Have you ever wondered how it is possible to live up to expectations of others if you are treated like a child but expected to act like an adult? This definition of a teenager, which was taken from the Urban Dictionary , highlights the essence of teenagers’ identity rather clearly. Teenagers’ identity requires special care and attention since young people experience one of the most difficult emotional divides in their life, i.e. striving for independence and longing for connection with peers. Apart from this clash of contradictions, a teenager faces even more painful problems of self-determination. Therefore, a teenager is a person who is between 13 and 19 years old and undergoes significant physical and emotional changes, which cannot but fill his/her life with uncertainty about the future, inner conflicts, and revolt against existing rules.
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about adolescence is puberty. The hormone processes predetermine rapid psychical changes and growth. That is why it is typical of teenagers to feel hasty, restless, and later tired. As the development and growth requires energy, many teenagers may feel tired, sleepy, and moody. Nevertheless, it is not a good practice, for instance, to accuse teenagers of imaginary laziness and passiveness if they do not want to get up early in the morning. It is natural since physiology comes to its own exactly at this age (rcpsych.ac.uk).
Trying to understand who they are, adults or children, adolescents are very likely to suffer from exaggerated doubt and a lack of self-confidence. During this period, young people become deeply concerned about their appearance and create different role models. These are usually artificially beautiful and terribly thin actresses (for girls) and “cool” movie stars, who are nothing more than musclemen, abusing sex, drugs, and alcohol (for boys). In attempt to look like cool celebrities, teenagers exaggerate the importance of the appearance and, as a result, suffer more if they fail to look like favorite stars. Very often adolescents lose their individuality, which considerably lowers their self-esteem.
The physical changes are accompanied by emotional and psychological changes as well. Teenagers think and perceive everything differently, tending to exaggerate and aggravate many facts. Besides, radical changes occur in their families. Adolescents are likely not to listen to parents, who lose importance in their eyes and may become even enemies. The matters are getting worse if teenagers’ views do not coincide with beliefs of their parents, and this happens quite often since young people spend more time with their friends than with parents. Friends become the most influential and authoritative people; that is why adolescents are trying to imitate, for instance, each other’s behavior, clothes, and even appearance (rcpsych.ac.uk).
It is common knowledge that teenagers prefer gathering together in public places, communicating on the phone or internet. Close relationships within the family are lost, which may irritate parents and make them quarrel with children. Such situations should be avoided as parents should acknowledge that their children become more independent, and those ways of spending free time are their steps on the way to independence (rcpsych.ac.uk). A teenager can gain a sense of self-identity only if he/she tries out new things outside a family circle. That is why parents should not impose their company upon teenagers but give to them a chance to feel a little bit independent.
Another delicate psychological problem that many adolescents face is their desperate trying to prove their independence and acute need for others. This conflict arises when young people want to try out something new but then understand that they lack experience and need somebody to help them or give a piece of advice. Such situations make young people vulnerable and less confident. Nevertheless, new experiences are very often risky as teenagers do not still realize their consequences. Such at first sight attractive experiences as smoking, taking drugs or alcohol may be rather painful and result into severe health and mental problems. Panic attacks, phobias, anxiety, depressions are among the most typical features of teenagers’ psyche. These factors cannot be influence their behavior at school (playing truant, bullying, poor rating), in society (juvenile delinquency is a widespread phenomenon), and within the family (numerous conflicts with parents).
According to Erickson, the stage of adolescence is the period of the fifth psychological crisis. This is the matter of the so-called identity diffusion, which is typical even of those young people who have no problems with low self-esteem and self-determination. Identity diffusion presupposes that most boys and presumably girls yearn for rebellion, delinquency, etc. Erikson underlines that usually, in case of successful adolescence, adolescents do not assume a negative identity. They are longing for constructive roles, achievements, and positive future. In most cases, teenagers achieve what they want, overcoming all obstacles and the inferiority complex. Negative social roles do not seem vitally important for them; young people simply want to experiment with social roles and find the most suitable one.
All things considered, the identity of a teenager is rather fragile since his/her individuality is only shaping, which is a painful and conflicting process. Teenagers want to be independent and try to prove it anyway. This often leads to juvenile delinquency, problems in school and family. These phenomena are accompanied by unbalanced moral state and deviant behavior. Adolescents are pulling away from their parents and rebelling against their rules and influence. The definition of a teenager that was given at the beginning of the paper is of high importance since it highlights typical features of adolescence, which help us to understand this stage of human development better and overcome some difficulties connected with adolescents’ up-bringing.