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ESE504 : The Class : PEPSI : Early

Early Adolescence

Being aware of being "real"

Early adolescence


Physiology changes are major compared to all other periods of growth except infancy.

Skeletal growth is marked in long bone and joint plates. Bone and skeletal attachment damage can easily occur, suggesting less zealous sports would be appropriate.

Hormones change the body's ratio of fat to muscle and providing of sense of strength.

If physiological change is rapid the child will feel clumsy and awkward - may be.

Boys take divergent paths with self care. Athletes tend to be conscious of diet and health, even consumed at times, while others may see attention to diet as being "babied".

Girls also have a change in food consumption. A slim body is a national mental picture and many girls embark upon poor eating practices interchanged with crash diets and pills.

Body awareness is normal and assistance with self acceptance is really important.


Identity vs. Role Confusion

This age marks a new tension in harmonizing the past with hope for the future.

Dreams may be so portent that reality and being real seem shadowy and unimportant.

Boasting of prowess - especially around peer becomes a typical way to mask inadequacy and feelings of insecurity.

The child might be be summed up as "I am what I imagine myself to be."

Erikson reminds us that there is a crucial shifting in the personality. The crisis is not limited to who i see myself becoming. Instead it is a diffusion across most dimensions of the self. As Hazelton noted, prior to the time of reorganization the child has a time of chaos. Then, still in contest with parents and self over autonomy and power to be bossed, the child works to define: self, identity, roles in each dimension of life and with respect to different referents, sexual identity and ideology.


So many things are in flux that this becomes a battle ground as well. The person is generally at stage three (Kholberg - good boy, nice girl), but the referent, or people to please, shifts to peers more than the parent as the social authority.

The student is often overwhelmed with the chaos and restructuring, so rules and expectations become onorous and area negated as "nothing but social notions."

The ideological pursuit for personal belief system is littered with parental parameters and demands, peer belief and a sense of powerlessness to change life.

Often this leads to actions of overthrow or unwilling adherence to "shoulds " and "oughts."

Simple expectations, worked out with the student and adhered to consistently give the most safety and provide ritual as a safety net.


The schism between meeting parental expectations or peer norms begins or intensifies.

The peers are the important referent fore a youngster.

Belonging and being accepted take on looming proportions.

The "pre-adult" child tends to resent parental limits and frequently rebels.

Running away or escaping becomes commonplace. It may be a symbolic tuning out, a physical act, substance or sex abuse.

Preoccupation with and oversensitivity with self, appearance and others' possible awareness of self may literally plague the youngster.

Mood swings and goals may appear to be erratic and out of control.

The way out of the "forest" is to keep working toward being real and accepting the true self. Adults who help in this tasks are loved.


Formal Operations usually begin during this time period.

During the initial period of early adolescence the child is too fractionated to really add depth here.

The latter part of the stage should see a new ability to add dimension to ideas, to think in greater depth and with more "power".

The student often has the ability to construct a formal or logical theory for events which:

  1. stands independent of one specific concept
  2. considers the addition of new concepts
Virtuosity becomes possible for some.

You should now:

Go on to Late Adolescence
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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at


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