Case Study: Lifespan Development and Personality

Describe and evaluate the notion that adolescence is a period of ‘storm and stress’Adolescence is a period in development between the onset of puberty and adulthood. It usually begins between 11 and 13 years of age with the appearance of secondary sex characteristics and spans the teenage years, terminating at 18 to 20 years of age with the completion of the development of the adult form. During this period, the individual undergoes extensive physical, psychologic, emotional, and personality changes. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

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Storm and stress in relation to adolescents can be said to be the challenges faced and dealt with during this process of growth, these stress and storm can be related to the pressure and expectation from the society, media and peers pressure, stress is not necessary caused by these process of growth but by the demand and responsibility that is usually attached to it.

These period of development in adolescents have various impact and effects on what kind of stress they face and how it is being dealt with, these stress can either physical, intellectual, emotional or social.

Adolescent period is often believed to be a difficult period and very critical stage of transition because of various qualitative shift that they pass through at that moment of life and this conflicts with breaking away from the old self and interest of the childhood memories and all these periods are accompanied by significant changes of various degrees for instance, all the characteristics involved in puberty such as menstrual cycle in girls and hair growth in certain part of the body in boys as well as deepening of the voice.

It is generally believed that most if not all adolescent experience difference stages of storm and stress at this period of their life, (Arnett 1999) says not all adolescents are likely to experience storm and stress, although of all stage of the life span, these years are the most volatile and also express his view further by saying that where adolescents do experience storm and stress, it is most likely to manifest in the following ways

– Conflicts with parents: There is a high chance that adolescent tends to be rebellious due to their search of freedom and authority

– Mood disruptions: adolescents pass through emotional cycle at this stage compared to childhood stage and adulthood.

– Dodgy behaviours: adolescents are usually associated with certain dodgy behaviours such as recklessness, norm breaking and various level of antisocial behaviour.

Stanley G. Hall (1904), a psychologist and educator further backed up this by saying the myth that adolescence is a period of stress and storm has been embraced by a variety of influential theoretician since his work in the early 1904, Stanley Hall, who was personally motivated by Darwin, who depicted human development as analogous to evolutionary development and also saw adolescence period as similar to eras of turbulence and storm. He also regarded the instability, anguish and intensity of adolescence as a necessary precursor to the establishment of adult stability. Halls idea is now part of popular culture thus suggesting that many parents expect that adolescents will undergo a period of storm and stress.

Psychologist have come to recognise the fact that adolescence is a unique period in the human development but according to (Twiford and Carson 1980, p4) some adult are increasingly disturbed in their attempt to understand behaviour of adolescents and also suggest that experts have described adolescents as inconsistent, unpredictable, erratic, emotional and self centred thus creating a general view and impression that adolescence period portrays a period of stress and storm.

Apart from the factors mention above earlier, conflicts with parents, mood disruption and behaviour, there are different factors responsible for why adolescent experience various storms and stress during this stage and this is due to the rapid changes and transitions going on in the body and in the environment around them. One factor responsible is the search of autonomy which according to (Erikson 1959) described it as a process of individualisation and (Freud 1958) also analysed it as a developing sense of detachment from parent.

Most adolescent stress is also related to lack of identity which usually arises because they start to think about who they are and what they want to become and this tend to put them under a pressure to discover their real identity and the pursuit of this leads to a sharpened sense of dignity which makes them want to gain their freedom and freedom of choice thus creating a gap between themselves and their parents because they see themselves as more of an individual and someone who can make decisions on their own and this whole process of transition causes a whole lot of confusion between them and the parents which is one big subject parents nowadays find difficult to cope with and tends to see adolescent as moody, self centred, detached or being too concealed.

Also this leads to peer pressure issues, the continuous search for identity leads to them flocking with people who are of the same mindset and this tends to put them under more pressure within peer group e.g. acceptance. Most adolescent want to be associated within a group where they would feel welcomed and acceptance, failure to achieve this tends to have a negative influence on such individual which in effect leads to struggling for power with peer as a result leading to aggressiveness and violent behaviour and as a result of this, according to (Farrington and Hawkin 1991), association with antisocial peer can be a contributing factor to the escalation of antisocial behaviours which in some cases leads to substance misuse, delinquency and school problems

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School also plays an important role during adolescent period, the environment and the nature of school also has its impact on adolescent life. (Huizinga and Jacob 1998) says that more than eighty percent of adolescent had been involved in one or more problem at school such as truancy, suspension, poor academic development and in extreme cases drop out completely. All of these problems might be too much to handle for some if not most of adolescents and the relationship between them and school becomes affected. The kind of environment also plays important roles because if the school has a high rate of non compliance students, violence and aggression, it tends to circulate easily within such environment, also disorganisation within the school structure and lack of enforced rules and guidelines increase aggression in adolescent.

Mood disruptions

There is a connection between adolescence and emotion in the positive and negative way, Hall (1904) also described adolescence as ”the age of rapid fluctuation of moods”. There is a high chance of fluctuation in moods in adolescence due to the various mixes of emotion they pass through in the present stage and this can either be positive and negative, but the negative ones are usually accompanied with mood swing.

Larson and Richard (1994) said adolescents report ”a feeling of self consciousness and embarrassment” which is reported to be on average of 2-3 times more likely to be more what their parents face and this tends to make them feel lonely, nervy and in certain cases ignored. He also suggested that adolescents report greater mood disruptions compared to pre-adolescent stage. Most of the mood increase and disruption apart from emotional variation can also be caused by the increasing level of hormonal change in the body caused by adolescent transition as well as some other hidden factors e.g. environmental factor such as changing school and having relationship with opposite sex can also be responsible for these mood disruption.

The rate at which all these mood disruption are experienced does vary from one individual to another due to the different reason and factors responsible for this mainly change in school, relationship with opposite sex, poor academic performance, issues with peer group and in some cases family issues such as marital discord.

All these factors bought by stress can be too much to contain and lead to various health related side effect in adolescent because they are under these high obligation to achieve so much at a time such as changes in school, environment, getting high marks in school/college, having part time job, managing finance, peer pressure, social lifestyle e.g. making new friends and family problems. All of these can weigh down adolescent and as a result make them more prone to illness due to the stress and stress put on the body, making them extremely tired and ill which cause them more problems dealing with day to day live and can cause depression thus prompting occasional visit to the GP seeking medical help and due to more demands in accessing healthcare services, they have to wait longer in certain cases to be attended to and may not be fully satisfied with the level of treatment received and thus making them more susceptible to further depression and if care is not taken, it may result in being completely depressed.

(Kevin Durkin pp 515) states that examination of adolescents may lead to the conclusion that they do suffer not from diminution of self esteem but from a woeful spate of self indulgent volatility, out of all proportion to their actual place in the scheme of things. He also suggest that the surge of hormones, the growth of secondary sexual characters, the stimulus of genital arousal, pressure of educational and career choices, temptation of drugs, the impending trial of adulthood and the state the world is in today.


Adolescence period is a very important and exciting stage in life that are marred by many stages of development and challenge, it is a time when adolescent experiment so many thing that can either make or break their life and future, a period of exposure, it is a very unstable, inconsistent and emotional period, there are different stress and storms attached with adolescence but Holmbeck (1996) suggested that less than 10% of family with adolescents experience conflicts while only 15-30% of most adolescent experience storm and stress.

Not all individuals experience this process of storm and stress but it does happen and it only affect most adolescent but not all as it is widely perceived and portrayed by the media, society and parents.



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