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Posts from the ‘Adolescence’ Category

26
Sep

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25
Sep

Ecological Theory

Ecological Theory

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of development describes development as a relationship between the environment and the person instead of two separate concepts.  This multi-level theory breaks down environmental influences on development as “the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem” (Crandell, Crandell, & Zander, 2009).  Each layer represents a variety of influences that shape each person’s developmental progression.

This ecological theory of development suggests that there’s not one single instance that effects our decisions in the path of life.  Instead, a complex relationship between different environments is the cause for behavior.  For example, a teenager chooses not to go to college.  This decision is not solely based upon their family’s educational history or academic struggles in previous school settings.  According to Bronfenbrenner, identifying behavior as being based upon simple factors, ignores the complex environmental interactions of school, peers, family, beliefs, religion, age, health, et cetera.  These complex patterns of behavior cannot be identified as happening at one point in time.  Instead, behavioral changes happen over time.  This is also referred to as the chronosystem.

To elaborate on the various levels of this theory, picture a circle with four layers surrounding the individual.  The microsystem is the layer directly outside of the individual.  It consists of relationships such as the family, school, peers, neighborhood, church, and health services.  These are the closest surrounding relationships that a person interacts with (Berk, 2000).  At this level, the impact of interactions work two ways, toward the individual and away from the individual. For example, peers can have an impact on thought patterns or behaviors of a child.  That same child can impact the thought patterns or behaviors of their peers.

The next layer, the mesosystem provides connections between elements of the microsystem and that of the exosystem.  For example, connections between a child’s family and educational system occur at this level.  It simply acts as a passageway to connect neighboring layers and comingle interactions between those layers.

Located outside of the mesosystem, the exosystem represents relationships that do not directly impact a person.  Bronfenbrenner listed the extended family, educational system, legal services, government agencies, mass media, and friends of family.  These categories have influence on a person’s life by interacting with components within the mesosystem (Beck, 2000).  Although the relationship here is passive, there is a “positive or negative force involved with the interaction with a person’s system” (Paquette, 2001).

The last element of the ecological theory is the macrosystem.  This layer is concerned with elements of a person’s society such as laws, cultural values, and customs (Berk, 2000).  Categories of the macrosystem have an effect on all parts of the theory.  An example of this would be “if it is the belief of the culture that parents should be soley responsible for raising their children, that culture is less likely to provide resources to help parents” (Paquette, 2001).

Given the multiple dynamics that create the features of each and every one of us, lifespan development can not be approached from a single system.  All aspects, relationships, biological components and experiences must be taken into account to ensure a healthy progression from birth into adulthood.

 

 

References

Berk, L.E. (2000). Child Development (5th ed.)  Boston: Ally and Bacon. 23-38

Crandell, T. L., Crandell, C. H., & Vander Zanden, J. W. (2009). Human development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Paquette, D., (June, 2001).Bronfenbrenner’s Ecolological Systems Theory. Retrieved from http://pt3.nl.edu/paquetteryanwebquest.pdf

25
Sep

Defining Development

Defining Development

 

Angel Pumila

Below we will cover the life stages according to developmental theorists, Erik Erikson and Lawrence Kohlberg.

I.               Trust vs. Mistrust: Birth to 18 Months

a) According to Erikson’s theory, people go through a series of crises throughout their development that must be overcome in order to successfully progress to the next stage.  The first is trust vs. mistrust.  During this stage, infants are relying on their parents for their needs to be met.  When their needs are met they develop a trusting relationship with their caregiver.  When the infant finds people to be undependable or have irregularity within their relationship, the infant learns that he/she cannot trust and therefore develops mistrust with the world around that will carry over into relationships later in life.

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be pre-conventional.  Pre-conventional moral reasoning is a process of basing decisions upon either obedience and punishment (stage one) or upon their best interests (stage 2).

II.             Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt: 18 Months to 3 Years

a) The crisis at this stage is autonomy versus shame and doubt.  Here, children have the ability to explore the world around.  Children that are encouraged to explore and learn safely conquer autonomy and can deal with problems on their own.  Those that are restricted from exploring feel shame and doubt about their own abilities.

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be pre-conventional.  Pre-conventional moral reasoning is a process of basing decisions upon either obedience and punishment (stage one) or upon their best interests (stage 2).  This level continues until adolescence or adulthood.

III.           Initiative vs. Guilt: 3 to 5 Years

a) The issue at this stage is whether to take initiative in new tasks or guilt about their needs and desires (Bee & Boyd, 2009).  This stage is a continuation of the previous by Erikson.  When a child learns that goals can be met by taking initiative, this stage is successfully conquered.  Yet if children are restricted in their independence, they begin to question themselves and can begin to develop negative self-esteem as a result.

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be pre-conventional.  Pre-conventional moral reasoning is a process of basing decisions upon either obedience and punishment (stage one) or upon their best interests (stage 2).  This level continues until adolescence or adulthood.

c) This stage can vary based upon cultural and ethnic factors.  For example, some children may grow up in a cultural setting that does not enable them to explore their own independence.  On the other end of the spectrum, some cultures give too much freedom to children.

The research finds that “play provides a vehicle for children to both develop and demonstrate knowledge, skills, concepts and dispositions (Dempsey & Frost, 1993; Isenberg & Quisenberry, 2002). With such an emphasis placed on play in Western societies, the presence of outdoor play is reduced from year to year based upon concern for the safety of children in this dangerous world.  Overprotecting parenting stems from numerous safety issues such as street traffic, injury from bicycles or skateboards, or the issue of ‘stranger danger’ (Valentine & McKendrick, 1997).  According to the developmental theorists, this restrictive behavior could prevent children from exploring and learning on their own leading to a lack of motivation and curiosity for trying new things in the world around.

IV.           Industry vs. Inferiority: 5 to 13 Years

a) During late childhood, children are presented with the issue of competence.  Here, more complex skills are learned, children are learning to be individuals and find their place in the world around.  Children learn to develop and nurture their own talents.  If not allowed by parents, they lose initiative and motivation in creating or participating in particular interests.

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be pre-conventional.  Pre-conventional moral reasoning is a process of basing decisions upon both obedience and punishment (stage one) or upon their best interests (stage 2).  This level continues until adolescence or adulthood.

V.             Identity vs. Role Confusion: 13 to 24 Years

a) Who am I?  Beginning in adolescence and lasting until early adulthood, people begin the stage of learning who they are as a person.  They begin to think about their roles in the future.  Successful completion of this stage includes a secure sense of identity, and “an emotional and deep awareness of who he or she is” (Stevens, 1983).  Without that deep sense of identity, people can become confused about their place in the world.

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be considered the conventional level of moral reasoning.  At this age and beyond, decisions are based upon the rights or wrong expected of society.  Stage three seeks approval or disapproval from society by conformance or nonconformance to social standards.  Stage four consists of maintaining the laws and social order of their society.  Approval from others is not required in stage four, instead a personal stance in upholding the norms of a society are key.

VI.           Intimacy vs. Isolation: 24 to 39 Years

a) After completion of ‘Identity vs. Role Confusion’, adults enter into ‘Intimacy versus isolation.  During this stage, people search for intimate relationships and a lifelong partner.  If successful intimate relationships are not found, people prepare themselves for the letdown of being alone. “Intimacy has a counterpart: Distantiation: the readiness to isolate and if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to our own, and whose territory seems to encroach on the extent of one’s intimate relations” (Erikson, 1950).

b) In comparison, Kohlberg would consider this level to be a combination of conventional and post-conventional morals.  “In stage five (social contract driven), the world is viewed as holding different opinions, rights and values” (Unknown, 2012).  The decision making in stage six concerns universal ethics and principles.  Decisions are absolute and unrelated to the laws and rules of society.  Instead, they are based upon what is right and just.

References

 Bee, H. & Boyd, D. (2009). The Developing Child (12th ed). Boston, MA: Pearson. ISBN 978-0205685936.

Dempsey, J.D., & Frost, J.L. (1993). Play environments in early childhood education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (pp. 306-312). New York: Macmillan.

Erikson, E.H. (1993) (1950). Childhood and Society. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 242. ISBN 978-0393310689.

Isenberg, J.P., & Quisenberry, N. (2002). Play: Essential for all children.  Childhood Education, 79(1), 33-39.

Kohlberg, L. & Lickona, T. (1976). Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive –developmental approach.  Moral Development and Behavior: Theory, Research and Social Issues.  Holt, NY: Rinehart and Winston.

Little, H. (2009). Outdoor play: Does avoiding the risks reduce the benefits. Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University. Retrieved from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/australian_journal_of_early_childhood/ajec_index_abstracts/outdoor_play_does_avoiding_the_risks_reduce_the_benefits.html

Stevens, R. (1983). Erik Erikson: An Introduction, New Your, NY: St. Martin’s Press. pp 48-50. ISBN 978-0312258122.

Valentine, G., & McKendrick, J. (1997). Children’s outdoor play: Exploring parental concerns about children’s safety and the changing nature of childhood. Geoforum, 28(2), 219-235.

Unknown. (2012). Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg’s_stages_of_moral_development#Conventional

25
Sep

Adolescent Sex: Parental Roles & Media Influences


Adolescent Sex:

Parental Roles and Media Influences

Angel Sagona Pumila

 

 

Introduction

Adolescents in today’s society have a more difficult time than ever coping with their own sexuality and the expectations of those in their social circles. While the sixties produced the idea that free love was acceptable, that generation of love did not have the media images that children are exposed to today. In the 1950s, pornography mostly consisted of images of scantily clad women. In the 1960s, nudity became the norm in pornography. It progressed even more over the next decades to include sexual acts between men and women or same-gender sex. Today, however, the Internet gives children access to a barrage of images of people actually having all types of sex with multiple partners considered a normal course of events. Children can watch all sorts of abnormal sexual behavior, which when exposed over and over, can become normal to them.

Literature Review

In “How can parents make a difference? Longitudinal association with adolescent sexual behavior,” by Daneen P. Deptula, David B. Henry and Michael E. Schoeny, the authors suggest that, “Parents have the potential to protect against adolescent sexual risk, including early sexual behavior, inconsistent condom use, and outcomes such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)” (Deptula, Henry, & Schoeny, 2010). They argue that communication is the only effective tools parents have to help prevent sexual diseases and pregnancies and suggest that the quality of the relationship between parent and child influences how early the child becomes sexually active, as well as their sexual behaviors throughout their development.

In “Tackling the topic of teen sex,” Victoria Clayton agrees that communication between parent and child is important, but she suggests that the influences of the media and all of the images children see are more influential than parents in determining the child’s sexual behaviors. This author seems to think that it’s all about the influences around the child, including peer groups and how much exposure the child has to pornography on the Internet.

For the purpose of this paper, I will examine these arguments and try to determine just how much influence parents really have with regard to the sexual behaviors in their children.

Discussion

This topic is extremely important to lifespan development, as the choices made by adolescents with regard to their sexual behaviors can have a direct impact on the rest of their lives. For example, the young girl who becomes pregnant at 16 years old does not have the same educational opportunities as other girls her age because she must now support and care for a child. Her ability to earn a living to care for her family becomes steeply impaired through a lack of education, and typically, she can look forward to a life of poverty. The disturbing news is that children seem to be experimenting with sex at younger and younger ages, and the rules have changed.

According to Clayton, “Recent media reports about teen sexual activity undoubtedly have many parents concerned. Newspaper articles and TV segments have suggested that “hooking up” and having “friends with benefits” are disturbingly common behaviors among today’s kids. (In case you aren’t up on this terminology, “hooking up” is the new way to say “one-night stand.” If the nights turn into a series but still no relationship, that’s a “friend with benefits) (Clayton, 2011). ” Clayton says this is really nothing new, but the disturbing part is that children are so nonchalant about having sex without relationships. She notes that the problem is the Internet, that it has become a singles bar for all ages with no holds barred.

Deptula, Henry and Schoeny argue that parents have several mechanisms through which to help their children deal with sexual issues, including communication, monitoring, involvement, educational aspirations and allowing their children to be independent. Their research indicates that, “higher levels of parental monitoring have been associated with fewer sexual partners, lower levels of sexual activity, and more consistent condom use” (Deptual, Henry, Schoeny, 2010). They also suggest that low educational aspirations, which are associated with poverty, can promote risky sexual behaviors. Parents can lower risks for unwanted pregnancies and STIs through pushing education and spending quality time with their children. These authors argue that parental attitudes and behaviors, even when they are unrelated to sexuality, still influence their children’s behaviors.

Comparison

The authors of both articles seem to agree that parents do have some influence over their children’s sexual behaviors. However, Clayton wonders how much influence parents really have when television and the Internet constantly bombard children with images that seem to define sexuality. Clayton says that, “When it comes to sex, teens need—and have always needed—help from their parents. Unfortunately, the vast majority of parents still never have a conversation with their kids about sex beyond maybe giving them information about reproductive biology” (Clayton, 2011). Many parents are unaware of much of what their children see because they are not technologically savvy enough to keep up with their children’s activities on the Internet. Chat rooms, dating sites, porn sites, it almost takes a computer technician to trace their children’s activities, and that’s almost impossible for most parents.

Deptula, Henry and Schoeny argue that communication in and of itself is not effective at protecting children from themselves and their raging hormones, but that the type of communication and specificity is more important.”With respect to emotional tone, Dutra et al. (1999) found that open and receptive communication about sex was associated with lower levels of sexual risk. In addition, Mueller and Powers (1990) found that warm and friendly adolescent perceptions of parents’ general communication were associated with lower levels of sexual activity and higher levels of contraceptive use. Dominant, contentious, and dramatic parenting communication styles were related to risky adolescent sexual behavior. An interesting result of the current study was that parental reports of comfort and confidence in communicating with their teens was not related to sexual risk. Instead, adolescents perceptions of the nature of the conversation may be more important (Deptula, Henry, Schoeny, 2010).

Both articles support parental involvement and communication as a means to influence children against risky sexual behaviors. Clayton says that children model their behavior after their parents. According to this author, “If you’re hooking up indiscriminately online or engaging in sex-only relationships, don’t be surprised if your kids model that behavior. Of course, the opposite is also true. Show them a loving, affectionate relationship and they’re likely to seek the same for themselves (Clayton, 2011). She says that parents should begin supporting their children’s thoughts, feelings and values as early as possible because the strongest weapon against outside influences is the family base that has been established. She says that parents should talk to children about those influences, including pornography, but that it should not be portrayed as bad. “Instead,” she says, “Talk about how pornography usually glamorizes sex or even makes it look more brutal or outrageous than it typically is. The idea is to offer your kids a reality check” (Clayton, 2011).

Deptula, Henry and Schoeny agree that communication with children should not focus on the negative because then all children hear is “no,” and their natural instinct is to question and even rebel. These authors determined through their research that, “prevention efforts should focus on adolescent-parent relationship building and developing the skills to have a positive, open dialogue about sexual activity” (Deptula, Henry, Schoeny, 2010).

While both articles agree on communication being an important element in preventing unwanted sexual behaviors, Clayton seems to be much less optimistic about its effectiveness. She gives much more weight to outside influences than do the other authors. She also seems more concerned about what the future holds with regard to sexual behaviors and children. She says that parents should limit their children’s access to computers and television and monitor all activities intently. Deptula, Henry and Schoeny agree that monitoring is necessary, but their article provides communication as the ultimate solution.

Application

The problem of coping with sexuality and with what to do and what not to do is a difficult one for many adolescents. On one hand, children have parents and other family members telling them that having sex too young is wrong and that there can be many bad outcomes from having sex, including STIs and pregnancy. On the other hand, children are bombarded with sexual images in many shows and commercials on television. As they become teenagers and begin browsing the Internet, their exposure to images increases, and these images are not censored like those on television. Many children are watching people having sex, including bizarre sex with multiple partners, and for these children, ideas about what sex is supposed to be are becoming somewhat warped.

Clayton noted in her article that, “Individuals exposed to a high level of pornographic videos were significantly less satisfied with their sexual partner’s attractiveness and sexual adventurousness, less interested in being in an emotionally committed relationship and less interested in having children” (Clayton, 2011). She states that those children who have grown up surrounded with normal relationships are more likely to be able to sustain normal relationships in their own adult life. For this author, it’s all about exposure—the less pornography to which a child is exposed, the more normal sexual life the child will have.

For many parents, even knowing exactly what their children are doing when parents are at work or children are at school or participating in extracurricular activities is difficult. You cannot monitor children all day every day. However Deptula, Henry and Schoeny state that with the proper parental controls in place, open communication and rules, children will ultimately do what they are supposed to do.

I disagree. I think that parents can monitor their children. They can place controls on computers to keep children off sites they should not visit. They can monitor what television shows are watched. They can monitor friends, talk with friends’ parents and make a concerted effort to always know exactly where their children are and what they are doing. The problem is that this takes a lot of work, and most parents are so busy making a living that they don’t have the time or energy it takes to monitor their children at all times.

Yes, communication is important. Talking positively with children about sex is a first step toward preventing unwanted pregnancies, but being “in the know” is also very important. Parents need to be informed about teenage sexual trends. For example, the language of teenagers is important. “Hooking up,” to a parent may mean going out on a date, but to a teenager, it means having a one-night stand. Sexting is another aspect of teenage sexuality that parents need to know. Many teenagers are sending naked or provocative pictures of themselves through text messages. Some parents remain unaware of this practice that teenagers do because “everyone does it.” In many states, sexting has become illegal and teenagers can be penalized for this practice.

Being knowledgeable about what adolescents are doing is the biggest step in preventing children from doing the same thing. Children give in to peer pressure, and parents need to be aware of what kinds of things their children are being pressured to do. Without knowledge, parents do not have the tools to help their children grow into mature, sexual adults who engage in healthy sexual behaviors. I feel that while communication with children is very important, knowledge is the most powerful weapon a parent can possess.

References

Clayton, Victoria.; (2011).  Tackling the Topic of Teen Sex. MSNBC.  Retrieved May 28, 2011 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5344844/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/t/tackling-topic-teen-sex/

Deptula, Daneen P.; Henry, David B.; Schoeny, Michael E.; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 24(6), Dec, 2010. pp. 731-739.

25
Sep

Adolescent Antisocial Behavior (ASB)

Adolescent Antisocial Behavior (ASB)

“Antisocial behavior (ASB) includes criminal behavior, but also has been defined as any behavior that is socially unacceptable or ignores the rights of others” (Czech, 2010, p. 149).  The root of this type of behavioral pattern can stem from a complex set of interactions within social information processing (SIP) theory known as response evaluation and decision (RED) (Fontaine, 2009, p. 117).  To elaborate on this position, adolescents cognitively evaluate their response choices in social settings based upon environmental cues and contexts. Current models show that antisocial behaviors have either been reinforced, expected, substance induced, or schematically represented (Fontaine, 2009, p. 120-122).  For example, when a teen is hostile towards his/her peers, he/she will be met with hostility and expected to be hostile in future encounters.  This reinforces the pattern described by RED and can lead to an array of antisocial behaviors over time.  In order to offset this path in the adolescent population, interventions must be directed towards the decision making process and surrounding environment.

Psychological theories reinforce this approach.  Behaviorism finds that behaviors are more likely to be repeated when reinforced.  Social-cognitive learning describes an interaction between decision cognition and the surrounding environment as the force behind behavioral patterns (Santrock, 2008, p. 47).  Lastly, ecological theory elaborates on a changing environment that brings forth behavioral adaptations (Santrock, 2008, p 49).  All three approaches reinforce not only the origin of adolescent behavioral problems, but of most behavioral patterns produced during this developmental period.

References

Czech, S., & Kemp, R. I. (2010). Development of ASB 1: The development of antisocial behaviour in adolescents and young adults. Australian Journal Of Psychology, 62(3), 149-159. doi:10.1080/00049530903334471

Fontaine, R., & Dodge, K. A. (2009). Social information processing and aggressive behavior: A transactional perspective. In A. Sameroff (Ed.) , The transactional model of development: How children and contexts shape each other (pp. 117-135). Washington, DC US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/11877-007

Santrock, J. W. (2008). Introduction. In Adolescence, (12th ed. pp. 5–51). Boston: McGraw Hill.

25
Sep

School Bullying

School Bullying

“A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students” (Cook, 2010, p. 79). Given that many stereotypes that are embedded in our culture, in adolescence those that deviate from the norm can be unjustly labeled and treated as social outcasts. Teens are expected to dress and act in a manner that is similar to their peers.  When these roles show signs of deviation, negative consequences such as social isolation, teasing, name calling, and verbal and physical fighting can occur as a result.  “Acts of violence have expanded from school yard bullying” (Sugarman, 2013, p. 1) in which both the victim and bully had to be physically in the same place at the same time.  Now, technology, such as computers, tablets, Internet, and smartphones, provides a means for bullying to occur virtually anywhere. These experiences can lead to a snowball effect of stress and anxiety that can directly impact behavior and life span development in young adults.

In many cases, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from being victimized by bullying.  (PTSD) is defined as a psychological disorder that develops as a result of exposure to events that cause psychological trauma (VandenBos, 2007, p. 717).  It causes suffers to experience long-term anxiety that can directly impact behavior.  PTSD has been shown to be associated with suicidal thoughts, risk-taking behaviors, nightmares, depression, sexual recklessness, and eating disturbances (Mauk & Rodgers, 1994, p. 103).  Traumas associated with PTSD can be caused from sexual assault, violence, threat of death, or any event that can overwhelm a person’s ability to cope.

Targeted victimization is causing lasting damage.  This comes in the form of delays in the development of identity formation that encompasses the period of adolescence.  Kohlberg describes a staged process of development in which one obstacle must be overcome before moving to the next (Berk, 2012, p. 608).  While Erikson explained that identity confusion caused by internal conflicts could lead to delinquency in this population of young adults (Erikson, 1968, p. 307).  In either case, the impact of victimization caused by bullying can delay the developmental processes in a multifaceted way.

Many researchers have studied the extent of which these traumatic events, such as exposure to violence in childhood, have on development from childhood to adulthood.  One such study was performed by researchers O’Donnell, Schwab-Stone, & Muyeed (2002). They found that social support is the predicting factor of resiliency when children have been exposed to community violence.  They studied 2,600 students from sixth, eighth, and tenth grade to identity adaptive behaviors that were gained by being a part of an urban public school system. It was found that support from peers was negatively correlated with resiliency when it came to misconduct and substance abuse in those exposed to violence.  The children that had both school and parental support were more likely to recover from the exposure and were shown to have less symptoms of PTSD.

Reduction in the occurrences of bullying and targeting victimization can happen through policy change and personal empowerment.  Lasting psychological impact can be lessened with the assistance of social and family support, school counseling and psychological assistance.  Proper social support and problem management should be given to both the bully and the victim.  MacNeil (2004) noted that the act of bullying should be addressed by tackling the behavioral pattern, not just a single situation.  Parental, school, and social support is a significant factor between academic and developmental success when combating violence, abuse, and bullying.  “Nearly all indirect effects of victimization on reported grades, truancy, and importance of graduating were significant through suicidality and school belongingness across groups.  Parent support was most consistent in moderating the effects of victimization” (Poteat, Mereish, DiGiovanni, & Koenig, 2011).

 

 

References

Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, children, and adolescents (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Cook, C. R. (2010). Predictors of Bullying and Victimization in Child- hood and Adolescence, 25 SCH.

Erikson, E. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis.  New York: W.W. Norton Company.

MacNiel, G. & Newell, J. (2004). School bullying: who, why, and what to do. The Prevention Researcher 11(3).

Mauk, G, & Rodgers, P., Building bridges over troubled waters: School-based postvention with adolescent survivors of peer suicide. Crisis Intervention Time Limited Treatment (1994). 1, 103-123.

O’Donnell, D.A., Schwab-Stone, M.E., & Muyeed, A.Z. (2002).  Multidimensional resilences in urban children exposed to community violence.  Child Development, 73, 1265-1282.  Doi:10.1111/1467.8624.00471

Poteat, V., & Anderson, C. J. (2012).  Developmental changes in sexual prejudice from early to late adolescence:  The effects of gender, race, and ideology on different patterns of change.  Developmental Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0026906

Sugarman, D. B., & Willoughby, T. (2013). Technology and violence: Conceptual issues raised by the rapidly changing social environment. Psychology Of Violence, 3(1), 1-8. doi:10.1037/a0031010VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

25
Sep

Cultural Self-Esteem

 

Cultural Self-Esteem

Angel M. Pumila

Self-esteem describes how a person views oneself either positively or negatively.  People with higher levels of self-esteem tend to think good things about themselves.  They are confident in their abilities and enter situations with a positive attitude.  On the other hand, people with lower levels of self-esteem have a negative viewpoint about themselves and their abilities.  They may enter into the same situations as people with high self-esteem, but people with low self-esteem expect a negative outcome based upon their concepts of self.

Self-esteem not only varies from person to person, but also from culture to culture.   Evidence from the 1970’s shows that 90% of Americans claim to have high self-esteem.  (Twenge, 2006; Twenge & Campbell, 2001).  Among American men and women, women were found to be “slightly lower than men” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).  Adolescent girls had the highest difference in self-esteem in the group studied.  There’s was significantly lower due to a critical body image during that phase of life.

In Hong Kong, the view of self lies not on the concepts of beauty, status or achievements, but on dignity.  They tend to ”preserve the sovereign self by not letting others define them” (Kim, Cohen, & Au, 2010).  Studies show that people in Hong Kong are indifferent to the viewpoints of others.  The way that people think of them, whether positive or negative, does not bother them.  Instead, their self-esteem is measured on the dignity held by themselves and their family.

Not all cultures have a need for high levels of self esteem.  According to a study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “the need for positive self-regard is not a universal, but rather is rooted in significant aspects of North American culture” (Heine, Lehman, & Markus, 1999).  In this study, it was found that Japanese people put less emphasis on self-esteem and more on being self critical.  Like those in Hong Kong, they do not view themselves in the same manner as Americans but instead, place more significance on finding ways to improve themselves.

By studying different cultures, it is found that different people have varying ways that they view themselves.  This is taught from within the culture itself, either directly or indirectly, and passed from generation to generation.  It is an essential element that should be studied and observed in order to fully understand the actions and mindsets of people with different cultural backgrounds.

 

References

Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social psychology & human nature. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN: 9780534638320.

Heine, Steven J.; Lehman, Darrin R.; Markus, Hazel Rose; Kitayama, Shinobu; Psychological Review, Vol 106(4), Oct, 1999. pp. 766-794.

Kim, Young-Hoon; Cohen, Dov; Au, Wing-Tung; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 98(6), Jun, 2010. pp. 904-916.

25
Sep

Coping and Resilience

Coping and Resilience

The multiple domains of transitional experiences involved in the adolescent period require a level of coping and resilience to avoid detrimental developmental impacts.  It is “valuable to address the actual processes involved in selection and socialization for depressive symptoms in adolescents and how these processes evolve over time, in relation to transitions and developmental changes, while incorporating information on stability and other potentially related variables” (Goodwin, 2012, p. 329).  One of these variables is the phenomenon of resilience.

The term resilience refers to the processes that produce good outcomes in spite of facing potentially damaging developmental situations or experiences (Masten, 2001, p. 228). While many of our youth today face issues of adversity, not all are subject to lasting negative results.  The key variable that differentiates this population or separates them from their vulnerable counterparts can be found in their ability to define situations in a positive way.

Through her research, Masten (2011) discovers why some are more susceptive to long-term impacts from these experiences than others. The difference can be found in the basic adaptation systems that are within each and every one of us.  “If those systems are protected and in good working order, development is robust even in the face of sever adversity; if these major systems are impaired, antecedent or consequent to adversity, then the risk for developmental problems is much greater, particularly if the environmental hazards are prolonged” (Masten, 2011, p. 227).  For example, if an adolescent experiences a uncontrollable traumatic event brought about by another person such as an armed robbery or even a parental divorce, those with limited or nonexistent previous trauma are efficient at coping and relatively quick to resolve this even.  On the other hand, if these same situations were presented to a teen with a past of abuse, the impact may be long lasting.  The reason behind this is the pattern of experience.  When many negative situations are presented the mind justifies these in a negative manner as a way to cope.  They may internalize the situation, believing that bad things happen because they are bad or unworthy. Yet, the adolescent with a higher level of resilience can define the situation externally as something that has happened to them and not because of them.

References

Goodwin, N. P., Mrug, S., Borch, C., & Cillessen, A. N. (2012). Peer selection and socialization in adolescent depression: The role of school transitions. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 41(3), 320-332. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9723-x

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-238. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.227

25
Sep

Adolescent Transitions

Adolescent Transitions

Throughout development we go through many transitions that change our roles and responsibilities at a given time.  While transitions such as leaving elementary to begin middle school are marked by an event, there are other processes involved that affect who a person is and what they do on a daily basis.  The aforementioned example begins with socioemotional processes such as a social change, exploration, new relationships and experiences that impact one’s personality (Santrock, 2008, p. 20).  These changes also aid in evolving cognitive processes by changing thinking patterns through advancing education, new roles and reference point in which thinking is based upon.

The characteristics of developmental transitions apply across multiple domains: childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, and/or educational or career change.  While the introduction of new situations bring forth an unfamiliar set of problems to address, this does not threaten the developmental processes that each person experiences.  Studies find that day-to-day decision-making processes in these new situations are based upon familiarity and situational experiences of the past (Goodwin, 2012, p. 329).  As the new becomes the old, so does the frame of reference in which one uses to interact and identify their environment.  While there are stressors involved when transitioning to the unknown, the phenomena of human resilience reduces any long-term implications.  “Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the mind, brains, and bodies” of all individuals, “in their families and relationships, and in their communities” (Masten, 2001, p. 235).

References

Goodwin, N. P., Mrug, S., Borch, C., & Cillessen, A. N. (2012). Peer selection and socialization in adolescent depression: The role of school transitions. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 41(3), 320-332. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9723-x

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-238. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.227

Santrock, J. W. (2008). Adolescence (12th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill

25
Sep

Development of Ethnic Identity

Development of Ethnic Identity

“Ethnic identity is a sense of ethnic group membership and attitudes and feelings associated with that membership” (Berk, 2012, p. 607).  This set of beliefs is a large part of the identity search that occurs in adolescence.  A main contribution to the explanations of adolescent identity development comes from Erik Erikson (1968).  He found that the search for identity as it relates to ethnicity could lead to identity confusion.  “Youth after youth, bewildered by the incapacity to assume a role forced on him by the inexorable standardization of American adolescence, runs away in one form or another, dropping out of school, leaving jobs, staying out all night, or withdrawing into bizarre and inaccessible moods” (Erikson, 1968, p. 307).  According to Erikson, delinquency in adolescence stems from the internal turmoil caused by finding oneself.  With minorities, this situation is compounded by the struggle to incorporate their ethnic culture with the culture of American adolescence.

Researchers have examined the effect that this process has on development into adulthood.  They found that native minorities exhibited more mental health problems than that of their migrant counterparts (van Oort, 2007, p. 182). These differences can lead to risk factors in other areas such as education, social skills, and employment that affect the developmental trajectory into young adulthood.  Other studies suggest that positive, early ethnic identification provides “the most stable esteem over time” (French, 2006, p. 9).

In summary, the level of cultural assimilation in ethnic minority adolescents can serve as a predictor for developmental problems into adulthood.  The more the minority culture integrates into that of the majority, the better the chances are for acceptance, positive self-esteem, and normal development.

 

 

 

References

Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, children, and adolescents (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Erikson, E. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis.  New York: W.W. Norton Company.

French, S., Seidman, E., Allen, L., & Aber, J. (2006). The development of ethnic identity during adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 42(1), 1-10. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.1.1

van Oort, F. A., Joung, I. A., Mackenbach, J. P., Verhulst, F. C., Bengi-Arslan, L., Crijnen, A. M., & van der Ende, J. (2007). Development of ethnic disparities in internalizing and externalizing problems from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 48(2), 176-184. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01706.x

25
Sep

Evolution of Morality

The Evolution of Morality

The term, morality, refers to “a system of beliefs or set of values relating to right conduct, against which behavior is judged to be acceptable or unacceptable” (VandenBos, 2007, p. 592).  According to Kohlberg, this belief system is acquired through a gradual stage process in which one step must be successfully completed before entering another (Berk, 2012, p. 608).

Stage 1: Punishment and obedience

Stage 2: Individualism, instrumental purpose and exchange

Stage 3: Mutual interpersonal expectations, relationship conformity

Stage 4: Social system and conscience

Stage 5: Social contract and individual rights

Theorist, Marcia, found that a crisis and commitment model best described the means in which morality is acquired.  For example, when an adolescent is faced with a new situation, previous values and experiences are reviewed and reevaluated to fit the current issue.  The existing morals have been acquired through learning the values of one’s family and culture throughout childhood (Berk, 2012, p. 494).  This relationship between parental morality and adolescent morality has been found positively correlated as a predictor for moral judgment of adolescents (White, 2004, p. 220).  Reinforcement processes of acceptable behavior beginning in early childhood can explain this.  Praise and support of positive behaviors teaches children what is valued within the family.  Yet as we review a changing society over generations of time, we do see a change in values from one generation to the next.

Piaget claimed that development of morals occurs “as children act on, transform, and modify the world they live in” (Crandell, Crandell, & Vander Zanden, 2009, p. 238).  This is true in both generational and social context of morality.  For example, the morals of those born in the 1930s or 1960s in China are based upon the experiences of war and economic development that created values such as cultural obligations and honor (Lee, 2011, p. 383).  Yet, as the following generation experienced less stressors and challenges, the need to reinforce older traditions fades away.  Younger generations believe more in individualism than unity due to the less challenging experiences in their life.

In the United States, the past three generations (boomers; born between 1946 and 1963, millennials; born after 1976 and Xers; born between 1964 and 1976) have showed strong similarities in their moral values. Researcher, Cynthia Pavell (2012), studied this phenomenon and found that while the scores from all three generations were similar, some differences were found.  For example, boomers placed a higher emphasis on individualism.  “This generation grew up with the protests against the Vietnam War and the ‘age of peace and love’” (Pavell, 2012, p. 65).  Meanwhile, Xers preferred more doing than thinking or being and stressed the important of leisure time.  The author contributes this to the fact that more and more of this generation grew up in broken homes that relied on longer work hours to get by and viewed time off as a reward (Pavell, 2012, p. 66).

Each researcher provides valid arguments to the conception and evolution of moral standards.  From birth through adulthood, we witness the change as the reasoning behind doing the right thing shifts from avoiding punishment, to preserving relationships, to conforming to social expectations.  We find these values learned from our parents and modified as new experiences are encountered.  Today, adolescents face a new set of moral challenges as the world rapidly changes into a more diverse and technologically advanced place.  Their decisions about right and wrong set the foundation for the values of future generations to come.

 References

Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, children, and adolescents (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Crandell, T. L., Crandell, C. H., & Vander Zanden, J. W. (2009). Human development (9th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Lee, C. (2011). Learning to be a good parent across cultural and generational boundaries. Journal Of Moral Education, 40(3), 377-385. doi:10.1080/03057240.2011.596340

Pavell, C. (2012). U.S. Cross-Genrational Variations in Culturally-Oriented Value Systems. San Diego, CA: American Journal of Management. 12(1).

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

White, F. A., & Matawie, K. M. (2004). Parental Morality and Family Processes as Predictors of Adolescent Morality. Journal Of Child And Family Studies, 13(2), 219-233. doi:10.1023/B:JCFS.0000015709.81116.ce

25
Sep

Adoption & Identity

Adoption & Identity

 In the United States, a person that is adopted has very little legal rights to know the identity of their biological family.  Closed adoption procedures require all information concerning an adoption to be sealed.  This includes parental information, birth name, and even the correct date of birth listed on a birth certificate.  While this system is currently changing, allowing for more information to be disclosed to adoptees, the process can be a source of frustration and emotional turmoil throughout their journey.

The subject of adoption was chosen as a discussion topic for personal reasons.  I, myself, am not adopted, but I have been on a hunt for adoption information of someone very close to me for about two years now.  I have found is that the search for information can seem nearly impossible and that the process itself becomes ingrained into the identity of some adoptees.  “Grotevant has proposed that an initial state of unawareness or denial may be followed by disequilibrating experiences that can precipitate a crisis or exploration phase” (Kroger, 2007, p. 118).  This cycle repeats itself over and over throughout the lifespan while the individual searches for exactly who they are and where they belong.  However, the exploration is not owned by the adoptee but the laws tied to the adoption itself.

To shed light on these laws, I will share this journey.  When my grandmother was 18 years old, she learned from her mother that she was adopted.  Sixty-two years later the search for truth and circumstances surrounding her adoption remain, in part, a mystery.  She has scoured through countless archives across the country over her lifetime to no avail.  It wasn’t until she was in her 70’s that she finally found out who her biological father was through her cousin, who happened to be her half-brother.  Back in 1935, her father was married and had an affair.  He died shortly before my grandmother was born.  Then her father’s sister adopted her.  Yet, no information could be found about her birth mother.

My search has consisted of libraries, archives, Internet, d.n.a. tests, and now the court system.  I discovered her adoption papers, and that the information in them is not the truth.  The same applies for her birth certificate.  Her birth name and actual date are still unknown today.  The last step in this mystery is held in a court procedure by filing a motion for disclosure.  Yet, the chances of this motion being approved are slim to none. In Louisiana, adoptees can only access identifying information in their adoption if it is of medical necessity, rights of an heir, or requested by both parties in the adoption.  Since none of this applies, our day in court is faced with meager hopes.

This is the story of many adoptees searching for the source of their identity.  Yet in some ways, it mirrors that of adolescents bound to a culture that they do not fully accept.  “Adolescence is typically a time of experimentation and testing boundaries, but if you’re an Amish teenager, you’re faced with a confounding choice between family or isolation, tradition or the modern world, faith or uncertainty” (Wender, 2008).  According to Brodubsky, there are three scenarios at the end of this search to find oneself; identity achievement, identity diffusion, or remaining foreclosed (Kroger, 2007, p 118).  That is to say that a person either goes through a process to achieve identity, not question identity, or simply accept their identity as is.

Both Grotevant and Brodubsky explain the processes in which adolescents form their identity.  Through crisis and exploration of the circumstances we come from and the world that surrounds us, we all search for our meaning.  For some the quest is achieved, while others spend a lifetime fighting for the definition of their existence.  Ethnicity, culture, adoption, careers, sexuality, and relocation are all common topics of exploration during adolescence.  Resolution of these issues is dependent upon the experiences in our lives combined with social support and personality factors that lead to acceptance or the lack of acceptance

 

References

Kroger, J. (2007). Identity development: Adolescence through adulthood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 9780761929604.

Wender, S. & Escherich, K. (2008). The Outsiders: Teens Caught Between Freedom and Faith. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=5195105&page=1.

25
Sep

Media Influence on Eating Disorders

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Media’s Influence on Eating Disorders 

Angel Pumila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disturbances

     Eating disorders, for many a result of marketing and advertising campaigns from companies that try to use sex appeal to sell products, affect millions of Americans and others around the world.  “Eating disorders are more prevalent in industrialized and often Western cultures and are far more common among women than men” (Keel, 2006). This is due to the fact that cultural ideas of beauty are more centered around a woman’s weight and looks in Western cultures than in other parts of the world. Early history of eating disorders provides different motivations behind the self-starvation of Anorexia Nervosa (AN). In the 5th and 8th centuries, people with anorexia nervosa were viewed as being possessed by demons and curable by ritualistic exorcism. Later in the 12th century, cases of AN were found as a result of religious fasting. Today, anorexia is defined as a psychological disorder with the people affected in need of treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa typically involves excessive weight loss. Persons suffering from this condition view their bodies as distorted and experience irrational fears about gaining weight. Frequently, people with this condition will lose so much weight that their bones are showing, but they still see themselves as fatter than they should be. Anorexia is very unhealthy because people do not get enough vitamins when they do not eat, and their organs eventually begin shutting down. Numerous health concerns are associated with this condition, and sometimes, as in the case of pop singer, Karen Carpenter, death is the end result.

Bulimia occurs when a person consumes inordinate amounts of food in a short period of time before purging it from their bodies. Vomiting and the use of laxatives are the most common ways of purging, and sometimes persons with this disorder can repeat the purging cycle 20 or 30 times per day. Like anorexia, bulimics can suffer severe health consequences or even death. A fear of weight gain is the motivation behind purging, and again, persons with this disorder usually have an unrealistic and distorted view of their weight.

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. Statisticians estimate that there are more than one billion obese people in the world. What is commonly referred to as, “the battle of the bulge,” has become harder to fight with the convenience and availability of so many fatty foods and fast food restaurants. This availability is compounded by the fact that much of American society is centered around food. Characteristics of obesity include frequent episodes of eating what other people consider large quantities, lack of control while overeating or binging, eating rapidly and swallowing food quickly, eating when full, eating large amounts of food even when not hungry, eating alone out of embarrassment, feeling disgusted and distressed while overeating, and having a preference for refined carbohydrates and fatty foods.

Body dysmorphia is a condition in which a person views physical parts of their body as being disfigured or flawed, even when they are not. These people will go to many extremes, such as having plastic surgery to correct a flaw that doesn’t exist and sometimes having plastic surgery to correct the previous plastic surgery that wasn’t perfect enough. People affected with this condition tend to avoid social situations for fear of being seen and judged on their looks because they will always come up short.

Theoretical Models

     Psychodynamic theorists base their theories upon internalized forces that govern human behavior.  Sigmund Freud is a prime example.  He believed that many behaviors stem from instinctual behavior, subconscious internalized experiences, and conscience decision making. The psychodynamic model of family influence claims that AN is a result of a mother inappropriately responding to the child’s hunger cues as an infant. “This mismatch between the infant’s needs and her mother’s responses impaired the development of the girl’s ability to interpret her own internal states” (Keel, 2009).

For many adolescent girls, AN is an unconscious need to be overly thin. According to this theory, the girl is powerless to fight against her own instinct to starve herself in an attempt to stay thin because she wasn’t equipped with the basic advantage of learning hunger cues. While many AN sufferers have overcome and won this battle, so many more do not. Their instincts overrule their conscious decision-making processes, and they cannot stop themselves from doing what comes so naturally to them.

The social learning model of family influence explains that AN is caused by learned behaviors and attitudes about food and body image from family members. For many in Western cultures, the fear of being fat is passed on from parents to children. While good health should be the issue discussed with regard to food, frequently the term “fat” is thrown around like fat is the worst thing a person could become. For those who grow up in these environments, their fear of becoming fat and therefore unlovable is stronger than their hunger pains or their good sense. These feeling are reinforced constantly in these environments where pressure is put on the girl to be skinny. Many parents do not realize what message they are giving their girls until a health issue with regard to an eating disorder materializes. Bulimia results when a person is deprived of the enjoyment of a simple meal by environmental influences, and the urge to binge becomes stronger and stronger, followed by feelings of guilt about eating abnormal amounts of food. This behavior becomes addictive, and before long becomes a health and emotional hazard. A by-product of this environment is criticism, which heaps low self-esteem onto the adolescent and perpetuates the cycle of the eating disorder.

Much research has been performed to determine the familial and social contributions to body image disturbances. It was found that children with fathers who were dissatisfied with their appearance, either feeling too thin or not fit enough, were more likely to have daughters with body image issues. “Parental behaviors such as over control of their child’s eating, together with later pressure from parents and peers to be thin, were related to higher levels of TBPSP” (Agras, Bryson, Hammer, & Kraemer, 2007) or thin body preoccupation and social pressure to be thin.

Lastly, the psychoanalytic model of family influence relates anorexia nervosa to a fear of sexual maturity. By starving themselves and not receiving adequate nutrition, girls would fall behind in sexual maturity and avoid developing into their mother. For many young girls, reaching sexual maturity is a frightening prospect, and by subconsciously stunting their own growth, they believe they are staving off what they fear the most. As with the other models, this behavioral pattern stems from an underlying emotional issue that must be resolved before progress can be made to stop the eating disorder.

Analysis of Current Media Initiatives 

     The media has an immense influence on eating disorders in young girls and women, in general. Television personalities, movie stars, commercial products, and models set the example of what it is to be beautiful. This gives a person an unrealistic role model as to how they should physically look and what is attractive within their society. When they do not appear that way or perceive a variance of appearance from the norm, psychological disturbances can occur.

Magazines such as Allure, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, depict the preferred image of girls and women as being closer to a size 0, even though the average woman in America is a size 14. This image becomes what girls and women strive for to the point that they become dissatisfied with their body image and take drastic steps to improve. “Among girls, body dissatisfaction and eating disorders increase during and following puberty (Field, 1999), together with challenges to the experience of self, self-esteem, and mood (Erkut, Fields, Sing, & Marx, 1996).

Magazines such as these feature page after page of beautiful women, all as thin as possible, and tout them as role models that young women should aspire to be. Each gives diet tips and explains how to “lose 20 pounds in six weeks,” mostly with unattainable for the average woman or girl diet plans. Reading these magazines reinforces the idea that if you don’t look like these “ideal” women, you are lacking and need to do something about your appearance.

Some tabloids take it a step further with pictures of women in bikinis, some thin, some larger, and seem to make fun of the larger women, intimating that the larger women is not as worthy of admiration as the thinner woman. These magazines set the standard of beauty so high that most women are left wallowing in their own unattractiveness and wondering how they will ever be able to compete in a world filled with thin beauties.

Television sends girls the same message. For example, women and young girls feel an enormous pressure to be sexy, to feel that men desire them. Advertising on television has an incredibly adverse effect on many young girls simply because of the volume of ads that use sex appeal as a tool to sell and the amount of time most people spend watching television, which reinforces the message over and over and over. Victoria Secret advertising campaigns, which feature very thin models in bras and panties, send the message that these thin women are the sexiest and most desirable women in society. Young girls and young women who view these commercials and then look at themselves cannot ever measure up and are, therefore, not sexy enough until they look like these models. They mistakenly believe the subliminal message that men will not want them because they are not thin enough. For those with AN or bulimia, this message reinforces their need to starve themselves or binge and purge, while overweight women eat more and more because they feel their self-worth hits bottom when they see these advertisements.

Some men, as well, can lose their confidence when faced with ads touting virile men with six-pack abs as the epitome of what women want. And while some men do develop eating (and exercising) disorders as a result, women seem to be more emotional and more prone to be influenced by the advertising they view.

The media has determined what is sexy, from buxom, thin young girls begging viewing to call their 1-800 numbers for a sexy chat to beauties like Kate Hudson who hawk Cover Girl to women dying to become more attractive. Even Weight Watchers with celebrities like spokeswomen like Jennifer Hudson and NutriSystem using Marie Osmond, send the message that, “I was ugly, and now I’m pretty because I lost weight.” These messages make being too fat or too thin or not pretty enough difficult for any girl.

Movies are another source of bad karma for insecure women. Movie stars like Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow, have become the standard for what is beautiful not only in America but around the world. While overweight women, like Queen Latifa, have become movie stars, these stars are few and far between. Queen Latifa usually plays comedic roles, while the other thinner stars who look great in the briefest of bikinis are portrayed as the sex symbols. It is only recently that Queen Latifa played a role in Just Wright that depicted an overweight woman winner the heart of a basketball star when a thinner woman was in the picture. This does show an effort by some movie makers to change the standard of what is beautiful to a degree, but these efforts are few and far between. And still, the young girl in the movie theater is receiving the same message as with other forms of media—you are not worthy unless you are thin and beautiful. It’s no wonder so many young girls succumb to the pressure and develop eating disorders.

Change Campaign 

     As mentioned previously, the average woman in America is size 14. Back in the 1960s, the average woman was a size 8. Because of the changing diets of Americans, the introduction of more fatty foods, and lifestyle changes, including a faster-paced society which brought about fast food chains, the average weight and size of women has increased dramatically. Each year, more and more children and adults are added to the list of obese in America. Yet, the focus with advertisers still seems to be on obsessively thin women as the ideal and not on the health of an entire population.

An article published in the Journal of Consulting Psychology, Risk Factors for Obesity in Adolescent Girls, studied risk factors for obesity. Researchers sampled 496 adolescent girls in between the ages of 11 and 15 years old. Factors such as “dietary restraint, radical weight-control behaviors, depressive symptoms, and perceived parental obesity” (Stice, Presnell, Shaw, & Rhode, 2005) were measured. Interestingly, it was found that those that showed higher restraint on their diet at 11 to 15 years of age had an increased risk for obesity later in life.

There are emotional factors that perpetuate the cycle of obesity, as well. As a person becomes depressed about their body image, many times it is food that is used to console negative emotions. The public view of people struggling with obesity is that they are fat and lazy. This view not only has a psychological impact on people with obesity, but it contributes to the lack of support that this disorder has.

The answer lies in the self-esteem of each person who watches advertising on television or reads a magazine or goes to the movies. Environment, natural instincts and fear of sexuality all factor in to why people have eating disorders, but for most young women, self-esteem and a feeling of not quite measuring up to what is sexy and beautiful in the most influential factor in their eating disorders. The media can help this situation by changing the way in which it portrays beauty.

For example, there is not a person in the world who could say that Mother Theresa was not a beautiful person. She was not, however, considered a beauty. Her beauty came from within, from a place in her heart and soul and a willingness to give to others. Mother Theresa was beautiful, but not many women would aspire to look like Mother Theresa even though they recognize her innate beauty. I propose that many eating disorders could be stemmed if the media changed its ideal of beauty.

For example, Victoria Secret could feature ads for real women, women who are size 14 or larger, who would prance around looking seductive in sexy lingerie made just for them. While it must be said that companies like Fruit of the Loom have begun embracing this idea, not many people think of sexy when they think of Fruit of the Loom. Featuring average, everyday women who reflect life in America could go a long way toward changing the perception of what is sexy, and a new ideal—an ideal that every woman is beautiful no matter her size—could emerge if television got on board.

Magazines, too, could stop featuring only skinny women as role models for what women should be and feature the size 14 girl as just as sexy and attractive to men. Instead of focusing on diet and beauty, they could focus more on healthy living and eating habits. Instead of making fun of that overweight girl with cellulite, they could depict women as beautiful no matter what. I’m not suggesting that they promote obesity, I’m suggesting that they focus on health instead of diet, on substance instead on sexy.

Movies, too, should feature average sized women in prominent roles where the girl gets the guy because he’s attracted to who she is a person rather than the fact that she fits into a size 3 and has gigantic breasts. Showing average women getting the guy in the end could go a long way toward rebuilding the sagging self-esteem of women who just cannot compete in this world of too thin women who are the ideal of beauty. Showing women that who they are is more important than how they look is one way in which movies and all media outlets and advertising agencies could help stem what has become an epidemic for many women. Changing the perception of what is important in life is indeed the responsibility of the media who has mandated what is beautiful and what is not in American society.

And while the media alone cannot be blamed for the problems of women, the role of the media has become so large today that it certainly must accept the challenge to help women feel better about themselves and thus help them to become healthier and happier.

References

Agras, Bryson, Hammer, and Kraemer’s 2007 article, “Childhood Risk Factors for Thin Body Preoccupation and Social Pressure to Be Thin” from Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 46, issue 2, pages 171–178.Keel, P. (2006). Eating Disorders. Pearson Prentice Hall, Inc.

Erkut, S., Fields, J. P., Sing, R., & Marx, F. (1996). Diversity in girls’ experiences: Feeling good about who you are. In B.Leadbeater & N.Way (Eds.), Urban girls:Resisting stereotypes, creating identities (pp. 53–64). New York: New York University Press.French, S.A., Jeffery, R.W., Forster, J.L., McGovern, P.G., Kelder, S.H., & Baxter, J.E. (1994). Predictors of weight change over two years among a population of working adults: The Healthy Worker Project. International Journal of Obesity, 18, 145-154.

Field, A. E., Camargo, C. A., Taylor, C. B., Berkey, C. S., Frazier, L., Gillman, M. W., & Colditz, G. A. (1999). Overweight, weight concerns, and bulimic behaviors among girls and boys. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 754–760.

Klesges, R.C., Isbell, T.R., & Klesges, L.M. (1992). Relationship between restraint, energy intake, physical activity, and body weight: A prospective analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101,668-674.

Stice, E., Cameron, R., Killen, J.D., Hayward, C., & Taylor, C.B. (1999). Naturalistic weight reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 967-974.

Stice, E., Presnell, K., Shaw, H., & Rohde, P. (2005). Psychological and Behavioral Risk Factors for Obesity in Adolescent Girls: A Prospective Study. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 73(2), 195-202. Doi:1037/0022006X.73.2.195Piran, Niva; Cormier, Holly C.; Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 52(4), Oct, 2005. pp. 549-558. [Journal Article]
Keel, P. K. (2005). Eating disorders. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Unknown. (2012). Remuda Ranch. Retrieved from http://www.remudaranch.com/about-us/our-history

Vesilind, E., (March, 2009). Fashion’s Invisible Woman. L.A. Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/01/image/ig-size1

24
Sep

Individual Differences in Learning

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Introduction

     Report cards are the leading indicators that children learn in different ways and at different levels. Some children have better memories than others, some are simply smarter than others, and some have to make no effort at all to earn good grades in school. Some children have to study for hours to learn the same information that other children get right away. There are many factors that influence a child’s ability to learn and retain information. Genetics, study habits, handicaps and motivation are just a few of the factors that influence the way in which children learn.

I became interested in how children learn when I became pregnant with my first child. I realized that it is important to understand the differences that guide learning in each individual to ensure that opportunities to maximize learning are accomplished. Studying these differences in learning has helped me to understand a variety of obstacles that may arise through the course of my child’s education and will enable me to help her overcome any learning difficulties she may have.

For this topic, I researched studies in psychology that focus on individual differences and teaching styles. Some researchers agree that study methods, learning tools and memory exercises can help children who struggle with learning and retaining information, while others suggest that personality and intellectual abilities are the main predictors of how well children learn. Still others argue that genetics are the leading predictor of academic success.

Here, I will argue that all of the aforementioned factors, in addition to a few others, contribute to a child’s ability to learn and achieve throughout his/her life. There is no single indicator that can predict learning patterns; rather, there are so many factors that contribute, including genetics, memorization abilities, retention, economic status, personality, ethnicity, motivation study methods, learning tools and access to highly qualified teachers. Yes, each child does learn differently, but some children have advantages with regard to learning because of individual differences that have nothing to do with intelligence.

Problem Statement and Research Question

     So many children in the United States and in other countries around the world have trouble keeping up with their peers in terms of learning. How do individual differences affect learning capability?

Significance of Research Question

     It is important to understand how individual differences affect learning capabilities so that we can best help children maximize their potentials. Because children learn at different rates and levels, parents and teachers must recognize each child’s individual ability so that a plan can be made that will help the child succeed and achieve.

Report of Research Findings

     A single influence with regard to learning abilities can not be identified. Every child’s level of learning is influenced by a wide variety of factors. According to the Journal of Psychology and Education, “Research has shown that both genes and environment influence intelligence” (Grigorenko, 2011). Each child’s ability to succeed is relative to the intelligence of his/her parentage and to environmental conditions. For example, a child who lives in poverty and whose mother or father is a drug addict is not likely to receive the same educational opportunities as a child who is raised in a wealthy family by two parents who do not do drugs. Therefore, this child’s ability to learn has been stunted by environmental influences beyond the child’s control. Even if this child has good intellectual genes, he/she may never reach his/her full potential. Conversely, a child with poor intellectual genetics may achieve more when the environment in which he/she lives is conducive to pursuing the best educational opportunities.

Researchers also indicate that personality traits influence learning in children. Children with negative personality traits, such as introversion, pessimism and rebelliousness, will not learn on the same pace as children with more positive personality traits. “For the Big Five personality factors (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience), a consistent, positive association for conscientiousness with academic success was found” (Busato, B., 2000) Through the course of Busato’s research, numerous children with similar personality traits were tested. The results were then compared to their grades and academic achievement. The results overwhelmingly suggest that personality does play a significant role in a child’s ability to digest information.

However, each child, even those with similar personalities, will learn differently. “Student learning may be conceived in terms of the three stages of in-put, process and output. Input variables would include curriculum content and other features in the teaching context; process variables the ways a particular student has of going about selecting and learning from the input; and output variables the quality and quantity of subsequent performance” (Biggs, J., 1979). It is important for teachers and parents to correctly understand the stages through which a child learns in order to effectively teach the child and to maximize his/her learning potential. Whereas, one child can pay attention in class for a long period of time, another child’s attention span may not be as long. The same information will be heard and retained in different degrees by each child, and it is important for teachers to pay attention to each child to determine how much information is being received by each child. Through careful observation, teachers can make lesson plans and lectures that are tailored to helping each child learn at his/her own pace.

Even though other factors do influence learning ability, genetics cannot be overlooked. A classic example of how genetics influences learning came through Tryon’s experiment in which rats were bred for maze learning. Tryon bred 18 generations and categorized them as Maze Bright or Maze Dull rats. In this experiment, rats were raised in the same environmental conditions such that environment could not be blamed for deviations. “The bright and dull rats differed in several ways; in their levels of emotionality, size and health, and reactions to different types of mazes. However, improved research designs that control for these factors now routinely show that rats, mice, and fruit flies can be bred for differences in specific learning ability” (Terry, W. S., 2009).

Assessing how humans learn differently is a little more difficult. Numerous studies have been conducted from prenatal learning to how the elderly retain information, from classical conditioning to encoding differences, yet while there are similarities between similar age groups, each individual still takes information in at different levels and in different ways.

Children with learning disabilities have more difficulty than children of normal intellect processing information. They use less mnemonic devises than other children and do not organize things effectively. They cannot put as much information into long-term memory, nor can they retrieve information as easily as other children. These problems are caused by “genetic disorders and birth defects, head injury, anoxia, malnutrition and exposure of toxic materials” (Terry, W. S., 2009).  While some of these causes cannot be avoided, malnutrition is an environmental influence caused by impoverished or uncaring parents who are directly affecting their child’s ability to learn.

Anxiety is another factor that contributes to learning. There is much debate concerning whether testing is an effective gauge of a child’s intelligence because many children (and adults) become so anxious prior to or during a test that they become flustered and cannot remember answers they knew before actually taking the test. This can become quite a problem for many children who make low grades due to test anxiety and can affect their confidence in their ability to keep up with their peer groups. Teachers can help with this problem by recognizing which students have test anxiety and working with the child to find a solution that will measure the child’s abilities without causing undue stress. “Task, evaluation and recognition, and authority dimensions of classrooms are presented as examples of structures that can influence children’s orientation toward different achievement goals” (Ames, C., 1992). When a teacher takes the time to structure a classroom in such a way that all children can benefit from the learning environment, then each individual child has a better chance of achieving at their highest potential.

Location and socioeconomic status also play a major role in enabling children to learn. For example, children who live in remote villages in Ethiopia, where the only really important thing is survival and having a next meal, do not have the same ability to learn as do children who live wealthy suburban lives in New Orleans, where private schools paid for by rich parents, offer the elite the best in education and every opportunity to succeed in life. These children in the remote village may be capable of learning just as much as other children, but their environment and a lack of nutrition limits their ability to learn. While some countries throughout the world place a high value on education, others do not, and children do not ever reach their full potential.

Finally, there have been many discussions about gender as it relates to learning. Stereotypical responses to that question has always been that males and females are split along the math/English line, where males are better at math (left-brained) and women are better at English (right-brained). However, this stereotype is just that, as many women are high math achievers, and many men are good with English. While women are considered to have better verbal memory, there is no real evidence that gender influences ability to learn.

Application

     By understanding learning disabilities and knowing what makes learning easier for some children more than others will help professionals treat each child knowledgeably and correctly. It’s simple to group children together without taking the time to delve into their personalities and environments to ascertain how they learn or why they do not learn on the same level as other children. This knowledge can also help educators to advise parents in the best course of action and to help them understand the learning abilities of their children. For example, the father who demands straight A’s from a child who is not capable of making A’s can seriously harm that child’s self-esteem by setting standards that cannot be met no matter how hard the child tries. On the other hand, a parent can also get the upper hand with the child who performs poorly but who is capable of making better grades and is simply lazy, through understand the child’s personality traits that are contributing to poor achievement.

Identifying individual differences in learning can also help professionals to ask the right questions and not simply accept what is on the surface. There are reasons why each child learns at a different pace, and those reasons must be understood if that child is to have a chance of performing at his/her potential. Once understanding of each individual is achieved, a solution can then be found that will enable the child to make the most of what learning tools are available.

Discussion

     Many times, a child’s self-esteem is wrapped around his/her sense of achievement, of how he/she measures up to his/her peers. Because each child learns at a different pace, it is impossible for many children to feel like they are as smart as those children who rolls answers off their tongues without thinking and always ace their tests. So many children feel like they are dumb when they simply have different genetics and environments that influence their ability to learn. I have not discussed the role Attention Deficit Disorder here, but it is mentioned now because it, too, is an important factor when it comes to learning for many children. Those with ADD or ADHD cannot learn information at the same rate as children who do not have this disorder because they simply don’t have the same attention span. Children with ADD often feel they are not as smart as other children, but when diagnosed and placed on the proper treatment plan, these children are often capable of achieving just as much as their peers.

Other children with home lives that are not conducive to learning, suffer at the hands of parents who do not keep education as their focus. These children also have self-esteem issues because not only can they not keep up with the rest of the children, but they have to hide the problems they are having at home so they can appear normal to other children.

Another problem is that overcrowded classrooms contribute to a lack of focus on the individual child and his/her capabilities. When teachers are overwhelmed with too many children, they can only meet the needs of a few. Oftentimes, children pay a heavy price because they cannot get the individual attention they need.

So many factors contribute to the way in which each child learns, but there are few viable solutions to the problem for the majority of children. Those families who cannot afford to place their children in private or specialty schools must simply accept the education that they are given and accept that their children may never reach their fullest potential.

However, much of a child’s potential rests in his/her individual personality and correlates directly with factors such as attitude and motivation. Children who really want to learn usually find a way, while those who don’t care about learning simply don’t learn. In my opinion, the children who really want to learn but can’t ever seem to catch up are the most at-risk children. These are the kids who get lost in the crowd because they cannot get the individual attention that they desperately need to learn. These kids have the desire and motivation, but no one has ever diagnosed their problems or identified their learning.  Consequently, solutions are simply not found to help them discover their potential.

My recommendation is that we re-educate the educators and parents. Teach them to look for the different learning patterns of their children. Teach them to recognize when problems may exist and give them tools to rectify the problems. Help them understand all of the factors that contribute to the way a child learns, and teach them to deal with each child on an individual level. Supply them with knowledge of the tools that will help each child to learn better. Then take the time to help the child as much as possible. Every child deserves the best chance in life, and understanding why a child learns the way he/she does will help give each child that chance.

Understanding the way children learn can go a long way to helping them become the best they can be. However, there are so many factors involved with the way children learn that it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly why a child learns the way he/she does. Personality traits, learning disabilities, genetics, environment, and gender—it all plays a role in making up the individual. Intelligence level and IQ does not mean that a child has the same ability to learn as other children. Children can only reach their fullest potential when those who teach them understand how they learn and all of the tools available are used to enhance the learning experience.

References

Ames, C., (1992) Journal of Educational Psychology: Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. American Psychological Association.

Biggs, J., (1979). Higher Education: Individual differences in study processes and the Quality of Learning Outcomes. Springer Netherlands.

Busato, B., (2000). Personality and Individual Differences: Intellectual ability, learning style, personality, achievement motivation and academic success of psychology students in higher education. Elsevier Science Ltd.

Grigorenko, E., (2011). Journal of Psychology and Education: Learning and Individual Differences. Elsevier Inc.

Terry, W. S., (2009). Learning and Memory (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

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