After reading the material in this unit, reflect upon whether you think the adolescence stage of development for Americans is occurring over a longer period of time. Share your thoughts about this topic and explain why you believe the adolescence stage of development is or is not occurring over a longer period of time. Please include citations in your response to at least two scholarly articles supporting your beliefs.
The topic of whether the adolescence stage of development for Americans is occurring over a longer period of time is a matter of considerable debate among scholars. While some argue that the adolescence stage is indeed extending, others contend that it is not. In this response, we will explore both sides of the argument and provide supporting evidence from scholarly articles.
On one hand, proponents of the view that adolescence is extending argue that several societal and cultural factors contribute to the lengthening of this developmental stage. One such factor is the increased emphasis on education and the delay in the entrance into the workforce. According to Steinberg (2014), the modern economy demands higher levels of education and skill, leading young people to spend more time in educational institutions. This prolonged period of education is seen as a formative aspect of adolescence, potentially extending the duration of the stage.
Additionally, the postponement of marriage and childbearing is often cited as evidence for the extension of adolescence. Arnett (2000) highlights that individuals today are marrying and having children at a later age compared to previous generations. The delay in assuming adult roles and responsibilities, such as establishing a family, may contribute to a longer period of exploration and self-discovery characteristic of adolescence.
Another argument put forth is the impact of advancements in technology and changes in social structures. With the advent of the Internet and social media, young people today have access to a vast amount of information and opportunities for social interaction. This has led to the emergence of new avenues for identity exploration, autonomy, and self-expression (Klimstra et al., 2010). The constantly evolving digital landscape may contribute to a prolonged phase of identity formation and thus extend the adolescence stage.
On the other hand, opponents of the view that adolescence is extending argue that the classic features of adolescence, such as hormonal changes and physical growth, remain relatively unchanged. They contend that while societal factors may influence the context in which adolescence is experienced, the fundamental biological processes defining this developmental period are constant.
Steinberg (2014) suggests that while societal changes may have altered the context in which adolescence occurs, the underlying biological processes have not changed. Adolescence is marked by a series of neurological changes in the brain that give rise to increased risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviors. These changes in brain development occur largely during the same time frame across different historical periods. Therefore, the argument goes, the biological underpinnings of adolescence remain consistent, regardless of any perceived extension in its societal manifestations.
Furthermore, opponents argue that the idea of a prolonged adolescence could be a result of the individualistic nature of modern society. Arnett (2004) suggests that the notion of an elongated adolescence may be grounded in cultural and socioeconomic factors specific to Western societies. In contrast, societies with more collectivistic values may not share this perspective. This raises questions about the universality of the extension of adolescence and calls for a critical examination of cultural biases in understanding this phenomenon.
In conclusion, the question of whether the adolescence stage of development for Americans is occurring over a longer period of time is a complex and debated topic. While some argue that societal and cultural changes have led to an extension of adolescence, others maintain that biological processes remain constant. Ultimately, a nuanced understanding of this issue requires considering various perspectives and engaging in further research.