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The Crises Of Adolescence

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The Crises of Adolescence

Who are adolescents?

Adolescence, the transitional stage of development between childhood and adulthood, represents the period of time during which a person experiences a variety of biological changes and encounters a number of emotional issues. The ages which are considered to be part of adolescence vary by culture, and ranges from preteens to nineteen years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescence covers the period of life between 10 and 20 years of age. Adolescence is often divided by psychologists into three distinct phases: early, mid and late adolescence.
What do adolescents face today?

Adolescence can be a specifically turbulent as well as a dynamic period of one's life. Adolescence psychology addresses the issues associated with adolescence, such as whether or not the aforementioned "storm and stress" is a normal part of this period. The American Psychological Association has a separate division dedicated to adolescence, and the psychologists specializing in this topic attempt to answer questions dealing with the age group. One issue in adolescent psychology discusses whether adolescence is in fact a discrete developmental period, a point along a continuum of human development, or a social construction. Adolescence is often divided by psychologists into three phases: early, mid and late adolescence.
Psychological issues of adolescents may include:
 Tendency and possibility of drug and alcohol use.
 In some cases mental problems such as schizophrenia, eating disorders and depression.
 The emotional instability among some adolescents also sometimes causes youth crime.
 Searching for a unique identity is one of the problems that adolescents often face. At this age, role models such as sports players, rock stars and movie and television performers are very popular, and adolescents often express a desire to be like their chosen role model.
Relationships with Peers
 "90% of adolescent identify themselves with a peer group" (Palmonari, 1989)
 If peers give emotional support, adolescents in a peer group are less likely to be depressed or have anxiety. Depressed individuals may find it difficult to make friends (Buhrmester, 1992)
 Conformity peaks at 11-13 years (Costanzo and Shaw 1966)
 Studied behavior and the influence of peers, results note that pro-social behavior occurs when encouraged. Peaks at 11-12 years or possibly anti-social 14-15 years (Bendt, 1979)
 Group socialism: "we are shaped more by our peers than our parents as we often see identical twins who behave differently" (Harris 1997)

How do adolescents react to crises?
Helping young people avoid or overcome emotional problems in the wake of violence or disaster is one of the most important challenges a parent, teacher, or mental health professional can face. The National Institute of Mental Health and other Federal agencies are working to address the issue of assisting children and adolescents who have been victims of or witnesses to violent and/or catastrophic events. The purpose of this fact sheet is to tell what is known about the impact of violence and disasters on children and adolescents and suggest steps to minimize long-term emotional harm.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., both adults and children are struggling with the emotional impact of such large-scale damage and losses of life. Other major acts of violence that have been felt across the country include the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. While these disastrous events have caught the Nation's attention, they are only a fraction of the many tragic episodes that affect children's lives. Each year many children and adolescents sustain injuries from violence, lose friends or family members, or are adversely affected by witnessing a violent or catastrophic event. Each situation is unique, whether it centers upon a plane crash where many people are killed, automobile accidents involving friends or family members, or natural disasters such as the Northridge, California Earthquake (1994) or Hurricane Floyd (1999) where deaths occur and homes are lost?but these events have similarities as well, and cause similar reactions in children. Even in the course of everyday life, exposure to violence in the home or on the streets can lead to emotional harm.
Research has shown that both adults and children who experience catastrophic events show a wide range of reactions. (1,2) Some suffer only worries and bad memories that fade with emotional support and the passage of time. Others are more deeply affected and experience long-term problems. Research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shows that some soldiers, survivors of criminal victimization, torture and other violence, and survivors of natural and man-made catastrophes suffer long-term effects from their experiences. Children who have witnessed violence in their families, schools, or communities are also vulnerable to serious long-term problems. Their emotional reactions, including fear, depression, withdrawal or anger, can occur immediately or some time after the tragic event. Youngsters who have experienced a catastrophic event often need support from parents and teachers to avoid long-term emotional harm. Most will recover in a short time, but the few who develop PTSD or other persistent problems need treatment.
"Trauma" has both a medical and a psychiatric definition. Medically, "trauma" refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. This definition is often associated with trauma medicine practiced in emergency rooms and represents a popular view of the term. Psychiatrically, "trauma" has assumed a different meaning and refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.
Psychiatric trauma, or emotional harm, is essentially a normal response to an extreme event. It involves the creation of emotional memories about the distressful event that are stored in structures deep within the brain. In general, it is believed that the more direct the exposure to the traumatic event, the higher the risk for emotional harm. (3) Thus in a school shooting, for example, the student who is injured probably will be most severely affected emotionally; and the student who sees a classmate shot, even killed, is likely to be more emotionally affected than the student who was in another part of the school when the violence occurred. But even second-hand exposure to violence can be traumatic. For this reason, all children and adolescents exposed to violence or a disaster, even if only through graphic media reports, should be watched for signs of emotional distress.
Reactions to trauma may appear immediately after the traumatic event or days and even weeks later. Loss of trust in adults and fear of the event occurring again are responses seen in many children and adolescents who have been exposed to traumatic events. Other reactions vary according to age: (4-7)
For children 5 years of age and younger, typical reactions can include a fear of being separated from the parent, crying, whimpering, screaming, immobility and/or aimless motion, trembling, frightened facial expressions and excessive clinging. Parents may also notice children returning to behaviors exhibited at earlier ages (these are called regressive behaviors), such as thumb-sucking, bedwetting, and fear of darkness. Children in this age bracket tend to be strongly affected by the parents' reactions to the traumatic event.
Children 6 to 11 years old may show extreme withdrawal, disruptive behavior, and/or inability to pay attention. Regressive behaviors, nightmares, sleep problems, irrational fears, irritability, refusal to attend school, outbursts of anger and fighting are also common in traumatized children of this age. Also the child may complain of stomachaches or other bodily symptoms that have no medical basis. Schoolwork often suffers. Depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt and emotional numbing or "flatness" are often present as well.
Adolescents 12 to 17 years old may exhibit responses similar to those of adults, including flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbing, avoidance of any reminders of the traumatic event, depression, substance abuse, problems with peers, and anti-social behavior. Also common are withdrawal and isolation, physical complaints, suicidal thoughts, school avoidance, academic decline, sleep disturbances, and confusion. The adolescent may feel extreme guilt over his or her failure to prevent injury or loss of life, and may harbor revenge fantasies that interfere with recovery from the trauma.
Some youngsters are more vulnerable to trauma than others, for reasons scientists don't fully understand. It has been shown that the impact of a traumatic event is likely to be greatest in the child or adolescent who previously has been the victim of child abuse or some other form of trauma, or who already had a mental health problem. (8-11) And the youngster who lacks family support is more at risk for a poor recovery. (12)
Early intervention to help children and adolescents who have suffered trauma from violence or a disaster is critical. Parents, teachers and mental health professionals can do a great deal to help these youngsters recover. Help should begin at the scene of the traumatic event.
According to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers in charge of a disaster scene should:
? Find ways to protect children from further harm and from further exposure to traumatic stimuli. If possible, create a safe haven for them. Protect children from onlookers and the media covering the story.
? When possible, direct children who are able to walk away from the site of violence or destruction, away from severely injured survivors, and away from continuing danger. Kind but firm direction is needed.
? Identify children in acute distress and stay with them until initial stabilization occurs. Acute distress includes panic (marked by trembling, agitation, rambling speech, becoming mute, or erratic behavior) and intense grief (signs include loud crying, rage, or immobility).
? Use a supportive and compassionate verbal or non-verbal exchange (such as a hug, if appropriate) with the ...

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