The Character Development of Adolescents

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1469
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD


Adolescence is one of the substantial development stages of a human being. It is a critical period due to where it falls in the life of any person. Adolescence occurs between the age of 10 and 12 years. The stage is a transition period between childhood and adulthood. As Wilkins (1985) observes, as typical as many transitions, the adolescence period is bedeviled with so many changes that are smooth and rough at times. Thus, it can be described as a period that can make or break a person. Different psychologists such as Piaget, Kohlberg, Holland, Freud, and Elkind amongst others have come up with different theories that try to define and or understand this period of a person’s life. Therefore, due to the wide nature of the stage, each theory is found to hold water on its own. However, no single theory is entirely conclusive because the theories tend to follow certain lines that at some point do not apply to all. Thus, there is a need for continuous research on the same. The paper uses these theorists to explore the development of an adolescent besides showing how military approach can help save a violent teen.

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Development of an Adolescent

Psychologically, the development of an adolescent is much more than physical growth though more to do with the mental part of the perceived adolescent. When adolescents grow up, they transform from innocent little children full of innocent questions into either constructive and positive minded youth or destructive negative minded youth. Most adolescents’ psychological growth is shaped up by the environment they live in, which defines a majority of youths in society. Holland’s theory of occupational environment comes in handy to support this claim. Holland pointed out several occupational environments, for instance, social, intellectual, and business to mention a few, which define the particular lifestyle, which any person or group of persons will tend to follow. By going along a trend in society, one is considered a conformist while going against the trend in society one is considered an oddball. Therefore, depending on the society one is growing up in, an adolescent will shape up psychologically along the two lines by being on either side. Though not all youths tend to lean towards their societal practices, most of them find identity and conformity in the practices common to the society they are living. While developing, adolescents tend to be exposed to different situations at different times of life. There are those who will be exposed to some situations of life at an early age while others will be exposed at a later age. According to Sigmund Freud, the adolescence stage can be equated to the genital stage when an adolescent’s genitals start developing as evidenced by their ability to notice the opposite sex. This time is usually a period of anxiety for the young person. In fact, the frustrations that come with it can lead to a young person becoming highly irritable and to the extreme violent. In most cases, the young people become rebellious as they try to cut their niche within society by doing what they want to do.

Young people who end up taking violent stances are usually pent up with a lot of anger that they cannot understand its source. Freud equates everything he explains to a form of pleasurable action that either has been fulfilled or is being inhibited. In the case of boys, their libido drives them into a form of domineering nature that defines their masculinity. They will try to achieve the male Alfa nature that will drive them to win girls. If this happens successfully, they will then try to protect their turf, which can lead to violent confrontations. The environment that adolescents grow in tends to shape them by influencing their likes and dislikes thus influencing the kind of personality they will exhibit. As postulated by Waterman (1982), Kohlberg’s theory of moral development states, “Moral development takes a linear and step wise channel by moving from one step to the next one in a predictable and orderly sequence” (p. 345). Adolescents usually get to this stage at their early adolescent period. A part of the stage norm is group affinity. When adolescents get into groups, they tend to move with the tides of the group. As such, conformity or loyalty is one of the binding factors of being a member of the group. Most adolescents in this case will work hard towards winning the approval of the majority of group members or winning the opinion of the group members who they respect. Thus, when a group has become violent besides engaging in crime-related leanings, the members will tend to act in violent manners and or cherish the same. Violent teenagers tend to pick the violent nature from different sources mostly being from groups they associate with (Steinberg, 2008, p. 83). As Kohlberg postulates, in the stage of morality of interpersonal cooperation, moral decisions are arrived at by an adolescent in accordance with how the group will judge the teenager. Therefore, an adolescent will tend to act in a violent nature to conform to group norms.

How a Military Style Approach can save Violent Teens

In this case, military style approaches can be employed to harp on this effect for the purpose tapping this kind of interpersonal cooperation. Embarking on the works by Piaget, David Elkind who is also a researcher in the field of adolescence and childhood development referred this violence as a sign of unhealthy adolescent growth. Therefore, as a strategy to curb this unhealthiness, military style approaches tend to shape an adolescent through a form of coercion that is acceptable by the adolescent. Most adolescents tend to become violent as a way of acting tough because their superego is way below their id as postulated by Elkind in his hypothesis of adolescent egocentrism. They tend to do what their minds tell them for the sake of keeping their pride high. When they are taken to the boot camps, they tend to meet equally tough instructors who will not cede ground the way parents or society will do. Thus, when the adolescents get there, they are deemed to have found their match. Psychologists like Freud and Piaget believe that most energy that drives people is mostly sexual energy that tends to be more in adolescents because of the rapid hormonal changes in their bodies, which mark a new phenomenon to them. When adolescents engaged in highly physical activities, they tend to drain out most of energy in them.

At the end of the day, they become calm and reasonable persons worth of interaction. According to Kohlberg, this stage will also involve social order in the life of the adolescent. The adolescent tends to realize that society calls for social order and that, to live in harmony with the rest of society, one needs to conform to the tenets of social order. When adolescents go to boot camps, they are taught about the rules of the boot camp and the need to follow them strictly. They will learn to conform to the social order at the boot camp as a way of wanting acceptability in the whole process (Weiner, 1985, p. 550). The biggest challenge to this form of order obtained at the boot camp is the level of discipline and commitment one is instilled with while at the boot camp. When an adolescent gains such discipline and then end up joining wrong groups like gangs, their commitment becomes unbridled in the sense that they tend to use their discipline the right way but in the wrong place. This misuse can lead to teenagers becoming committed hard-core members of gangs and violent groups. According to Piaget, the adolescent stage occurs during the formal operational stage when adolescents tend to start thinking abstractly and symbolically. Rolf (1988) explains, “At this stage of development, they become indifferent to their parents as they try to forge their own identity thus becoming rebellious” (p. 180). Such a stance can be taken care of by the boot camp rules, which do not allow a member to challenge the rules of the system because the law or rules are unquestionable. Therefore, when teenagers with violent streaks are taken there, they tend to cool down due to the conformity in the place. Boot camps teach adolescents how to reason constructively by following certain lines of reasoning.


The psychology of a developing youth is a hugely complicated field for both parents and researchers. Conclusively, not even a military approach can be a complete solution. Each youth has an individual problem that would need a personalized approach to solve. As the paper affirms, the development of an adolescent happens in both physical and mental terms with the development of these areas happening in a form of rapid succession.


Rolf, M. (1988). Theories of Adolescence. New York: McGrawhill.

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Steinberg, L. (2008). Changes in Sensation Seeking, Risk Taking and Reward Sensitivity in Early Adolescence. Development review, 28(2), 78-106.

Waterman, A. (1982). Identity Development from Adolescence to Adulthood: An Extension of Theory and a Review of Research. Development Psychology, 18(3), 341-358.

Weiner, B. (1985). An attribution Theory of Achievement Motivation and Emotion. Psychology Review, 92(4), 548-573.

Wilkins, J. (1985). The Relative Importance of Parents and Friends in Adolescent Decision Making. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 15(4), 323-334.