The Adolescent in Society
Chapter 6
Adolescence is defined as the period between
puberty and the beginning of adulthood.
Puberty is the physical maturing that makes
an individual capable of sexual
Adolescence is not a life stage that exists in
all societies.
It has developed as a result of modern
industrial society.
American society adolescence occurs
between ages 12 to 19.
In preindustrial societies people go directly
from childhood to adulthood through a formal
ceremony known as puberty rites.
These rites usually take place between 13 to 14
years old and differ from society to society.
Puberty rites make individuals adults.
The development of adolescence
• In the US, adolescence did not exist before the
Civil War.
• The development of adolescence has become
recognized only in the past century with the
development of industrialized nations.
• Major factors include: Education, child labor
laws and juvenile-justice system.
How has education affected the
development (and extension) of
• State laws make education mandatory till the age
of 16, and most people stay in school till 18,
those in college till early to mid 20s.
• Education extends the period of adolescence
because many students depend on other for
financial support.
• While in school, most students do not take on
the roles of adulthood, such as spouse, parent,
and provider.
Child Labor-extension of
• Child-labor laws prevent people from working
until the age of 16. (Most adolescence do not
work full-time, most work part-time while
continuing to go to school).
How does the juvenile-justice system
extend adolescence?
• America has made a distinct legal system
between juvenile and adult offenders.
Question from page 122:
How does the blurring of adolescence and
adulthood occur in dress, behavior, and
There used to be clear cut role
expectations for adults and
Adults wearing kids clothes
Kids wearing adults clothes
Adults playing video games
Alcoholism and suicide
Adults using slang
What confusion may the blurring of
the stages bring?
• Any thoughts?
What problems may children playing
adult roles bring?
• Some childhood specialists say that children
taking adult roles my cause them to grow up too
fast and miss out on many of the special
features adolescence has to offer.
• The adult-like child is denied the opportunity try
new roles without being judged by adult
• Can cause stress for the individual.
Biological Growth and Development
Puberty-biologically based
Changes in body, height, weight
Primary and secondary sexual characteristics
These changes can sometimes cause anxiety or
embarrassment, particularly when an individual
is way ahead or behind their cohort.
Undefined Status
• Expectations for children and adults are clear.
• Adolescent expectations are vague or undefined.
• Example-people can get married at age 16, but
can not vote till they are 18.
• ????????????????????????????????????????????????
Increased Decision Making
• Children's’ decisions are made for them by adults.
• Adolescents have to make decisions – what
courses to take, sport to play, clubs to join, career
pathway, study or not…?
Increased Pressure
• Balance between parents wishes and
peer pressure.
• Pressure often is created to be a part of an “in”
• Pressure causing examples-Having a car, fads
and fashions, cosmetics, sports equipment,
movies, technology, relationships, job,
schoolwork, social activities…
• Advertisements often attempt to increase peer
The Search for Self
• Preparing for future roles is one aspect of
finding oneself.
• Anticipatory Socialization- learning the rights,
obligations, and expectations of a role to
prepare for assuming that role in the future.
• Part-time jobs, club membership, mentoring,
and dating are common forms of anticipatory
Chapter 6.2: Teenagers and Dating
• Dating is a relatively recent phenomenon.
• It did not emerge as a form of social interaction
until after World War I
Courtship and Dating
• Courtship differs from dating in that courtship’s
eventual purpose is marriage.
• Dating may lead to marriage, however, its main
purpose is entertainment and amusement (in
casual stages)
Courtship cont.
• Courtship was not casual and the roles were
strictly defined.
• Usually conducted in the parlor of a women’s
home under strict supervision.
• Young people did not have fu during courtship.
• Sole purpose was
to find a spouse.
• From courtship modern
dating emerged.
The Emergence of Dating
• During the industrial revolution, many people
moved away from farms and into cities.
• Young adults became less dependent on parents.
• Economic freedom reduced parental control
over courtship.
Public Education
• Beginning in the early 1900s, the majority of
secondary students were enrolled in public
• This meant that young men and women spent a
good portion of their day with one another.
Telephones and Cars
• Dating accelerated in the period after World War I.
• Young acquired telephones and automobiles.
• 1920s was a period of greater social freedom for
women, which led to greater interaction between
men and women.
Waller’s study 1920s-1930s
• Studied the dating habits of students at PSU.
• Concluded that casual dating was a form of
• Status attainment and excitement were at the
core of the dating process.
• Partners were chosen based on status, good
looks, and popularity.
• Dating contrasted with courtship, where
dependability and honesty were most valuable.
• Later research found that character and
personality factors are also important.
• Homogamy-the tendency of individuals to
marry people who have social characteristics
similar to their own.
Connecting to Literature
• According the clip from the book Middletown,
what positive and negative effects of the car and
• What technological innovations effect the young
• Good or bad????
Five functions of dating
1. Entertainment-allows young people to have
2. It is a mechanism for socialization-teaches
individual about the opposite sex and how to
behave in social situations.
3. Fulfills certain psychological needs such as
conversation, companionship and
4. Helps individuals attain status.
5. In later stages, spouse selection.
Traditional Dating Patterns
• 1940-1950s dating patterns-can be found in
small town today.
• Arranging the date fell to the man.
• He was expected to contact intended partner,
suggest time and place for the date, activity, and
• If the couple continued to date over a period of
time, the male often gave the girls his class ring,
or his letter jacket.
Contemporary Dating
• Since the 1960s, dating has not followed such
formal patterns.
• Both men and women initiate dates.
• Acceptable for either party to pay for a date.
• Speed dating!
Amish Dating
• Begin dating around 16 years old.
• Men receive a courting buggy or horse drawn
• Use courting buggy to attend formal events –
picnics, weddings, corn huskings, and barnraisings.
• Serious business – selection of a spouse in
Chapter 6.3
Challenges of Adolescence
• Developmental tasks-carving out an identity,
planning for the future, becoming more
independent, developing close relationships
Teenage Sexual Behavior
• Some preindustrial societies permit adolescents
to engage in sexual behavior.
• Trobrianders of the South Pacific-sexual
experimentation is encouraged to get ready for
Traditional Norms Governing Sexual
Behavior in Western Society
• Stem from an outgrowth of Puritan and
Victorian views on sexual morality.
• Sexual activity should be confined to marriage.
• Predominant view in American society until the
1960s (of course not always practiced).
Factors for Change: 1960s and 1970s
Development of the birth control pill.
Youth counterculture
Feminist movement
Sexual revolution!
Sexual Revolution cont.
• As a result, norms began to change.
• Sex began to be openly talked about and
• Today we see sexual references everywhere from advertising to intimacy in rated G movies.
The Rate of Teenage Sexual Activity
• Center for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated:
• 1970: 29% of females between 15-19 were
sexually active
• 1995: (same cohort) up to 50%
• During the 1990s the CDC led a campaign to get
teens to abstain, or use birth control.
• Survey conducted showed a decrease in sexual
activity, teenage use of birth control increased,
and teenage pregnancy fell.
Influences on early sexual activity
• Social – Economic factors:
– Family income
– Parent marital status
– Religious participation
• Teenagers from higher-income, two-parent
families had lower sexual activity than lowincome, single parent families.
Consequences of early sexual
• Babies born to teenage mothers have lower birth
weights and more likely to die within first year.
• Teenage mothers are less likely to finish HS
• Lower education levels = lower lifetime earnings
• Children of teenage parents are more likely to
experience learning problems.
• Children have increased likelihood to have
children as teens.
• Teenage mothers = emotional stress
• STDs
Teenage Drug Use
• Drug-any substance that changes mood,
behavior, or consciousness.
• Medicines, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana,
cocaine, heroin.
History of Drug Use
• Greeks smoked opium more than 3000 years
• Aztecs commonly used hallucinogens.
• In the US, cocaine and heroine was used for a
wide variety of medicinal purposes until the
early 1900s.
Drug Violence
• In the past 3 decades there has been an increase
in drug-related violence (muggings, robberies,
violence as a result of turf wars between rival
• Children are often involved as early as age 9 to
10 as hired lookouts, then rise through gang
Rate of teenage drug use
• US has the highest rates of drug use of
industrialized societies amongst
Influences on drug use
• Having friends who regularly engage in drug use.
• Social and academic adjustment problems.
• Hostile and rejecting family setting.
Attitudes toward drug use
• Negative attitudes towards teen drug use have
led to fluctuations in the use of different drugs
over the years.
Teenage Suicide
• Contributing factors include drug and alcohol
• Suicide rate has more than doubled in the past 3
Surgeon General (1997) said, “A youth suicide
occurs every 2 hours in our country, 12 times a
day, 84 times a week, well over 4,000 times a
3rd leading cause of deaths next to accidents and
homicides for 15 to 24 year olds.
Sociological View of Suicide
• Sociologists are interested in the social (as
oppose to psychological) factors that affect
suicide rates.
• Rates can be understood by studying the
structure of society and the experiences of the
Durkheim study of suicide
• Explained by level of social integration.
Social integration- the degree of attachment
people have to social groups or to a society as
Societies or groups with high and low levels of
social integration will have high rates of suicide.
Why? (next slide)
• High levels of social integration can lead to
increased rates of suicide because group
members place the needs of the group above
their own personal needs.
• In the Inuit society of Arctic North America,
elderly people walked into the snowy wild and
die once they become a burden to the group.
Suicide as a result of low levels of social integration is
much more common.
Low levels of social integration occur during period of
social disorganization:
• rapid social change
• increased geographic mobility
• War or natural disasters
• Sudden economic changes
Occurs because the norms that govern behavior
weaken, or become less clear.
Social bonds that give individuals group solidarityreligion or family ties-weaken during period of
social disorganization.
Most commonly found in industrialized societies.
Suicide rates in the world
Rates in Virginia (by region)
Predictors of Teenage Suicide
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Triggering events-specific event or anticipation
of an event (fear of punishment, loss or
rejection by an important person, unwanted
pregnancy, family crisis, school performance,
fight with friend or parent.
• Age-suicide increases with age
• Sex-Females 3 times more likely to attempt,
however, males are more likely to succeed
• Population density-higher suicide rates in lowerpopulated areas than heavily populated areas.
• Family relations-more common in families with weak
social bonds.
• Cluster effect- a suicide event sometime results in other
attempts among adolescents in a community.
Teenage suicide rates are influenced by the same
sociological factors as adults.
Chief among these factors are social isolation and
weakening of social bonds.
If you or anyone that you know is experiencing any
of these social factors, there are programs to help
you within society (in school here you may
see school psychologist
or guidance counselor)

Chapter 6 The Adolescent in Society