Girls‟ Psychosocial Tasks in Middle Adolescence

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In seeking to establish current understandings of friendship bullying among Year 10 girls, it is important to consider several areas. These include the developmental issues for Year 10 girls and their same-sex friendships, because these create the context in which bullying occurs, and what is known about their bullying of one another within their friendship groups. Because girls in Year 10 are aged about fourteen or fifteen, the literature regarding the developmental period of middle adolescence is the most relevant.
The review of literature therefore will focus on three areas, and is presented in three sections. Firstly, it examines what is understood about the normative psychosocial developmental experiences of girls during the period of middle adolescence, and will address the psychosocial developmental changes which they undergo in middle adolescence, such as acquiring a capacity for intimacy and for empathy, that characterise their transition to adulthood. Particular attention will be paid to these developmental changes as they relate to girls‟ peer groups. The second section in the literature review will explore their same-sex friendships, to discover what is currently understood about the nature of girls‟ friendships in middle adolescence, since they potentially provide the context for bullying. In the third section, current understandings of the serious issue of bullying will be explored, as bullying has been found to manifest itself among middle adolescent girls.

Section One: Girls‟ Development in Middle Adolescence

Research interest into the period of adolescence began in earnest in the mid-fifties (Sullivan, 1953b), with the issues of gender in relation to development emerging during the past thirty years (Gilligan, 1982). While much of the research has concerned both boys and girls, there are aspects of girls‟ development which are peculiar to them, and influence their interactions with friends.
Girls experience major physical, psychological, and social development in adolescence, which is understood to begin with early adolescence, starting about the age of eleven. This continues through mid-adolescence, at about the age of fifteen, and thence at about eighteen to late adolescence, with adulthood being reached at about the age of twenty-five, as described by Kroger (2007). Both boys and girls experience major changes during the transition from early to middle adolescence (Kroger, 2007; Stein, 2007). These changes disturb the comparatively stable balance of the individual, which is typical of middle childhood (Kegan, 1982), to a greater or lesser degree, and pose many challenges to the individual when they enter adolescence (Erikson, 1968).
The most obvious change, immediately apparent to girls themselves and to others, is physical change. In early adolescence, girls experience the onset of puberty at an average age of eleven in New Zealand (Gluckman & Hanson, 2006), somewhat earlier than for boys. With maturation and consequent alterations in hormone levels, they are confronted with a range of physical, emotional, and psychosocial changes (Dacey & Kenny, 1997). As they approach mid-adolescence, their bodies continue to change in shape, appearance, and functions, and they find themselves experiencing new emotions that they have not previously felt, or that they experience in different, often more intense, adult ways (Dacey & Kenny, 1997).
Adolescents‟ way of thinking and making meaning also starts to change in puberty, with the reconfiguration of the brain during adolescence (Stein, 2007). Thus, both girls and boys gradually lose aspects of their old cognitive capacities of childhood and acquire newer and different abilities (Casey, Giedd, & Thomas, 2000; Stein, 2007), with the development of formal operations (Rowe & Marcia, 1980). Consequently, in early to middle adolescence, they are already engaged in the process of developing and integrating adult ways of thinking, feeling, and perceiving (Kroger, 2007). The physical changes they experience inevitably impact on their perceptions of themselves and their world and are inextricably linked to their psychosocial development (Wigfield, Lutz, & Wagner, 2005).
As well as sharing some aspects of adolescent development with boys, girls develop in ways which are unique to them. A review of recent research studies which have involved mapping normal brain development through the process of MRI scanning has found differences between girls‟ and boys‟ brains, both in the rates of change and the parts of the brain which are affected. These changes indicate that girls are likely to be vulnerable in particular ways during adolescence, and the process of girls‟ neurological development is likely to be experienced differently from the way that boys experience development (Durston et al., 2001) .

Girls‟ Psychosocial Tasks in Middle Adolescence

In considering the changes which take place during normal adolescence for girls, a group of important psychosocial tasks have been identified which appear to be closely connected to, and influenced by, same-sex peer relationships, during the transition period from early to middle adolescence (Blos, 1967; Erikson, 1968). These tasks, which will be discussed in this chapter, have been the subject of extensive research (Kroger, 1992, 2000), and theories have been proposed to account for the ways in which individuals appear to go about these tasks, the fulfilment of which appears crucial for the attainment of healthy adulthood. The tasks include separation from the family and caregivers, the growth of a sense of a unique and separate self, the acquisition of a capacity for intimacy (Erikson, 1968; Sullivan, 1953a), the ability to experience empathy (Eisenberg-Berg & Mussen, 1978), the growth of positive self-esteem (Erikson, 1968; C. R. Rogers, 1957), and the development of moral judgment (Gilligan, 1982; Kohlberg, 1977). Discussion of these important changes also requires consideration of the developmental processes which are involved, according to what is known, not only about the content of development, but also about its genesis and processes.
A theoretical blueprint of adolescent development has been provided by the seminal work of Blos (1967, 1989) and Erikson (1968). Blos (1967), drawing from a clinical psychoanalytic background, proposed that, in adolescence, a second separation and individuation stage occurs, similar to that of infancy, in which the individual separates from the parental introjects to achieve autonomy as an individual. Successful separation and individuation were seen as necessary for the adolescent to achieve healthy adulthood. Failure to individuate was seen as connected to negative effect such as depression, for adolescents (Milne & Lancaster, 2001). Blos (1989) suggested that the friendships of adolescence allowed individuals the opportunity to successfully rework relational tasks undertaken in earlier life stages. Other empirical research followed, again based on clinical observation, such as that of Kegan (1982), who also suggested that, even if girls‟ early attachment experiences were less than optimal, the formation of successful relationships with their peer group in adolescence was important, because it might afford individuals a positive “second chance” opportunity for development, through the second individuation stage. More recent research (Meeus, Iedema, Maassen, & Engels, 2005) has suggested that the separation and individuation processes take place simultaneously, with parental influence gradually decreasing and social identity increasing.
Erikson‟s (1968) work has been a continuing key influence in the understanding of adolescent development. Like Blos (1967), Erikson drew many of his conclusions from his clinical psychotherapeutic practice, which included work with adolescents, and thus constructed his theory of psychological growth occurring through a series of crises throughout the lifespan, with that of youth occurring in later adolescence, preceded by crucial psychosocial tasks in early to middle adolescence. These tasks, according to Erikson, included the development by adolescents of a capacity for intimacy and for empathy, a positive sense of self-esteem, and an increasing sense of themselves as individuals. The fulfilment of these tasks of early and middle adolescence was seen as essential for all adolescents, so that in late adolescence they could go on to achieve identity development, and to prepare for the intimate relationships of adulthood. According to Erikson (1968), development for adolescents requires them to individuate psychologically from their families, achieving a sense of themselves as individuals, founded on, yet different from, their childhood selves. The individual‟s drive towards self-actualisation gradually was seen as enabling a more complex and flexible self to develop during the journey from infancy through childhood and adolescence, to adulthood (C. R. Rogers, 1957). Erikson further asserted that adolescents‟ relationships with peers, together with experiences and interactions with others, provide important opportunities for the fulfilment of these tasks, opportunities to which individuals need to respond appropriately in order for optimum development to occur.
However, Erikson‟s (1968) explanation of adolescent development focused on male identity formation as the norm, with female development seen as dependent on their biological function. Erikson, deriving his evidence from the acceptance in his time of women‟s traditional roles as wives and mothers, and from an experiment in which he observed children‟s play with blocks, explained adolescent girls‟ development as being centred on the creation of “inner space.” According to Erikson, young women postponed some aspects of their psychosocial development until their acquisition of a partner in adulthood. He acknowledged the influence of history and the likelihood that the changing political and social context of the late sixties and early seventies would bring changes for girls‟ and women‟s psychological development.
Alongside their valuable contributions, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of the work of Erikson (1968) and others (Blos, 1967), imposed by the gender roles and the socio-political context of the period during which they carried out their investigations and developed their theory. While the contributions of these early thinkers were invaluable, those limitations with regard to the influence of gender and to understandings of normative behaviour, are now apparent. Furthermore, their conclusions and theories, while drawing on general observations, were largely developed from their work with clinical populations, and in Erikson‟s case, initially from men who had experienced the trauma of war. Therefore, the conclusions which they reached might not be generalisable across the normal developmental experiences of adolescents in the start of the twenty-first century. In addition, as researchers initially sought to test their theories, studies depended largely on the sampling of boys, rather than of girls, in older, more easily accessible later adolescent populations. For example, Orlofsky, Marcia, and Lesser‟s (1973) study of ego identity, which found support for Erikson‟s (1968) theory, was conducted with a sample of university-age males. In such a gendered context, research results for males were considered to be the norm, and, if girls were included in a research sample, often the results tended to be contradictory and confusing (Archer, 1992; Chodorow, 1978).


The Development of Moral Judgment

Another major area of adolescent development, that of moral and ethical judgement (Kohlberg, 1977; Kroger, 1992), has been the focus of some controversy in regard to girls‟ development. Kohlberg‟s seminal theory has identified a number of successive stages of moral judgement, possessing increasing levels of complexity, and based on ethical principles of justice. Interestingly, it was found that, according to then-current views of moral development (Freud, 1959; Kohlberg, 1977; Piaget, 1932), girls appeared to achieve generally lower levels of moral and ethical judgment than boys did, with somewhat confusing and puzzling responses to situations requiring moral judgement. Kohlberg‟s research, which appeared to find women less moral than men, has been vigorously challenged (Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Gilligan, 1982). Gilligan has argued that traditional views of morality took men‟s experience as normative, and that girls and women experience morality differently. According to Gilligan, girls‟ and women‟s morality is based on their care for relationship and connection with others, and this explains their failure to score highly on ethical measures which depend on the application of principles of moral judgment (Kohlberg, 1977) rather than on those of an ethic of care (Skoe & Marcia, 1991). In doing so, Gilligan has challenged “the overriding value psychologists have placed on separation, individuation, and autonomy…To see self-sufficiency as the hallmark of maturity conveys a view of adult life that is at odds with the human condition,” (Gilligan, Ward, & Taylor, 1988, p. xii).

Section One: Girls‟ Development in Middle Adolescence
Girls‟ Psychosocial Tasks in Middle Adolescence ..
The Development of Moral Judgment
Attachment and the Development of Intimacy
Section Two: Girls‟ Mid-Adolescent Friendships
Patterns and Features of Girls‟ Mid-Adolescent Friendships
Intimacy in Friendship
The Function of Girls‟ Friendships
Bullying as a Group Process
The Research Questions
Methodological Concerns in Researching Girls‟ Bullying
Methods Employed in Existing Research into Girls‟ Bullying
Ethical Considerations
A Mixed Methods Approach
The Research Design
Girls‟ Friendship Groups: The Context for Bullying
The Nature of Girls‟ Friendship Groups
Recognition of Bullying
Participants‟ Experiences of Bullying
How Bullying Started
Features of Year 10 Girls‟ Friendship Groups
The Nature of Girls‟ Bullying
Experience of Self-Defined Bullying.
Experience of Research-Defined Bullying
Recognition of Research-Defined Bullying
Participants .
Girls‟ Experiences of Bullying among Friends
The Process of Bullying in the Friendship Group
Telling Someone
The Nature of Bullying
What Helps Girls to Stop the Bullying or to Recover from It
The Aims of the Study
The Significance of the Study
Key Findings of the Study ..
Bullying in Triadic Friendship Groups
Moral Developmen
The Growth of Self-Awareness or Self-Doubt
Strengths and Limitations of the Current Study
School Counsellors
School Managers
National Education Authorities
Families and Girls
Recommendations for Further Research

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