Adolescence occupies a distinctive niche in the human lifespan, which is primarily characterized by self-determination, social roles’ expansion, and the formation of outlook, interests, and principles. During this period, teenagers closely explore their personalities and their surrounding environment through intense interactions with their community. They begin to be involved in multiple public processes and responsibilities, including education, work, business, and even family creation, thereby laying the foundations for their future career and life path. Thus, this paper aims at examining social development in adolescence by reviewing its aspects, such as identity development, self-concept, self-esteem, and relationships, and applying different perspectives and concepts.
The Aspects of Social Development
Identity development is typically determined as a stage during which persons tend to make first endeavors, find their interests, and try various appearances and behaviors to reveal who they are. Moreover, adolescents can question their values and rules established by adults, analyze their relationships with peers and families, seek the meaning of life, and contemplate their talents and dispositions (“Adolescent development explained,” 2018). This process is frequently accompanied by internal and external conflicts, confusion, misunderstandings, the exploration of social roles, and experimentation with activities and ideas. This period marks the first steps towards independence and attaining a sense of competence. Therefore, developing and maintaining identity in adolescence years is a highly challenging task since it depends on many factors, such as socioeconomic, cultural, and sex affiliations and environments.
As the body experiences noticeable changes, adolescents pay close attention and give considerable time to their appearance. In contrast to children, they make more effort to look presentable or, at least, decent. According to the social learning theory, individuals acquire behavioral patterns through observational learning, and thus, culture plays a critical role in personality formation (Leung & Shek, 2020). In addition, Marcia links adolescence’s identity formation to decisions and commitments regarding ideologies and occupations (as cited in Pellerone et al., 2017). He distinguishes four key identity statuses, such as identity diffusion, identity achievement, foreclosure, and moratorium (as cited in Pellerone et al., 2017). For example, while, in identity diffusion, teenagers neither examine nor adhere to any individualities, identity achievement is connected with investigating different options and further commitments to them. Therefore, identity development entails the intensive exploration process, due to which youth become more deeply familiar with their personalities, inclinations, and talents.
Self-concept is one of the main elements of identity development, which is tightly associated with the question “Who am I?” In adolescence, cognitive development leads to deeper self-awareness, interest in others, including their thoughts and judgments, and the skill to think abstractly and logically. In particular, adolescents can consider the consequences of their choices and various possible selves, especially those that concern their long-term perspectives (Agrahari & Kinra, 2017). Examining these possibilities may cause radical and unexpected shifts in self-presentation, depending on selecting or rejecting particular qualities and behaviors. Therefore, teenagers begin to determine themselves through the prism of their opinions, preferences, and values, whereas children focus more on physical traits when defining themselves. It is worth noting that self-concept differs from self-esteem: the former is of descriptive nature, while the latter is related to evaluative opinions about self and personal achievements.
A self-perception can vary depending on the context, especially on personal aims, values, and imaginations. According to the humanistic perspective, primarily Rogers’s theory of self-concept, the real self implies individuals’ understanding of who they are, whereas the ideal self means a perception of whom they would like to be (Leung & Shek, 2020). This discrepancy between the real self and the ideal self is the principal drive for personal achievements and future career choices. Moreover, sometimes, it can result in excessive self-criticism, failures in activities, and consequent depression. For instance, as research indicates, positive self-concepts are associated with better academic success. Hence, it is vital to form positive self-concepts in adolescents because this significantly impacts their adult lives.
Self-esteem is usually regarded as a person’s subjective appraisal of own worth, which comprises beliefs about oneself and respective emotional states, including pride, despair, and shame. Self-esteem can be related to specific attributes or occupations (“I am pleased that I am an excellent player”) or character overall (“I feel upset about my stupidity”). Additionally, this sense is dynamic and varies based on short-term conditions and feelings. Most self-esteem concepts assert that all people, irrespective of gender and age, attempt to protect, support, and improve their self-esteem (Leung & Shek, 2020). An adolescent’s self-esteem can be immensely affected by approval from friends, family, and personal accomplishments. Teenagers with positive self-esteem are usually least vulnerable to peer pressure, and they better manifest leadership skills, especially in decision-making, communication, and problem-solving.
Nevertheless, men and women possess diverse determinants in their self-esteem. Girls generally enjoy high self-esteem when they are actively engaged in healthy relationships with peers and friends, who support them socially and have similar interests (Agrahari & Kinra, 2017). When they fail to find a person with shared activities or cannot achieve friends’ approval, their self-esteem decreases. Unlike girls, boys pay more attention to asserting their independence and determining their scope of authority or influence. In this regard, many youngsters strive to compete, excel, or even control others because such actions boost their self-esteem. Furthermore, failures to win or maintain the sympathy of the opposite sex can cause acute frustration and depression. In addition, Barbot and Heuser (2017) claim that creativity in different domains, especially music, drawing, and spectacular sports, delivers improved self-esteem. It is worth noting that this phenomenon can be connected with the body and appearance.
The adolescents’ relationships with their family, peers, and other people acquire a pivotal significance in youth’s social development. During this period, individuals’ social sphere develops fast, and they frequently become substantially engrossed in the establishment of friendship bonds. Usually, it is not dangerous unless friends put a person in a potentially pernicious situation via peer pressure, where they learn anti-social habits. Moreover, teenagers take their first independent decisions, which makes adolescence immensely sensitive and vulnerable. Nevertheless, communication within peer groups is essential in identity formation, and high-quality friendships can considerably improve children’s development regardless of their friends’ characteristics (Bagwell & Bukowski, 2018). Interactions with peers enable individuals to examine their feelings and personality and develop their social skills, including leadership, empathy, mutual help, and team- and self-belonging.
The foundation and patterns for building outer relationships are laid in the family. In healthy familial circumstances, adolescents begin to assert themselves noticeably and strive to win independence while maintaining a warm relationship with their parents. However, during puberty, the number of conflicts and misunderstandings between parents and children can significantly increase, especially regarding family values, acceptable garments, or adolescent privacy rights. Interaction between siblings is the earliest experience of children’s relationships, contributing to their social and self-understanding. Such experiences can enhance each other’s sociability and a sense of self-esteem. A powerful impact on adolescents is the abrupt change in family structure or dynamic that can occur due to divorce. A two-year study conducted among 1225 students concluded that divorce adversely affected youngsters’ conversational confidence, mental health, and self-concept (Meland et al., 2020). In this regard, most adolescents perceive divorce as a traumatic life event, which also reflects on their romantic relationships.
Romantic relationships take a prominent place in adolescents’ consciousness and development. According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of teenagers experience some romantic involvement, and 14 percent consider their relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends serious (Lenhart et al., 2015). Gómez-López et al. (2019) state that romantic experiences are vital sources of emotional bonding and improve positive self-conception and social integration. The healthy development of romantic relationships in adolescence can possess conducive reverberation in adult life and contribute to people’s well-being. According to the study, successful romantic involvement is correlated with higher rates of satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and personal and relational accomplishments (Gómez-López et al., 2019). On the other hand, these experiences can lead to negative aftermaths, such as various forms of violence, delinquency, low self-worth, aggression, depression, anxiety, or inadequate psychosocial functioning.
In summary, the paper has explored social development in adolescence by reviewing its aspects and different perspectives and concepts. Identity development is a pivotal stage of adolescents’ social development, during which they actively examine their feelings and thoughts and seek their interests, hobbies, and friends. Self-concept and self-esteem are two main elements of identity formation, the first of which is closely related to the question “Who am I?” while the second concerns a person’s subjective appraisal of own worth. The adolescents’ relationships with their family, peers, and other individuals acquire critical importance in social development. In this regard, the most adverse events can be divorce or family disturbance and failed romantic experiences.
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