Developmental tasks can be taken to mean a task that an individual is expected to achieve in a particular life stage. It mediates between an individual’s need and social expectation. In the light of the above, Egbule and Ugoji (2004), Simply put developmental task to mean appropriate behavior patterns and essential skills which individuals are expected to acquire and exhibit at a particular stage of human development. In the same vein, Peretomode and Dittimiya (1994), define developmental tasks as skills, knowledge, functions or attitudes which an individual must acquire at various stages during his life time in order to adjust successfully to the more difficult roles and tasks that lie before him.
From the above definition it can be inferred that every life stage from birth to old age has a corresponding developmental task. However, the concern of this discourse is the adolescence period vis a vis the developmental task that the adolescents need to surmount. Therefore, the outline below will be followed chronologically in order to have a good understanding of the topic at stake.
1. The meaning of adolescence
2. Who the adolescent is
3. Certain characteristics of adolescence
4. Developmental tasks of adolescents
5. Implication of developmental task
MEANING OF ADOLESCENCE
Adolescence generally is a period that succeeds childhood and precedes early adulthood in human development. Many authors of psychology literature posit that it derives from a Latin verb, Adolescere, which means ‘to grow up” or to grow into maturity. Based on the above, Mgboro (2004) sees adolescence as a process of growing into full adulthood. The adolescence period is ushered in by ‘puberty’ which means the period of development when the reproductive organs are gaining full maturity for procreation.
(Jones 1998), sees adolescence as the period of life between childhood and maturity which biologically extends from age 10 to 19.
WHO IS THE ADOLESCENT?
The adolescent is the individual who is passing through adolescence. He is the emerging adult, who is done with childhood; He is usually between the ages of 13 and 19. He is one who has reached and experienced puberty. He has a variety of interest as well as a number of behavior problems, which may be physiological, psycho- social or socio- cultural.
CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF ADOLESCENCE:
This stage of human development is characterized by a variety of developmental changes which include:
1. The period is transitional. That is, transiting from childhood to adulthood.
2. During this period the sexuality of the individual begin to mature.
3. Associated with rapid changes in attitudes, interest and behavior as well as noticeable increase in body size, height and weight which psychologists call ‘growth spurt’.
4. A period of differing opinions, ideas on certain issues coupled with much disagreement with parents and high emotional feelings
5. A period that witnesses a number of unrealistic expectations or great ideals.
6. This period is characterized by a lot of assumption by the adolescent, he wants to assume the role of an adult by engaging in adult behavior such as sexual activities.
The characteristics of the adolescents incorporate physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral dimensions. For instance, physically, it witnesses a number of hormonal changes, glandular developments, growth spurt and sexual maturity.
DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS OF ADOLESCENTS
They are those tasks expected of the adolescents to be achieved during adolescence in order to be seen as well adjusted.
Dusek (1977) noted that developmental tasks are acquired through physical, maturational and social fulfillment, as well as personal efforts. According to Havighurst (1953) a successful achievement of developmental task lead to the individuals happiness and to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness, maladjustments, increased anxiety and difficulty with their tasks.
Havighurst contributed a lot to the concept of developmental tasks with regards to the adolescents hence he is taken to be the father of developmental task in psychology.
Robert Havighurst identified the following developmental tasks associated with the adolescent’s transition. It is important to emphasize here, that, each of the Havighurst tasks, can also be seen as elements of the overall sense of self that adolescents carry with them as they move towards and into young adulthood. The tasks include the followings:
1. Adjustment to a new physical sense of self: At no other time from birth does an individual undergo such rapid and profound physical changes as during early adolescence. Puberty is marked by sudden rapid growth in height and weight. Also, the young, person experiences the emergence and accentuation of those physical trait that make him or her a boy or girl. The adolescent looks more like a child and more likely a physically and sexually mature adult. The effect of this rapid change is that the young adolescent often becomes focused on his or her body.
2. The adolescent must adjust to new intellectual abilities: In addition to a sudden physical growth spurt, Adolescents experience a sudden increase in their ability to conceive their world with a new level of awareness. Before adolescence, children’s thinking was characterized by a need to have a concrete example for any problem that they solve. Their thinking was constrained to what is real and physical. During adolescence young people begin to recognize and understand. The growth in ability to deal with abstractions accelerates during the middle stages of adolescence.
The adolescent as a matter of fact must adjust to increased cognitive demands at school. School curricula are frequently dominated by inclusion of demanding material, regardless of whether the adolescents have achieved formal thoughts. Since not all adolescents make the intellectual transition at the same rate, demands for abstract thinking prior to achievement of that ability may be frustrating.
3. The adolescent must develop expanded verbal skills: As adolescents mature intellectually, as they are faced with school demands and as they prepare for adult roles, they must develop new verbal skills to accommodate more complex concepts and tasks. Their limited language of childhood is no more enough. They may appear less competent because of their inability to express themselves meaning fully.
4. The adolescent must develop a personal sense of identity: Prior to adolescence, one’s identity is an extension of one’s parents. During adolescence however, the adolescent begins to recognize his or her uniqueness and separation from parents. As such, one has to restructure the answer to the question, “what does it mean to be me “or “who am I?”
5. The adolescent must establish adult vocational goals: As part of the process of establishing a personal identity, the adolescents must also begin the process of focusing on the question “what do you plan to be when you grow up?”. Adolescents must identify at least, at a preliminary level what their adult vocational goals should be and how they intend to achieve those goals.
6. The adolescent must establish emotional and psychological independence from his or her parents: Childhood is marked by strong dependence on ones parents. Adolescents may yearn to keep that safe, secure, supportive, dependent relationship. Yet to be an adult implies a sense of independence, autonomy of being one’s own person. Adolescents may vacillate between their desire for dependence, and their need to be independent. In an attempt to assert their need for independence and individuality, adolescents may respond with what appears to be hostility and lack of cooperation.
7. The adolescent must develop stable and productive peer relationships: In as much as peer interaction’s is not unique to adolescence, it seems to hit the peak of importance during early and middle adolescence. The degree to which an adolescent is able to able to make friends and have an accepting peer group is a major indicator of how well the adolescent will successfully adjust in other areas of social and psychological development.
8. The adolescent must learn to manage his or her sexuality: With their physical and sexual maturity, adolescents need to incorporate into their personal identity, a set of attitudes about what it means to be male or female. Their self image must accommodate their personal sense of masculinity and feminity. Moreso, they must incorporate values about their sexual behavior
9. The adolescent must adopt a personal value system: During adolescence, as teens develop increasingly complex knowledge systems, they also adopt an integrated set of values and morals. During the early stage of moral development, parent provide their children with a structured set of roles of what is right and wrong. What is acceptable and unacceptable. Eventually, the adolescent must assess the parent’s values as they come into conflict with values expressed by peers and other segments of the society. To reconcile differences, the adolescent restructures those beliefs into a personal ideology
10. The adolescent must develop increased impulse control and behavioural maturity: In their shift to adulthood, most adolescents engage in one or more behaviours that place them at physical, social or educational risk. Risky behaviour are sufficiently pervasive among adolescents that one can begin to conclude that risk taking may be a normal developmental process of adolescence. Risk taking is particularly evident during early and middle adolescence. Gradually adolescents develop a set of behavioral self controls through which they assess which behavior are acceptable and adult like.
As clear as the above may appear, we should not forget the fact that adolescents do not progress through these multiple developmental tasks separately. At any given time, they may be dealing with several. Moreso, the centrality of specific developmental task varies with early, middle and late periods of transition.
According to Ingersoll,(N.D)during the early adolescent years, young people make their first attempts to leave the dependent secure role of a child and to establish themselves as unique individuals, independent of their parents. Early adolescence is marked by rapid physical growth and maturation. The focus of adolescents self concepts are thus often on their physical self and their evaluation of their physical acceptability. Early adolescence is also a period of intense conformity to peers, ‘getting along’, not being different and being accepted seem somehow pressing to the early adolescence. The worst possibility from the view of the early adolescent is to be seen by peers as ‘different.’
Middle adolescence is marked by the emergence of new thinking skills. The intellectual world of the young person is suddenly greatly expanded. Although peers still play an important role in the life of middle adolescents, they are increasingly self–directed. Their concerns about peers are more directed towards their opposite sexed peers. It is also during this period that the move to establish psychological independence from one’s parents accelerates. Much of their psychological energies are directed toward preparing for adult roles and making preliminary decision about vocational goals. Despite some delinquent behavior, middle adolescence is a period when young people are getting the orientation about what is right and proper.
Late adolescence is marked as the final preparations for adult roles. The developmental demands of late adolescence often extend into young adulthood. Late adolescents attempts to crystallize their vocational goals and establish sense of personal identity. Their needs for peer approval are diminished and they are largely psychologically independent form their parents. The shift to adulthood is nearly complete.
IMPLICATION OF DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS OF ADOLESCENTS
Based on the above knowledge of the developmental tasks facing the adolescents, implications abound for everyone in the life of the adolescent - parents, teachers, and other significant people around the adolescent.
Adolescents psychical, cognitive and emotional development occurs within social institutions such as families, friends and schools.
Parents and families: Notion of adolescence as a time of ‘storm and stress’ suggests that the period will be marked by rebellious, antisocial attitudes as well as conflict with parents. Therefore, parents should constantly caution the adolescent on the need to cut off excesses associated with their behavours
Implication for teachers (School) the notion of ‘struggle” or ‘explorations” and the concomitant emergence of cognitive changes, identity conflict and changing role expectations as adolescents progress through schools, require that they have open, safe places in which to test, explore and discover for themselves their identities. Through school based and after school activities, interaction with their peers and exploring adult roles (models and mentors). Therefore the teacher should be knowledgeable and put up appropriate attitude always. Teachers can help youths manage learning experiences through active listening, authoritative management style, and helping them feel like they belong to and have safe places to explore. This is very important because the rate of school drop out is high in middle adolescence.
The society should as a matter of importance place emphasis on reward for hard work and other desirable character of men with high integrity in the society, so that the adolescents can have a reason to want to model these individuals in the process of identity formation
Conclusively, teachers and parents play important roles in the lives of adolescents. Knowledge of adolescence equip them to be sensitive to the diversity in youths experiences and the compelling forces in their lives. Armed with their knowledge, teachers and parents can offer safe places for youths to explore and test their emerging ideas of who they are and who they want to become.
By and large, adolescents should be encouraged to seek counseling (personal –socio, vocational, school placement etc) in order to be well adjusted for proper functioning in their societies. Moreso, families of adolescent are encouraged to seek family counseling and in cases of acute delinquencies, therapies should be sought for.
Bloomington, IN: centre for adolescent studies
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