Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Adolescence (12–18)

What happens when there are social barriers to identity formation in adolescence?

In all cultures, it is a developmental task of adolescence to move toward an adult role in society. What happens when such roles are not available? Perhaps the society is in disarray, due to war or political or economic chaos. Alternatively, certain subgroups of the population may be barred from productive participation in society, due to poverty, lack of education, and/or racial or ethnic prejudice. When constructive social roles are not readily available, destructive or antisocial group identities become viable alternatives. For example, disenfranchised youths (particularly young males) may be inducted into street gangs or criminal organizations. As such, psychological development in adolescence is heavily dependent on the surrounding culture, more so than at any earlier period.


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