Stanley Hall is regarded as a pioneer in the study of child development whose ideas on adolescence have influenced many studies. According to Hall, adolescence is inherently a period of storm and stress, when all youths undergo extensive emotional storminess and behavioral challenges before establishing a more stable balance in adulthood (Hall, 1904, 77). He views youth transition from childhood to adulthood as a time during which stress and depressed mood are more prevalent compared to other ages (Hall, 1904, 77). This essay seeks to critique Halls (1904) theory of storm and stress based on theories and studies that have either supported of refused Halls ideas of inevitable and universal upheaval during adolescence.
Hall asserted that storm and stress are inevitable in adolescence and universal across young from different contexts. These ideas were derived from a research that indicated that the curve of despondency begins at age 11, undergoes a steady and rapid rise up to age 15, then undergoes a steady slope till age 23 (Hall, 1904, 77). Adolescence refers to a period in an individuals development that stretches from puberty to adulthood (Hall, 1904, 76). In most people this period often commences from age 14 during which an individual begins to experience secondary sex characteristics, and stretches through the teenage years, ending at age 24. The end of the youth transition marks the completion of the development of adult form. Hall used the terms storm add stress because he perceived the youth transition as a time of inevitable turmoil which occurs when a person develops from being a child to being an adult (Oldham, 1978, 269). There are three major groups of storm and stress. The first category is conflict with parent in which youths exhibit a tendency to rebel against authority figures as they strive for greater independence and autonomy. The second group is mood disruption during which hormonal changes and the physical stress associated with this period and which trigger uncontrollable emotional changes (Oldham, 1978, 268). The last category involves risky behavior, which involves elevated risk-behavior caused by the neurological need for stimulation coupled by emotional maturity the youth experience during this time (Hall, 1904, 79). The storm and stress result from biological changes that take place during puberty.
Several studies affirm Halls theory. First, Rousseau agreed with Hall that the agitation during the youth transition is universal and is not subject to sociocultural influence (Rousseau, 1763). According to Rousseau, adolescence is characterized by a change in humor, frequent anger, agitation tendencies, and render the young person less manageable. The childs feverishness transforms him into a fierce animal, does not listen to his guide, and wishes to be free (Rousseau, 1763).
Second, Jean Piagets perspectives on youth transition conquer with Halls theory of storm and stress. In light of Piagets observations, the brain changes and its functioning that happen in the youth, which the psychologist viewed to constitute the final stage of cognitive development, occur during adolescence (Piaget, 1950, 36). According to Piaget, the final development takes place in terms of sequential changes during which the youth think (Piaget, 1950, 36). Cognitive development occurring during this period, which is referred to as the formal operational stage, entails a transformation from concrete thinking to abstract coupled by a decline in egocentric thought (Susman, Dorn & Schiefelbein, 2003, p.306). Egocentric thinking taking place at this time results in some specific behavior like imagery audience the sense of always being scrutinized, the individual fable perceiving personal thoughts and feelings as distinct, being conscious of oneself and the thought of not being vulnerable (Amett, 1999, 319; Arnett, 2006, p.189). These particular behaviors are what is believed to cultivate risk-taking tendencies among adolescents. This egocentric tendency among young adolescents shades off by age 16 because of shared experience with other youths.
However, when they begin to practice the newly developed thinking skills, they start to argue unnecessarily, arriving at unjustifiable conclusions, and becoming overdramatic putting their personal interest first. These turbulent behaviors have the potential to cause the perception that adolescence is a time characterized by storm and stress. Although Piagets assertions confirm Halls storm and stress theory, research findings have pointed out oversimplification as a potential limitation to Piagets process of development. Particularly, critics argue that the psychologist overestimated the invariance of the sequence of his developmental stages. Indeed Piagets observation that his stages of development apply universally have not only be pointed out to be exaggerated but also being ecologically invalid since he focused most of his studies on young people from socioeconomically stable and learned backgrounds (Coleman, 1978, p.8).
Additionally, Freud concurred with Hall about several aspects. In his psychoanalytic study of the child, Freud (1956) also characterizes the youth transition with some internal struggle (p.258). In light of the last stage (the genital phase) of his theory of psychosexual development, Freud asserts that the child exhibits impulses that dislodge the equilibrium between the ego and id. As a consequent, the ego is forced to occupy the intersection between the impulses of the id and the barriers erected by the superego. This disagreement renders the youth transition a period of considerable stress and conflict. Nonetheless, critics have downplayed Freuds theory on the ground that Freud relied on very few case studies, a factor that makes his conclusions not only unreliable but difficult to generalize to a large population as well. Furthermore, Freuds concepts of ego, id, and superego are simply personal constructs that lack empirical support besides being unmeasurable. Consequently, the theory has become less applicable to the modern study of development.
Moreover, Eriksons psychosocial theory (1968) perceived adolescence as a period of stress and turmoil, but in this case resulting from an identity crisis (Cote, 1994). Unlike Freud, Eriksons psychosocial analysis of development assumes a much broader perspective of the factors influencing the development process. The psychosocial theory perceives the realization of personal identity as being more important compared to reaching sexual maturity. Erikson stressed both the social and cultural aspects of the youth transition. The psychologist viewed identity as a feeling of self-continuity. Erikson agreed with both Hall and Freuds emotional and behavioral strife during adolescence and that an identity crisis explains the storm and stress faced during this period. Erikson (1968) conceptualized identity crisis as a time during which the young person battles with an obscured or lack of self-identity. However, the psychosocial theory has also faced significant criticism on the basis that Erikson derived his conclusions from observations of young people undergoing therapy, hence making them not generalizable to all adolescents in different contexts. Research findings show that many youths do not encounter significant problems during their transition from childhood to adulthood (Coleman, 1978, p.6).
On the other hand, a number of studies have criticized Halls ideas of storm and stress during adolescence. From Halls viewpoint, puberty is perceived to mark the onset of adolescence. An individual attains his potential adult size and appearance as well as other associated physiological processes. The body takes some time to adjust to the biological shifts occurring during adolescence (Hall, 1904, 77). For instance, hormonal changes can explain most of the mood swings the youth experience, while physical growth and development might make the youths to feel uncomfortable. Research findings link high adrenal levels and hormonal changes occurring in puberty cause emotional volatility and mood swings (Petersen, 1993, 9). Besides that, the stress can stem from pressure and high expectations from the society, particularly the demand and responsibility often attached to this period (Petersen, 1993, 4). Whereas some psychologists confirmed the emotional and behavioral turbulence that occur in most adolescents, some critique Halls theory of storm and stress.
There are variations the degree of storm and stress among adolescents across cultures. The findings of a research conducted by Margaret Mead (1928) in Samoa on what happens in puberty-challenged Halls theory of storm and stress. Particularly, the results of the study established that Samoa adolescents undergo a blissful, utopian youth transition (Mead, 1928). Contrary to Halls findings, Mead (1928) demonstrated that youths across all cultures do not experience the same degree of storm and stress during puberty (Arnett, 1999, p.319; Cote, 1994). Many other studies that have covered adolescence across the world have confirmed Meads (1928) results of this study, showing that adolescents from different cultures experience varying levels of storm and stress (Arnett, 1999, p.321; Coleman, 1978, p.6; Arnett, 2006; Susman, Dorn & Schiefelbein, 2003, p. 301). Therefore, the turbulent experience witnessed during puberty is not determined by the biological changes alone, rather it denotes the role of the sociocultural context in contributing to these kinds of shifts.
Similarly, Marcia (1980) criticized the storm and stress theory. Marcia postulated the theory of identity challenging early Halls theory that described adolescence as a time of crisis. According to the theory of identity, the identity formation comprises two major components a crisis and a commitment (Coleman, 1978, p.7). The need to make difficult decisions regarding ones identity coupled by transitioning through the four varied identity statuses (identity diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium and identity achievement) lead to the stress in puberty stems. Significant studies have confirmed Marcias (1980) observation. Research has demonstrated that most of the young people aged between 12 and 15 go through the identity confusion phase compared to the identity achievement phase, but the majority failing to achieve the highest level of identity by the time they reach mid-20;s (Cote, 1994). Therefore, such observations indicate that people can still battle with identity formation later in life than Marcia claimed. On top of that, research has confirmed that the search for identity can stretch throughout an individuals life, with stability and instability shifting back and forth between the developmental stages. Unlike Halls limiting turmoil adolescence alone, these findings show that people can experience storm and stress even when they have transitioned to adulthood.
Besides that, the Focal theory refutes some of the observations Hall made regarding adolescence. The theory is based on the premise that youths manage the difficulties they face by handling one issue at a time (Coleman, 1978, p.5). They spread out the process of adjusting to these issues across several years, trying to attend to issue at a time. As a result, they manage to avoid the likelihood of experiencing accumulated stress at one period.
In conclusion, it is imperative to observe that Halls theory of storm and stress provides valuable insights about the youth transition from childhood to adulthood. However, Halls ideas on adolescence, particularly the inevitability and universalism of turmoil during this time have attracted both support and criticism. This has attempted to d...
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