CHAPTER THREE ADOLESCENTS, THEIR IDENTITY FORMATION AND RELATIONSHIPS
The objective of this chapter is to describe adolescents as total persons in various relationships with regard to their identity formation.
Adolescents are « becoming » adults. During adolescence the process of becoming adults speeds up radically. A central part of this changing or becoming towards adulthood, is the formation of a new identity – that of adult as distinct from child, and independent as opposed to dependent. In this chapter, therefore, each aspect of adolescents’total being is discussed with reference to their identity formation in terms of significance attribution, involvernent and experiencing.
The identification of adolescents with role models is a significant aspect of their identity formation. Adolescents’identification is influenced by all of their relationships, specifically (and very important to this study), social relationships. In each of these relationships, identification takes place with another person as a total being. The relationships of this other person which he or she has in common with the adolescent, also have an indirect influence on the adolescent’s identity formation. In this chapter the relationships of adolescents with adults, parents, self, religion, peers and siblings are all discussed with respect to adolescents’identification and identity formation. Relationships with teachers and their role in adolescents’identity formation receive special attention, by virtue of their central significance to this project. In the case of each type of social relationship, adolescents are dealt with as total persons. It has also been kept in mind that the other persons with whom adolescents maintain relationships are also total beings with relationships of their own. Consequently, a father’sphysical relationship with his adolescent son, for example, directly influences that son’sphysical identity formation. That father’sphysical relationship with his father, wife, mother, self and religion will also indirectly influence the physical identity formation of his adolescent son.
Then, the topic of identity formation as an aspect of adolescents’becoming is proached, and . finally, the identity formation of adolescents restrained in their becoming.
Although adolescents comprise of many facets, they are at all times complete or « total persons », who cannot arbitrarily pe segregated into separate dimensions.
Adolescents as total persons and identity formation
As is mentioned in Chapter One, a holistic view of adolescents will be taken, with each « modality » being carefully taken into account in its relation to adolescents’identity formation. Of paramount concern to adolescents is the physical modality.
Adolescents’physical being and identity formation
Harre (1993:2) informs that the physical aspect of a person’sidentity, that is one’sdistinctive bodily appearance, is what makes one uniquely identifiable in the first place. In fact, the physical aspect of identity, as distinct from the psychological aspects, has long been debated as being the more important criterion for identity, according to McCall (1990:138) and Hart (1988:105).
Both physical appearance and physical adequacy are perceived as important dimensions of the self by adolescents (McCall 1990:293). The main reason for this obsession of adolescents with the physical self, is their sudden rapid physical growth (Smart & Smart 1982:51 O). This demands that the adolescent integrate a new body image into the identity. During the adolescent years, explains Meyer (1976:26), many physical changes occur in children and they become newly aware of their bodies. Then a drastic change in identity formation may occur, as a result of an evaluation of the new physical identity. This evaluation is greatly subjective. It may only be determined over time. It is often obvious to the objective observer that an adolescent’s extremely biased concept of self is inaccurate. This could result in a negative physical identity.
However, when physical changes slow down and adolescents become more comfortable with their new physical selves, they incorporate a more realistic evaluation of the physical self, and a positive identity may be formed.
Adolescents’physical being and significance attribution
Adolescents’ understanding and evaluation of the physical is influenced by the cognitive understanding of those adults and peers with whom the adolescents associate. For example, if those adults (parents and teachers especially) with whom an adolescent associates daily, perceive that adolescent as having athletic potential, that adolescent is lil<ely to reach that potential. In a similar way, if an adolescent’speers see him or her as naturally strong, that adolescent will begin to accept the sub-identity « strong » into his or her identity, and behave accordingly (Hamachek 1992:31 O).
Other areas of the physical to which significance is attributed, either positively or negatively, are size, appearance and sexual maturity. By comparing themselves with their peers, adolescents attribute significance more accurately to their own sudden growth spurt (or lack thereof!), acne and puppy fat, and their sexual development.
Apart from the understanding of self which comes about from other people’sreactions, from within adolescents themselves comes an understanding of who they are physically. They learn to know themselves and form a physical identity by their own characteristic physical responses.
Both boys and girls are sensitive to, and often critical of, their changing physical selves. However, girls are more likely than boys to be dissatisfied with their body image. That is, girls tend to attribute negative significance to their physical being and thus, at least temporarily, form a negative physical identity. Moreover, girls’outward appearance and inner self-image are more closely linked than those of boys (Mathunyane 1992:20-21).
The rate of maturing evidently also affects physical attribution of meaning. Gordon (1975:296) noticed that early maturers’physical attribution of meaning is more accepted and integrated than that of their late-maturing peers. Chickering and Reissner (1993:49-50) confirm that the successful formation of identity therefore involves comfort with body and appearance, as well as with gender and sexual orientation.
Adolescents’physical being and involvement
If adolescents are physically successfully involved in life, this will positively influence their identity formation. For example, successful physical involvement in sport helps develop a positive physical identity. Actual physical involvement in the many other activities at school, church and in the community, all contribute towards the physical aspect of adolescents’identity formation, and should therefore be actively encouraged by parents and teachers.
Other areas of physical involvement which influence identity formation, aside from general life involvement, are those of social encounter and competition. At home, school, church and at play there are numerous occasions for social encounter with adults, and for competition with peers. In pitting themselves against adults and peers in athletic competition, adolescents discover the boundaries of their physical identities.
Successful physical involvement with adults and peers, that is to say physical encounters which result in a clearer knowledge of one’s potential and limitations, promote positive identity formation. Conversely, unsuccessful involvement such as continual failure in a particular sport, might affect physical identity formation negatively. Inadequate significance attribution leads to a lack of desire to become involved. Consequently, these adolescents are afraid of the world and its physical demands. They become un-involved, detached, lethargic, listless and apathetic (Raath 1985:83-84)
The physical facet of identity is something which is intensely experienced by adolescents because of the unusually brisk physical growth which occurs during this period.
Girls tend to experience more conflict about sexual bodily changes than do boys, partly because female maturity is more obviously sexual than is male maturity, and because girls mature before boys (Smart & Smart 1982:510).
Further areas in which physical experiencing influences identity formation are gender and sex-role identity.
The experiencing of healthy male and female gender role models is essential to the positive physical identity formation of the adolescent (De Klerk 1990:47). Natural physical relationships with mother and father, brothers and sisters, family relatives, peers and teachers are necessary for a secure gender (or sex-role) identity.
Parents who experience their boys and gins positively in terms of their respective masculine and feminine identities and have positive expectations of them, go a long way in helping their adolescent sons and daughters experience their own gender identities adequately. furthermore, pleasant physical experiences with peers and teachers of both sexes, also stimulate positive identity formation.
Adolescents’affective being and identity formation
Along with swift physical changes, adolescents experience corresponding emotional responses which range from surprise and confusion to frustration and aggression.
Adolescents seek to attribute significance not only to their own experiences and feelings, but to others’understanding of the latter, as well as to other people’sexperiences and feelings. The reason adolescents need to find meaning in other people’sexperiencing, is that they are looking for answers to their own emotional conflicts and mood swings. Adolescents have difficulty attributing meaning to their feelings and tend to be subjective in doing so. They are therefore hoping to find clues in other people’s understandingof their feelings which will help them cope with their own often unstable emotional state. Moreover, other’people’s assessment of adolescents’affective behaviour serves as a valuable reflection of the adolescent’sactual affective identity. This assists adolescents to understand and know themselves and attribute significance positively.
Positive significance attribution on an affective level, that is a meaningful understanding of emotions and experiences, contributes to positive identity formation, whereas lack of affective significance attribution may lead to identity confusion, or negative identity formation.
Clarke-Stewart and Koch (1993:394) make the point succinctly that adolescents « must put it all together – the sexual stirrings, the social demands, the new awareness, the fear of peing different, the need to be someone unique yet not alien. No wonder they feel disconnected, disorganized ». That is to say, adolescents must attribute significance on an affective level to the changes they are experiencing, otherwise confusion is inevitable, and possibly identity diffusion.
In a similar way that adolescents’physical involvement in the various activities in their life-world influences their identity formation, so does affective involvement. In other words, affective involvement, or the involvement of emotions on the part of adolescents is just as important as physical involvement in their identity formation. Involvement on an affective level implies total involvement in an activity. In fact, the more deeply one becomes emotionally involved, the more an experience affects one’stotal being, and the more likely it is to have a lasting effect on one’s identity formation.
CHAPTER ONE BACKGROUND OF AND ORIENTATION TO THE PROBLEM
1.2 Becoming aware of the problem
1.3 Statement of the problem
1.4 Objectives of the research
1.5 Importance of the research
1.6 Demarcation of the field
1.7 Proposed research method
1.9 Explanation of terms
1.1 O Organisation of remaining chapters
CHAPTER TWO, IDENTITY AND IDENTITY FORMATION
2.3 Concepts related to identity in more detail
2.4 Identity formation
CHAPTER THREE ADOLESCENTS, THEIR IDENTITY FORMATION AND RELATIONSHIPS
3.2 Adolescents as total persons and identity formation
3.3 Adolescents’ relationships and identity formation
3.4 Essences of effective identity formation in adolescents
3.5 Criteria for evaluating effective identity formation in adolescents
3.6 Identity formation as an aspect of adolescents’ becoming
3.7 Identity formation of adolescents restrained in their becoming »
CHAPTER FOUR INVESTIGATION STRATEGY
4.2 Sampling procedure
4.3 Means and media for investigating the identity formation of adolescents restrained in their becoming
4.4 Administering the research
CHAPTER FIVE THE INVESTIGATION: SPECIFIC FINDINGS
5.2 Utilising the media
5.3 Realising the programme
5.4 Persons involved in the programme
5.5 Home and school setting of the selected adolescents
5.6 Identity formation of the selected adolescents
CHAPTER SIX CONCLUSIONS, LIM/TA TIONS AND RECOMMENDA T/ONS
6.2 Realisation of objectives
6.3 General conclusions
6.4 Specific conclusions
6.5 Limitations of the investigation and recommendations
6.6 Questions that merit further research
6.8 Final words
SOURCES CITED IN THE TEXT
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
THE ROLE OF TEACHERS IN THE IDENTITY FORMATION OF ADOLESCENTS RESTRAINED IN THEIR BECOMING