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Faculty of Arts at Masaryk University

Department of Psychology

Year of study 2008/2009


DIPLOMA THESIS

Taking responsibility in adolescence depending on parenting style

Zuzana Petrovičová


Supervisor: doc. PhDr. Mojmir Tyrlík, Ph.D.

Brno 2009





I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently, using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


In Brno 30.04.2009 …………………………………………………………










Acknowledgements


I would like to thank to doc. PhDr. Mojmir Tyrlik, PhD. for valuable advice and support.


Introduction………………………………………………………………………………......…................5

  1. Divergent views on adolescence……………………………………….…………….……...…….6

    1. G.S.Hall…………………………………………………………………………….…….…..6

    2. Psychoanalytic perspective……………………………………………………….…….….…6

    3. Peter Blos’s view………………………………………………………………….……….....7

    4. Erik Erikson……………………………………………………..……………….………..….8

    5. James Marcia……………………………………………………………………….…..…….8

    6. Behaviorist explanation……………………………………………………….......……..…...9

    7. Albert Bandura……………………………………………………………….…..……….…10

  2. Developmental changes…………………………………………….………………...……….…10

    1. Physical changes……………………………………………….………….…..……...……..10

    2. Brain development……………………………………………………...…………...………11

    3. Cognitive development………………………………………..…………..…......………….12

    4. Moral development……………………………………………..…..…..……..……….……14

    5. Emotional development……………………….………………..……..……..……………...16

  3. Responsibility……………………………………………………………..……..………..……..18

    1. Responsibility and freedom………………………………………………..……………..…18

    2. The role of motivation……………………………………………….….…...…...……..…..20

    3. Adolescets’ perspective………………………………………………..………...….….…...20

    4. Cognitive development required……………………………….…….…………….……….22

    5. Responsibility and control…………………………………………......………......….….…23

  4. Autonomy…………………………………………………………………….……..……..….....24

    1. Autonomy development……………………………………………………………...……..26

    2. Autonomy and social context………………………………………………….….…..….…30

  5. Internalization………………………………………………………………………….…..……35

  6. Identity………………………………………………………………………………..…..….….38

    1. Identity development……………………………………………………………..….…..….38

    2. Characteristics of the adolescents in various identity statuses………………….…...……...39

  7. Parenting and child’s psychosocial development………………………………….…...……….42

    1. Four parenting styles (Baumrid’s work)…………………………………….….……….….42

    2. Parental enabling……………………………………………………………….…….……..45

  8. Research……………………………………………………………………..……….……….…46

    1. The aim and hypotheses………………………………………………………….……..…..46

    2. Method…………………………………………………………………….……….……….47

    3. Results……………………………………………………………………………..…..……52

8.4.1 Descriptive statistics…………………………………………………………..……...52

8.4.2 Correlations…………………………………………………………………….……..53

8.4.3 Regression…………………………………………………………………..….…..…54

8.4 Discussion………………………………………………………………………..…………57

Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………….…..………..64

References………………………………………………………………………………………………..65

List of tables……………………………………………………………………………………..……….68

Appendices……………………………………………………………………………………..….……..85






Introduction

The systematic study of adolescence dates back to the beginning of 20th century and is associated with G. Stanley Hall. Hall’s original view of adolescence as the time during which the functions of every sense of the self undergo reconstruction brought on by physiological factors has been elaborated and modified, research has been done, and new theories on adolescence formed during past hundred years. Most of the current research has its origins in bio-psycho-social approach which emphasize interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors.


As children grow older and enter time of adolescence parental influence tent to decrease, but parents still remain important figures in adolescents’ lives. Parents establishing autonomy and relatedness in family interactions contribute to the positive psychosocial development of their children (Allen et al., 1994; Morton & Mann, 1998). Adolescents’ self-concept scores are higher in authoritative families (McClun & Merrell, 1998). Adolescents also employ functional, as opposed to dysfunctional, attributional style more often when they have authoritative family background (Glasgow et al., 1997).

In the presented study, we focus on parenting attitudes and behaviors and its relationship with responsibility taking. Well established parenting style measure and enabling measure were used to identify components of parenting. Attributional style, representing the internal component of responsibility; personal and family related chores, accounting for behavioral (visible) autonomy component; and identity status, defined by presence or absence of crisis and commitment; were used as responsibility-related constructs. Two age group of students participated (9th graders and sophomore high school student) in the study. Theoretical background and results of the study are presented below.


^

Divergent Views on Adolescence



Adolescence is generally characterized as the period between 10(11) years of age and 20 years of age. It is useful to differentiate three phases: (a) early adolescence (10-13 years), (b) middle adolescence (14-16 years), and (c) late adolescence (17-20 years). The main characteristic of adolescence is that it bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood (Macek, 2003).
^

1.1 G. Stanley Hall's perspective



G. Stanley Hall was one of the most influential psychologists of his time. He is often referred to as "the father of adolescence". He was inspired by Charles Darwin's ideas about evolution. In his two-volume book, Adolescence, he states that "individual growth recapitulates the history of the race"(as cited in Balk, 1995). According to Hall, development of human race can be explained through evolution. In other words, every individual repeats evolutionary stages that formed the human species in the past.

Hall compares childhood to cave-dwelling stage, liken child to half-anthropoid ancestor of humankind. Adolescent, in Halls terms, is then transition between the ancestral child and emergent adult. Adolescence is then not only transition stage, but evolutionary stage during which person becomes a more complete organism (Thornburg, 1982).

However, looking at Hall's recapitulation theory, one must realize that it's more the result of speculations than empirical study. One of the Hall's biggest contributions of time is storm and stress theme. Although he was being optimistic about adolescent development and viewed this period of life as filled with hope, he portrayed adolescence as time of turmoil and conflicts (Balk, 1995).


^

1.2 Psychoanalytic Theory



Freud's theory on adolescence resemble Hall's storm and stress theme. Physical changes and unconscious drives create tension in ones life. The superego forbids acting on the instinctual demands to achieve sexual release; therefore it is turmoil and turbulence that marks adolescence. Individuals reached genital stage of their psychosexual development and Freud talks about renewal of the Oedipus complex. When resolved successfully, adolescents develop mature ego, stabilize defenses and let go of infantile attachments to parents (Balk, 1995).

Anna Freud (as cited in Thornburg, 1982) worked with psychodynamics of id, ego, and superego. Her major work concern the defense mechanisms used by ego to protect against the anxiety of desires that are in conflict with parental approval. Freud identified many defense mechanisms, such as repression, intellectualization and asceticism. As her father before, she described adolescence as a developmental disturbance and a period of turmoil, too (Balk, 1995).


1.3 Peter Blos's Views on Adolescence

Blos saw conflict during adolescence as a critical. He said that maturity can be attained only through conflict (as cited in Balk, 1995). Blos talks about second Oedipal situation, about second individuation process, that occurs because the individual experiences turmoil and stress. Blos assumed that individuals mature because they regress. They address unresolved issues from childhood with more fully developed ego. Thus, not only does regression inevitably occur during adolescence, but also it is the catalyst for development progress (Balk, 1995).


Approaches above stress the importance of biological maturation for adolescent development and describe adolescence in terms of turmoil and conflicts. More recent theories do not see adolescence as the time of inevitable “storm and stress”. Rather, theorists claim that because of many changes occurring at the short period of time, adolescence is extremely vulnerable time and personal and situational characteristics determine its problematic progress.

1.4 Erik Erikson's Views on Adolescence


Erikson (as cited in Balk, 1995) wrote extensively on life-span human development. Even though his work has origins in psychoanalysis, his model consists of biological, psychosocial and cultural factors. His psychosocial model refers to the fact that the individual must constantly adapt to the demands and expectations of society. That is how psychological development occurs.

The adolescence is fifth of total eight stages when individuals ought to resolve developmental crisis. The sense of crisis during adolescence centers on the process of self-discovery, with goal of developing clear identity in contrast of confused identity. Developing sense of self is task that is not easy and this period of time is filled with tension. Adolescents realize that they need to choose from many options that are in front of them, even though choosing the one means loosing the others. The challenge in resolving this crisis is to achieve fidelity in one’s commitments while retaining diversity in individual’s approach.

There are several other pitfalls that an adolescent in the crisis over identity formation must face. One of them is identity foreclosure, when adolescent no longer experiments with possible roles, and rather than that he/she settles on path approved by others. Another pitfall is identity confusion, which is when adolescent avoid making any decision-making, make no extended commitments. Erikson emphasized the role of psychological moratorium on ones way to achieve identity. It is a time when young people are allowed to try and experiment with different roles, ideologies. This stage should be tolerated and supported.

I will describe Erikson’s approach to identity development in more detail further down in my paper when talking about identity.


1.5 James Marcia

Marcia’s research was inspired mostly by Erikson’s framework. Marcia (as cited in Balk, 1995) posits that identity takes four qualitatively distinct forms, or identity statuses. Each status is defined in terms of the presence or absence of a crisis and the presence or absence of commitment.

Crisis refers to the exploration, period of struggle or active questioning about various areas of personal identity (i.e. occupation, political ideas, religion, and attitudes about role of parent or spouse). Commitment involves making firm decisions regarding theses areas (Adams, Gullota, Montemayor, 1992).


Figure 1. Crisis and Commitment in Marcia’s Theory of Identity Status





Diffusion

Foreslosure

Moratorium

Achieved

Crisis

Present or Absent

Absent

In Crisis

Present

Commitment

Absent

Present

Vaguely present

Present



A person in identity diffusion makes no commitments, seems to be drifting through life, and reports no sense of need to search for answers. These people tend to follow the path of least resistance, and may present as having carefree, cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is the least developmentally advanced status, although it has adaptive aspects, and may be the most adaptive mode of functioning under certain conditions. Identity foreclosure represents a high level of commitment following little or no exploration. According to Marcia, foreclosure represents a less developed state than that of moratorium or identity achievement. People who are in this stage adopt values and opinions from authorities, usually their parents. People in identity moratorium are struggling over issues of commitment and existential meaning. These people are currently actively exploring alternatives in an attempt to arrive at a choice. Marcia's moratorium is considered a stage, rather than the resolution of the identity formation process, although some people remain in moratorium for longer than the others. It is the time of active search for the answers, while refraining from making serious commitments. Lastly, identity achievement represents an autonomous resolution of identity crisis, incorporating a set of commitments adopted during a period of exploration. Achievers had explored many significant matters and had found personally satisfying answers to these matters (Adams, Gullota, Montemayor, 1992; Balk 1995).


1.6 Behaviorist Explanations

Very well known experiment conducted by John Watson, the behaviorist from 1920s, is a good example of classical conditioning. In this study, a young boy, called "little Albert", was exposed to loud sound whenever spotted a rabbit. Shortly, he feared not only rabbits, but also other objects, such as dolls and stuffed animals.

Operant conditioning is based on consequence principle. In other words, what follows the performance of behavior increases the likelihood that individual will repeat that behavior in the future (Balk, 1995). This principle has been used to explain behavior in many developmental theories.


1.7 Albert Bandura – Social Learning Theory


Slightly different perspective is offered by Albert Bandura, psychology professor and researcher. Bandura conducted extensive research on aggression and observational learning. He emphasized that vicarious reinforcement plays far superior role in learning than extrinsic rewards and conditioned responses. He does not see adolescence as a time of stress and turmoil. He argues that adolescence is mostly marked by stability and continuity. An adolescent in trouble has mostly the history of reinforcements, behavioral models, and imitative performances that account for what can be mistakenly interpreted as turmoil in the adolescent’s life. Bandura pointed out the importance of environment during development (Balk, 1995).


^ 2 Developmental Changes


The adolescent years cover most of the second decade of life and are characterized by dramatic hormonal and physical changes, changes in cognition, emotion and behavior. Adolescents shifts from being caregiver-dependent to autonomous individuals. Below, I will briefly describe physical changes, changes in cognition, brain functioning, morality, and emotion development. Later, I will focus on the concepts related to responsibility and parenting attitudes and the development of the processes that characterize adolescence and undergo major changes.


2.1 Physical changes


Physical maturation along with cognitive development and identity formation is one of the hallmarks of adolescence. Reproductive maturity (when females can conceive a child and males can impregnate females), bone growth, changes in body composition, changes in motor performance are all characteristic for adolescence. Hormonal level changes and that produce changes in emotional experiences and behavior. Hormonal fluctuations contribute to instable and more negatively toned emotions.

Studies of twins suggest that genetics, to great extend, determine how quickly the physical events of puberty occur and how quickly is physical maturation achieved. However, environmental factors play role in maturation as well. Researches have noticed that over the past decades individuals mature more rapidly than people from previous generation. Secular trend is manifested in increase in average height, earlier start of growth spurt, earlier occurrence of menarche, and earlier changes in vocal quality for boys (Balk, 1995).

It is important to notice that pubertal development differs from person to person. Moreover, pubertal changes have different effects on individuals, depending on their gender and timing of these changes.

Early-maturing boys have greater self-confidence and are more independent. They appear to be more attractive to adults and other adolescents and are more often considered to be leaders. Earlier physical maturity gives these boys advantage in athletics, and therefore offers an edge in adolescent culture. These social advantages are balanced by developmental losses. Early-maturing boys tend to be “more somber, less spontaneous, more submissive, and less flexible than other adolescent boys” (Balk, 1995, p.54).

On the other hand early-maturing girls consider themselves as less attractive, show higher tension and anxiety and poorer self-concept than do other girls. These girls do not have the same social advantages as early mature boys. Female’s early maturation is explicitly sexual in meaning and leads to ambivalent reactions from peers and adults. Later on, however, early-maturing girls develop higher social competence, prestige, and self-confidence (Balk, 1995).


2.2 Brain development


To fully understand the nature of adolescents’ development, we have to consider biological impact, as well as psychosocial. Processes underlying identity development may be as much neurological in nature as they are psychological and social (Phillips, 2008), therefore I will describe some main changes that occur in the brain during adolescence.

The obsolete idea that brain development ends within first few years of the life has been substituted by the findings, that brain development continues over the course of adolescence. Gotay and colleagues (as cited in Phillips, 2008) suggest that frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to reach maturity. Frontal lobe (specifically, the prefrontal cortex) plays a critical role in the set of higher mental operations referred to as executive functioning. To be specific, examples of executive functions are “abilities underlying planning, reasoning, decision-making, problem solving, weighting options, attention and screening out irrelevant stimuli, and controlling impulses” (Phillips, 2008, p. 209).

Maturation of more complex skills is not complete and continues during adolescence. This occurs due to two key processes that underlie development of frontal lobe in adolescence. The first process is myelination, which allows an increase in both speed and efficiency of neural transmission. The second process is synaptogenesis, followed by the pruning and reorganization of synaptic connections after puberty. Both of these processes in their effect increase the efficiency of information processing. Understanding the brain development is important in order to understand the cognitive development and related constructs. Phillips (2008) states that identity style is contignent upon cognition, therefore the changes in the brain and cognition, should effect changes in identity style. I will describe this in more detail when talking about identity.


2.3 Cognitive development


Knowledge, reasoning, decision making, memory, and metacognitive orientations are different areas of cognition. All of them develop from early childhood throughout life and I will briefly describe their development in relevance to adolescence.

According to Byrnes (as cited in Byrnes, 2003) children’s declarative, procedural, and conceptual knowledge all increase with age. However, this increase is different depending on the domain (e.g. math vs. interpersonal relationships) and vary among types of knowledge (e.g. declarative vs. conceptual).

There is evidence that preadolescent children have the ability to make certain kinds of deductive and inductive inferences. Insight into the distinction between, and value of, these inferences increase during adolescence and older adolescents show grater facility to reason about arguments at an objective level. When adolescents asked to apply these skills to an existing knowledge, their performance is even better (Moshman; Hirschfeld & Gelman; as cited in Byrnes, 2003). In the area of spatial reasoning, researches found that accuracy is high at all ages and that the largest improvements occur for the speed in performance (Kail; Levine, Preddy & Thornidike; Merriman, Keating & List; Waber, Carlson & Mann; as cited in Byrnes, 2003). Research on scientific reasoning (the ability to consciously construct hypotheses, test these hypotheses in controlled experiments, and draw appropriate conclusions form the data) infer increasing manifestation of these abilities throughout adolescence and early adulthood (Byrnes; Klaczynski & Narasimham; Khun et al.; as cited in Byrnes, 2003).

Decision making is a complex process involving number of partial operations. First in this sequence is goal setting, followed by the generation of options (memory conduct, external sources). Another step is rank-ordering and evaluation of options in some way and choosing the best one, and finally implementation (Byrnes, 2003).

Researches (Byrnes, Miller & Raynolds, 1999) have focused on age differences in decision making and its components. Older adolescents and adults are more likely than younger adolescents or children to understand the difference between options likely to satisfy multiple goals and options likely to satisfy single goal. The ability to anticipate greater variety of consequences of actions grows with the age (Lewis, Halpern-Felsher & Cauffman; as cited in Byrnes, 2003). Older adolescents are more likely to learn from their decision-making failure and success experiences than younger adolescents (Byrnes & McClenny; Ormond et al.; as cited in Byrnes, 2003).

According to metacognitive theorists children start out as objectivists (knowledge is certain and can be learn quickly via observation) and as they enter early adolescence they shift toward relativism (everyone’s truth or perspective is as good as anyone else’s). Ability to reason about multiple perspectives, evidence-based and reason-based techniques, and evaluation of the accuracy and validity of claims develop later in adolescence and early adulthood (Byrnes, 2003).

.

Traditional view on cognitive development

According to Piaget’s genetic epistemology theory (as cited in Balk, 1995), cognitive development originates from the interaction of genetic predispositions and responses to the world. Cognitive structure is the central concept of his theory. These cognitive structures are inferred, abstract, and they change when one’s intellectual activities change. Changes in cognitive structures (assimilation, accommodation) enable the individual to think about reality in a different ways and help to maintain the equilibrium.

Piaget (as cited in Balk, 1995) defined four stages of cognitive development. As individuals enter early adolescence, they start to use more abstract, flexible mental schemata to understand and act on reality. Transition from concrete operations stage to formal operation stage occurs around the age of 11. One of the main characteristics of formal operations is systematic thinking. Adolescents start to be able to consider various options and competing points of view before making decision.


2.4 Moral development


Kohlberg

According to Kohlberg’s theory of moral judgment development, middle and late childhood can be labeled as “preconventional” stages and divided into two groups. They are characterized by obedience, punishment avoidance and instrumental needs. Later, children develop greater perspective-taking abilities that lead to broader interpersonal and societal perspective on morality. This level is labeled as “conventional” and also divided into two stages. Characteristics include understanding of role obligations, interpersonal needs, and respect for societal rules and authority. Adolescents derive principles from behavior of people in different situations. Their ideas of good and bad become more generalized understandings of justice, obligations, and rules. Most of the young people spend their adolescent years in this stage and according to Kohlberg only little number reach “post-conventional” or principled moral judgments stage. This is structured by concerns with mutual respect, contractual agreements among individuals and their rights and duties, and differentiated concepts of justice and rights (Smetana & Turiel 2003; Macek 2003).

According to Piaget(in Bachrach et al, 1977), moral judgment progresses during the concrete operational period from the objective responsibility stage to subjective responsibility stage. Children in the objective responsibility stage judge the character of the story according to the consequences of the act; children in later stage judge mostly by motives and the intention of the character. Barchach and colleagues (1977) found strong correlations between locus and control and moral judgment, two constructs which involve some understanding of causality, suggesting that correlation between intentionality and internality is due to a common underlying cognitive factor.

Eisenberg

Eisenberg’s model of prosocial moral reasoning has five levels and states that most of the changes occur prior to adolescence. Model should not be seen to reflect hierarchical and integrated structures, as in Kohlberg’s model. As Eisenberg pointed out, individuals may use different levels of their moral reasoning at different times, and reasoning also differs depending on the context. At the beginning young children are hedonistic when reasoning about prosocial moral dilemmas. During elementary school years, children start developing concern for approval from others. This is accompanied by a stereotypic conception of good and bad during later elementary school years. Preadolescents increase self-reflective and empathetic orientation, characteristic is increase in perspective-taking. Transition to adolescence is characterized by internalization of norms and values and affects related to living up to one’s values (positive affect) or not (negative affect, guilt) (as cited in Smetana & Turiel 2003).

Age changes in prosocial responding and moral reasoning in adolescence

Eisenberg and colleagues (2005) examined changes in prosocial responding and reasoning from mid-adolescence (age 15-16) to early adulthood (age 25-26). Their goal was to evaluate changes in sociocognitive functioning contributing to prosocial responding (perspective taking and prosocial moral reasoning), as well as changes in prosocial feelings (empathy) and behavior (helping). This longitudinal study showed, that perspective taking and approval (interpersonal oriented) increased with age. Helping showed cubic trend; increased from age 15-16 to age 17-18 years, declined in early 20s, and increased again at the age 25-26 years.




Gilligan

Gilligan (in Perry & McIntire, 1995) proposed alternative to Kohlberg’s justice mode of morality with emphasis on equality, fairness, and universal principles. It is a mode of care in which responsiveness and interdependence are of high importance. Gilligan noted that girls and women, when discussing moral conflicts, focused more on care and response to others than on rights and universal principles that are characteristic for Kohlberg’s higher stages. She stated that females speak primary in care voice and males in justice voice.

Perry and McIntire (1995) found that young adolescents employ different modes in moral decision making. Three modes were of specific importance- care, where they wish others not to suffer; justice- where decisions are made according to principles; and narrowly concerned or selfish. Even though all three modes were found to be used by both male and female; males were much more likely to choose narrowly concerned mode than females. This was speculated to be related to early gender differences in empathy. In order to be able to show and experience empathy one must develop the self-other distinction; child must be able to affective response that is accordant with what the other person is emotionally experiencing, feeling. Cooperation of both, emotional and cognitive processes, is needed for empathy (Rosenblum & Lewis, 2003). Perry and McIntire’s (1995) findings that care and justice mode was used by both genders is support the idea that content of the situation makes a difference in mode chosen. Both genders have knowledge of all three modes, but they choose to use them differently.


2.5 Emotional development



Rosenblum and Lewis (2003) provide sufficient research review on emotional development during adolescence:

During the first year of life, infants develop so called six primary emotions: interest, joy, disgust, sadness, anger, and fear. During second year more complex emotions emerge, such as embarrassment, pride, and shame. These are “self-conscious” emotions, and they require development of self-awareness. As child grows, cognition develops, and emotions become more elaborate. Concrete operations are replaced by formal operations around the age 11 and children develop the ability to understand abstractions and symbolic logic. Emotions can be triggered by abstract ideas, anticipations about future or memories about the past. Adolescents are also capable of holding cognitive representations of their own and others’ ideas. They understand that certain event can trigger different emotions in different people.

Emotional changes that occur during adolescence are unique and maybe only menopause in women can be somewhat comparable to these changes. However, hormonal effects are small and other factors have to be considered in the explanations of emotional change. Life experiences, normative or specific and random, are part of the equation. The school transition, initiation of dating, sexual activity and many others have effect on changes and the form they take can diminish or increase emotional stress.

While emotional experiences during adolescence (day-to-day, moment-to-moment feelings) are limited to the developmental period, emotional skills and abilities developed during adolescence are supposed to persist into adulthood. Emotional experiences and challenges during adolescence shall provoke skill-building efforts and facilitate the development of a more advanced cognitive-emotional framework.

According to Rosenblum and Lewis (2003, pp.284), to make a successful transition to adulthood, adolescents must develop ability to:

  • regulate intense emotions

  • modulate rapidly vacillating emotions

  • self-soothe independently

  • achieve awareness of and successfully attend to their emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them

  • understand the consequence to self and others of genuine emotional expression versus dissemblance

  • use symbolic thought to reframe a negative event to one that is less aversive

  • separate momentary emotional experience from identity, and recognize that self cam remain intact and continuous despite emotional fluctuations

  • distinguish feeling from facts to avoid reasoning based on emotion, as in: “I feel it, therefore it must be true”

  • negotiate and maintain interpersonal relationships in the presence of strong emotion

  • manage the emotional arousal of emphatic and sympathetic experiences

  • use cognitive skills to gather information about the nature and sources of emotion


Recent research (e.g. Csikszentmihalyi, Salovey, Valiant) links positive emotional development to general well-being, lower mortality, and other positive outcomes. Therefore it seems reasonable to emphasize the importance of positive ties with friends, family, the ability to engage in cooperation, reducing materialism, as well as nurturing optimism and humor.



  1. Responsibility


Numerous constructs are related to concept of responsibility and they need to be considered within the research. Responsibility has both visible components, such as behavior, and invisible components, such as cognition, affect, and attitude (Anderson, Prawat, 1983). If researches would focus only on the visible components of responsibility (behavior), they could have easily missed underlying causes of certain behavior. When talking about responsibility, terms like autonomy, self-reliance, regulation, motivation, cognition, and perspective taking comes to mind. I will describe constructs related to responsibility below.


3.1 Responsibility and freedom


Kaliteyevskaya and Leontiev (2004) link responsibility and freedom. They see freedom as special form of human activity, with central characteristic of controllability of this activity by the individual. Responsibility is then special form of regulation; the transformation of the overt regulation by another person (usually parent) into the internal autoregulation.

The main source of further development shifts inwards and the development takes the character of a self-determined process, in which the development of cognitive evaluation and action control are emphasized (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Kaliteyevskaya and Leontiev (2004) emphasized the emergence of self-determination in the adolescence (freedom), as well as the need of regulation to become internal (responsibility). The main precondition for the development of these mechanisms is trust, as the quality of parental attitude. They identified four patterns of personality development in adolescence. Autonomous pattern is the only one with the signs of successful resolution of the crisis in the adolescence. It includes “positive self-attitude, self-support based on personal values, feeling one’s personal responsibility for the results of one’s actions” (Kaliteyevskaya & Leontiev, 2004, pp.108). Second pattern, symbiotic, embraces some prerequisites of the neurotic way of personality development and people developing this way have unstable and negative self-esteem and depend on external evaluation. They feel responsible but not being free. Another pattern was labeled impulsive and includes “diffuse, unstable, mainly positive self-attitude, internal support in decisions, but lack of responsibility” (Kaliteyevskaya & Leontiev, 2004, pp.109). Conformist pattern has some similarities with impulsive pattern; the difference is apparent in its name- the support in decisions for people developing this way is external. Self-attitude strongly depends on external evaluations that are earned by behavior ‘as required’.


Autonomy, meaning possessing one’s own law and acting along with it, has potential for its development in human beings, however is does not develop automatically and even some adults fail to manifest mature form of autoregulation. Therefore it is important to map the development of autonomy and related constructs.


Autonomy and independence, clarity of identity, and ego development represent three different perspectives on the development of the responsibility as part of the concept of maturity and judgment during adolescence (Steinberg & Caufman, 1996). Within the studies of autonomy and independence, researches concentrated on the concepts of self-reliance, susceptibility to social influence, mainly the influence of the peers, and on independence in decision making. Susceptibility to peer influence seems to decline with the age, whereas susceptibility to parental influence takes an inverted U-shaped function, with its peak around the age of 14. Development of more coherent sense of self is related to confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness, and clarification of the values. According to ego development theories, the central task for adolescents is to establish ‘individuated’ sense of self, that is not completely bound up in the child’s bonds with parents but that has internalized their values. In Loevinger’s model (as cited in Steinberg & Caufman, 1996), ego development is mirrored in the internalization of the rules of social interaction, cognition complexity, and objectivity. Individual’s impulse control becomes guided by personal intentions, self-awareness develops along with capacity for more mature interpersonal relationships. Four patterns identified by Kaliteyevskaya and Leontiev (2004) are literally the same as four of ten stages of ego development by Loevinger. Ego development is a better predictor of social reasoning that chronological age or logical reasoning ability (Steinberg & Caufman, 1996).


3.2 The role of motivation


Another important constructs related to the development of responsibility are motivation and freedom. As children enter the period of adolescents, their inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to explore and learn, becomes even more apparent.

The basic dimension by which people make sense out of their own and other’s actions and behaviors is the issue of whether people stand behind behavior of their interests and values, or do it for external reasons. People who are intrinsically motivated, or externally motivated but with integrated or identified regulation perceive internal control over the outcomes, therefore experience greater autonomy in their actions (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The range of behaviors, that can be assimilated to the self tent to increase over the time with increased ego development (Loevinger & Blasi, as cited in Ryan, Deci, 2000). The more internally regulated person is, the more interest, value and achievement he/she performs. Autonomy, competence, and relatedness were found to enhance internalization and integration (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Thus lead to more intrinsically motivated behaviors, for which people feel far more responsible than for externally motivated behaviors.


3.3 Adolescent’s perspective


The concept of responsibility is hard to define and difficult to study empirically. When adolescents were asked to define personal responsibility and they responses were analyzed, four components were derived. These are:


(1) an awareness of, and control over, one’s own thoughts and feelings; (2) an awareness of, and control over, behavioural choices; (3) a willingness to hold oneself accountable for one’s behaviour and its outcome (consequence); and (4) an awareness of, and concern for, the impact of one’s behaviour upon others (Mergler, Patton, 2007, pp.68).


Adolescents understood accepting personal responsibility as making one’s own choices about one’s behavior, as having an internal element. They also felt that authority for responsibility was one’s own; therefore only person himself can determine what he/she is responsible for (Mergler, Patton, 2007).


Tilton-Weaver and colleagues (2001) asked 6th and 9th graders to describe someone who was the same age as them but who they think was more ‘grown up’. They found some interesting portrays of what young people consider as mature, ‘grown up’ behavior. The purpose of the study was to look at the definition of psychosocial maturity from adolescents’ perspective.

Greenberger (as cited in Tilton-Weaver et al., 2001) describes psychosocial maturity as having three domains: autonomy (well-defined, cohesive identity, self-reliance, following goals); interpersonal adequacy (strong communication skills, balanced trust in others, working knowledge of social roles); and social responsibility (commitment to social goals, openness to social change, tolerance of differences in others).

Tilton-Weaver and Galambos (as cited in Tilton-Weaver et al., 2001) studied profile of pseudomature individuals and compared them with their genuinely mature and immature individuals. They used measures of engagement in problem behavior, subjective age, and psychosocial maturity (identity, self-reliance, and work orientation). Genuinely mature individuals reported low levels of problem behavior, felt slightly older than their chronological age, and had the highest levels of psychosocial maturity. The immature group’s individuals engage in low levels of problem behavior, felt young, and were psychosocially immature. Pseudomature individuals, or “adultoids”, reported the highest levels of problem behavior, felt significantly older than their peers, and scored notably lower on all three measures of psychosocial maturity. They also appeared older (taller, physically mature), wanted to be older, and were more peer-involved than immature and genuinely mature groups.

Tilton-Weaver and colleagues (2001) asked adolescents to describe some friend who seems more ‘grown up’ than other kids. They identified several hallmarks that reflect variations in the extend to which the description focused on one or more aspects of independence, responsibility, privilege, power and physical development. Genuinely mature individuals were described as independent, self-reliant, and working towards their goals. They exhibit great deal of autonomy, interpersonal adequacy, and social integration. Interpersonally, they seem to be adept. Second image’s focus is on privileges. Individuals from this group engage in problem behavior; interpersonally, they get along with others, but seem to prefer older friends. Apparent is consumer orientation and emphasis on appearance. Another group of individuals can be labeled as ‘power and status’. These individuals appear to have usurped or assumed a mature status, rather than earned it from others. They may have characteristics of genuinely mature individuals, but have problems with negotiating relationships in socially appropriate manner; they are described as pushy, bossy, and overbearing. Fourth adolescent group was described with main focus on responsibilities. These individuals assumed high level of responsibility, sometimes beyond their age, and were described somewhat negatively, in the sense that they may not be able to enjoy themselves and do no quite fit in. Positive aspect is, that they are seen as being intelligent and responsible. It is the perceived inappropriate level of responsibility and seriousness that distinguish them from genuinely mature individuals. Last group was described as physically more developed than others, with no reference made to behavior or personality characteristics. They may not lack characteristics from groups above, but it did not appear in their description.

Most of the adolescents that participated in the research described mature individuals in the terms of competence on individual, interpersonal, and social level. There was also strong resemblance with Greenberger’s psychosocial maturity characteristics.

3.4 Cognitive development required

To be able to accept personal responsibility for one’s actions, thoughts and feelings, one must reach certain level of cognitive awareness.

Actors in the research (Schwartz, 1968) were evaluated morally only when their actions were seen as resulting from decisions over which they have some control, that is, for which they are responsible. The proposition that awareness that one’s potential acts have consequences for welfare of others, and ascription of responsibility for these acts and their consequences to the self are necessary conditions for the activation of moral norms and their behavior in action situations was supported. Schwartz suggests an interaction between ascription of responsibility and awareness of consequences in activation norms. Awareness of potential consequences of one’s behavior for others, ascription of responsibility, and activation or moral norms, they all require certain level of cognitive development.


Mergler and Patton (2007) group of adolescents was fairly evenly divided between those who said they were able, were sometimes able, and were not able to make choices and control their emotions. However, most of them said, that even though other people have power to make them feel certain way, the way they feel and act is their (adolescents’) responsibility. Gender differences were found when discussing ability to control emotions. Girls felt that they could control anger but not sadness. On contrary, boys said that they have control over feelings of sadness, but not anger. Authors of the study attribute this finding to the gender stereotypes.

When talking about behavioral choices, around two thirds of adolescents felt that they were able to choose, therefore control, their behavioral responses. Some students, however, reported that they were not able to control their behavioral choices as a result of their emotions getting the better out of them. The majority of adolescents stated that potential consequences played important role in decisions about behavioral choices and moderated their behavior. To sum up, one could say that


…the ability to understand cognitions, emotions, and choices is imperative to the willingness of adolescents to take responsibility for their lives. Until adolescents understand and accept that they are making deliberate choices and their feelings and reactions, they will be less likely to accept responsibility for their decisions and their outcomes (Mergler, Patton, 2007, pp.64).


3.5 Responsibility and control


Ortman (1988) designed interviews with high school students about different areas of their lives and she found correlations between feeling of control and responsibility. Adolescents ascribed control and responsibility to the same source. Based on Schwartz’s (1968) finding that ascription of responsibility toward rather than away from the self, contributes to the activation of moral norms, Ortman (1988) proposed that it seems reasonable to assume that there will be correlation between feelings of control and feelings of responsibility.

However, the distinction between simply perceiving control and the experience of being in control must be made (DeCharms, as cited in Ortman, 1988). Experience of being in control, of being the origin of one’s own actions exhibited two types of control. The first he called the idealistic; it is when person perceives complete control of the situation and behavior is internally controlled. He labeled this type of control as Internal Control of the Situation and the Behavior. The second, Internal Control of Reaction, is when person can feel in control of himself and of the environment even when he is in the externally controlled situation. This is because person can still feel internally motivated and behave accordingly. He called this type the realistic (DeCharms, as cited in Ortman, 1988).

Since we live in and are surrounded by other people, it is impossible to have control over everything that is going on. Adolescents have to obey their parents in certain way, they have school to attend and many other external forces that are out of their control. However, they are aware of the fact, that reaction to the influences, feelings, and thoughts can be under their control.

During interview in Mergler’s and Patton’s (2007) study adolescents reported that


“It’s not [my firend’s] responsibility if I’m [angry]. It’s not her responsibility to keep me calm, it’s my responsibility. But whether I can or not is different.”

“It’s your responsibility how you behave. We’re not three-year-olds, we have use our adult judgment.”

“It’s your choice how you behave, there’s always another option.”

(Mergler, Patton, 2007, pp.62-64).


Adolescents understood accepting personal responsibility as making one’s own choices about one’s behavior, as having an internal element. They also felt that authority for responsibility was one’s own; therefore only person himself can determine what he/she is responsible for (Mergler, Patton, 2007).





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