dangerous and painful. Puberty rituals were widespread and mandatory in ancient societies and continue to exist in preserved archaic cultures, for example, among the Indians of North America or the Bushmen of Africa (Salamone, 2019). Moreover, these days the transition to adulthood is not standardized. In most civilized societies, only the vestiges of initiations, which have lost their deep meaning and structure, are still preserved. For instance, they are boy scouts applications, some religious rites – circumcision, pioneer camps and squads, handicraft lessons for boys, and domestic science for girls.

Why is there a mixed response to maturing, i.e., why is early maturing bad for girls but good for boys?

Puberty is a process when physical changes occur, leading to the development of adult physical characteristics and reproductive capabilities. Hypothalamus begins to secrete a hormone called gonadotropin, stimulating the growth of the brain, bones, muscle, hair, and sex organs. Physiological and mental changes coincide due to the influence of hormones and the adolescent’s reaction to the physical modifications (Human Development: A Cultural Approach, Chapter 8 Adolescence, 2016). On average, puberty may last from the age of 11-13 until the age of 18-19. Comparing the development of early (precocious) and late-maturing teenage boys, the first ones would have several advantages over the latter (Martin, 2018). Early maturing boys feel more confident with their peers and have a more favorable self-image. Rapid physical development, giving growth benefits, physical strength increase the prestige of among equals in age.

These days girls mature earlier than their mothers and grandmothers. According to the scientific data, early puberty is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, as female sex hormones start affecting the body (Skoog & Bayram, 2016). Girls who mature early are more likely to develop depression symptoms by the age of 13-14 (Martin, 2018). This means that later sexual development protects children from psychological stress. Among the possible problems faced by teenage girls, researchers note conflicts with parents, issues related to romantic relationships, changes in body shape, and hormonal fluctuations (Skoog & Bayram, 2016). All these changes have more significant impacts on the psyche of girls of a younger age. As a result, early-maturing teenage girls often feel lonely and face problems that they are not emotionally prepared for.


Human Development: A Cultural Approach. Chapter 8 Adolescence [PowerPoint slides] (2016). Pearson Education, Inc.

Human Development: A Cultural Approach. Chapter 9 Emerging Adulthood [PowerPoint slides] (2016). Pearson Education, Inc.

Martin, K. (2018). Puberty, sexuality and the self: Girls and boys at adolescence. Routledge.

Meeus, W. (2017). Adolescent ethnic identity in social context: A commentary. Child development, 88(3), 761-766

Roscoe, P. (2016). Initiation Rites. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, 1-5.

Salamone, F. A. (2019). Routledge encyclopedia of religious rites, rituals and festivals. Routledge.

Skoog, T., & Bayram Özdemir, S. (2016). Explaining why early-maturing girls are more exposed to sexual harassment in early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 36(4), 490-509.

Veraksa, N. E. (2019). Dialectical thinking: Logics and psychology. Cultural-Historical Psychology, 15(3), 4-12.

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