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Opinion: Is adolescent rebellion a myth?

2021-07-02  Reverend Jan Scholtz

Opinion: Is adolescent rebellion a myth?
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The teenage years have been called a time of adolescent rebellion, involving emotional turmoil, conflict within the family, alienation from adult society, reckless behaviour, and rejection of adult values. Yet school-based research on adolescents the world over suggests that only about 1 in 5 teenagers fits this pattern (Offer & Schonert – Reichl, 1992) Most young people feel close to and positive about their parents, share similar opinions on major issues and values their parents’ approval (J.P. Hill, 1987; Offer, Ostrov, & Howard, 1989). 

  Furthermore, contrary to a popular belief, apparently well–adjusted adolescents are not ticking time bombs set to explode later in life. 

In a 34 – year longitudinal study of 67 14 – year old suburban boys, the vast majority adapted well to their life experiences (Offer, & Ostrov,2004).

 The few deeply troubled adolescents who come from disrupted families and continued to have unstable family lives as an adult tend to reject cultural norms, but those raised in intact two-parent homes with a positive family atmosphere sail through adolescence with no serious problems and, as adults have solid marriages and lead well – adjusted live. (Offer, Kaiz, Ostrov & Albert, 2002) Still, adolescence can be a tough time for young people and their parents.

 The Namibian in its article of the 5th of May 2021page 3, but it is clearly in percentages that relationship or marriage breakup cover 30.6%, family problems 25.5%, physical and verbal abuse7% financial crisis 8.2%, depression 41.2% and rejection 17.5% this is a top traumatic event which triggers suicide and drawing the lines on this it clear a child raised in such circumstances will eventually not fully escape the act of rebellion both towards parents or in society as a whole.

 Family conflict, depression, and risky behaviour are more common in the adolescent stage than during other parts of the life span (Arnett, 1991; Petersen et al.,1993). Negative emotionality and mood swings are most intense during early adolescence, perhaps due to the stress connected with puberty. 

Some research indicates that rebellion should be more common in technologically advanced cultures, where there is a disparity between feeling like an adult and the rights/responsibilities of being an adult. The case is also made that some level of anti-social behaviour in the teenage years is developmentally normal (Moffat, 1993). By late adolescence, emotionality tends to become more stable. (Larson, Moneta, Richards, & Wilson, 2002).

 Recognizing that adolescence may be a difficult time can help parents and teachers put trying behaviour in perspective. But adults who assume that storms and stress are normal fail to heed the signals of the relatively few young persons who need special help. One way to assess changes in adolescents’ relationships with the important people in their lives is to see how they spend their discretionary time. The amount of time adolescents spends with family’s declines during the teen years. However, the disengagement is not a rejection of the family but a response to developmental needs.  

 Early adolescents often retreat to their rooms; they seem to need time alone to step back from the demands of social relationships, regain emotional stability, and reflect on identity issues (Larson, 1997). Cultural variations in time use reflect varying cultural needs, values, and practices (Verma & Larson, 2003). Young people in tribal or peasant societies spend most of their time producing bare necessities of life and have much less time for socializing than adolescents in technologically advanced societies. In some post-industrial societies such as Korea and Japan, where the pressures of schoolwork and family obligations are strong, adolescents have relatively little free time. To relieve stress, they spend their time in passive pursuits, such as watching television and “doing nothing” (Verma & Larson, 2003). In India’s family–centred culture, on the other hand, middle-class urban eighth-graders spend 39% of their waking hours with family, compared with 23% of USA eighth-graders, and report being happier when with their families than the USA eight graders do. For these young people, the task of adolescence is not to separate from the family but to become more integrated with it. 

 As the English poet, William Wordsworth wrote, “The child is the father of the man”. This developmental pattern applies to adolescence as well. Relationships with parents during adolescents and the degree of conflict and openness of communication are grounded largely in the emotional closeness developed in childhood and adolescent relationships with parents, and also, set the stage for the quality of the relationship with a partner in adulthood. Just as adolescents feel the tension between dependency on their parents and the need to break away, parents want their children to be independent yet find it hard to let go.

 With the above-articulated facts and information, the thing of rebellion cannot be taken lightly as a myth but rather a substantial truth that all peoples from different walks of life should not ignore.

 Parents have to walk a fine line between giving adolescents enough independence and protecting them from immature lapses in judgement. What occurs in the adolescent’s world is significant, but it is not the whole story. Every capable person has a task to evolve the writing of the human development history for ourselves and our society for as long as we live.


2021-07-02  Reverend Jan Scholtz

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