09/19/06 - adolescent identity

In today's excerpt - the study of personality and identity in adolescents:

"... the recognition [by adolescents] that one's personality is multifaceted—even contradictory—may initially cause some distress [but] in the long run it probably has a number of advantages. Indeed, some psychologists have suggested that the development of a more complicated view of oneself is one way that individuals cope with the recognition of their faults and weaknesses, a recognition that comes with the increased self-awareness of adolescence. ... Consistent with this, adolescents, who have more complex self-conceptions, are less likely to be depressed. ...

"Most personality researchers now approach the study of personality using the Five-Factor Model (McRae & John 1992) which is based on the observation that there are five critical personality dimensions, often referred to as the Big Five: extraversion (how outgoing and energetic a person is), agreeableness (how kind or sympathetic someone is), conscientiousness (how responsible and organized someone is), neuroticism (how anxious or tense someone is), and openness to experience (how curious and imaginative someone is). ... For example, delinquent adolescents are more likely than their peers to score high on the extraversion dimension and low on the agreeableness and conscientiousness dimensions, whereas adolescents who are high achievers in school score high on the conscientiousness and openness dimensions. ...

"... There is a good deal of evidence that many core personality traits, such as impulsivity or timidity, are quite stable between childhood and adolescence, and between adolescence and young adulthood. Although external manifestations of these traits may change with age (for example, anxiety may appear as bed-wetting in early childhood, but as nervous talkativeness in adolescence), our basic underlying traits are quite stable over time. For example, studies show that individuals who have displayed relatively higher levels of aggression in preadolescence, temper tantrums during childhood, or negative emotions during infancy are more likely to behave aggressively as adolescents. Similarly, individuals who have difficulty controlling their impulses as preschoolers are more likely to be impulsive aggressive and danger-seeking as adolescents and young adults, whereas young children who are inhibited or sluggish tend to be relatively more timid, anxious and shy as teenagers. ... Individuals who are judged to be well-adjusted in early and middle childhood tend to be resilient and competent in adolescence.

"Despite popular stereotypes about adolescence as a time of 'rebirth', research has not supported the view that adolescence is a time of tumultuous upheaval in personality. Far from it. Indeed, as one team of researchers put it, 'The person who enters adolescence is basically the same as that who exits it.' "


Laurence Steinberg








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