1. Considering what is known about the teenage brain and sexual development, are messages of "just say no" likely to be effective when it comes to drug use and sex? Why or why not? Be sure to explain your answer. Please note your answer should make reference to both adolescent brain and sexual development. (3 points)
The adolescent brain is considered to be more similar to the brain of a child than an adult. Its development is a work in progress. Adolescents don’t perceive things in the way adults do. Their brain is filled with curiosity about the world around them. The experiences to gain, the thrills to be had, new things to be tried and analyzed, or excitements to be enjoyed, combined with the continuous psychological and physiological changes create a potent mix for risk-seeking behavior. The area of the brain that’s helps in controlling impulses is still maturing, so the teens are more enticed by challenges rather than the outcome. This leads to the lack of anticipation for the consequences of their actions.
The inability to anticipate is the key reason for ineffectiveness of the “just say no” or abstinence programs and messages. If anything, these programs fill their brain with more curiosity than ever. It is the excitement of doing the forbidden, the curiosity to see what the apple tastes like and why it is forbidden. The excitements lead to fluctuation of serotonin and dopamine levels in the adolescent brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that helps control impulses by producing a calming effect, while dopamine, a neurotransmitter, produces a “feel good” effect and a sense of well being. Taking risks elevates dopamine levels.
This risk taking tendency involves also experimentation with alcohol and drugs. One of the major reasons for addiction is that most addictive substances lead to the increase of dopamine levels. During teenage years, adolescents start to develop closer and intimate relations with peers. Hormonal and physical changes affect teens’ sexual behavior which includes desires and decisions. Studies show that half of the teens have had sex by 17.5 and nearly all teens have had sexual intercourse by the age of 20.
Since the abstinence programs have been in existence for some time, the increasing risk involvements by teens are clear indication that the programs have not had desired results and the reason is quite obvious. Adults are cautious of risks while teens are attracted to risks, so if they are told something is risky it is likely to be tried unless we come-up with a better way to deal with the teenage brain.
2. What cognitive features characterize the adolescent? Name and explain two specific cognitive characteristic(s) of adolescents that explain why their physical development often causes them much concern. What about how they think makes their changing bodies bother them so? (3 points)
- Adolescents begin to show improvements in their basic thinking ability by the age of 15, it is comparable more to the adults.
- Another gain in cognitive ability involves dynamic thinking about ways we think, or in other words it is thinking about thinking and is referred to as metacognition.
- Adolescents are found to be more likely to ask questions, compared to children, rather than just accepting facts as absolute truth.
- Wisdom is considered to increase between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five.
- Probably the most important and controversial cognitive feature in adolescents is risk taking behavior.
Metacognition and risk taking are the two reasons for concerns in adolescents, regarding their physical appearance. Metacognition is the analysis of your thought process. It is thinking about how we think, why we think, what we think. Metacognative increase results in increased self-consciousness, introspection and awareness or intellectualization. Increased self-consciousness can lead to stress and concerns regarding one’s physical development as the adolescents feel anxious and try to cope up with the new features of their body, the changed characteristics, new urges, or peer review. They constantly compare themselves with others and try to judge their features and if their judgment reveals a flaw with their developing body or they feel they can’t cope or handle these new characteristics, their stress levels are set to increase.
On the other hand risk taking is related to high emphasis of peer-approval. The developing body and hormones lead to increased sense of sexuality and gender, risk taking is the medium to impress potential mates. It may lead to sexual experimentation with the opposite or same gender. Many times this results in unprotected sex leading to unwanted pregnancy, or abuse which in itself leads to higher levels of stress.
3. Compare and contrast anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Which of these eating disorders is more dangerous? Be sure to explain your selection. (3 points)
Anorexia nervosa, a serious and potentially life threatening eating disorder, is characterized by unrealistic food restrictions, lean figure obsession, and irrational fear of weight gain, which ultimately lead to self-starvation and excessive weight loss. In retrospect, bulimia nervosa, another serious mental illness as well as eating disorder, is characterized by episodes of binge eating and compensatory purging. In other words bulimia nervous means consuming huge amounts of food in a short period of time followed by aggressive attempts to rid the body of the consumed food, either by vomiting, excessive exercise, or even using laxatives.
An adolescent with anorexia nervosa may exhibit symptoms like, refusal to maintain healthy body mass index, excuses to skip meals, obsession with maintaining figure, consistent weight loss, regular weakness, lack of energy, or anxiety about gaining weight. These symptoms vary according to the case and are not always apparent. This self starvation results in severe mal-nutrition and causes damage to almost every major organ system. In case of bulimia nervosa, he person gets lost in a vicious cycle of heavy over-eating and attempts to compensate. This may cause feelings of disgust, guilt or shame. It becomes more and more compulsive over time, coupled with obsession with food, eating, weight-loss, and body image. Bulimia nervosa might go unnoticed for a long time as such people try to keep their eating habits secret. It is not necessary for people with bulimia nervosa to lose weight; mostly they remain in the normal weight range or may even gain weight.
Although both of these disorders are harmful and cause severe damage to the body, anorexia nervosa is comparatively more dangerous than bulimia nervosa. It can lead to an abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, increasing the risk for heart failure. It leads to osteoporosis, which makes the bones dry and brittle more susceptible to damage. Severe dehydration may occur sometime which can result in kidney failure. Approximately 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women. It has a death rate between 5-20%. Anorexia nervosa is considered to have one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.
4. What is a rite of passage and what purpose do rites of passage serve? Discuss at least two examples of rites of passages in your own life. Be sure to note what purpose they were intended to serve - and whether or not they were effective. (4 points)
A rite of passage is a ritual or an event that marks the transition from one state or level to another for a particular person. It may also be defined as a ceremony marking the passing from one phase of life to another. Its concept can be to study and detail different milestones in an individual’s life, during a transitional phase, when social status is changed. It can refer to any of life’s transitions like birth, death, initiations, or marriage.
The first phase of the ritual is called separation, which signifies separation or detaching from one’s earlier self. One forgets who they were and focus on who they will be.
The second phase is the transition phase. It is the period between states, where one has left his earlier state but is yet to enter the new one. It works as a buffer zone.
In the third phase known as reincorporation, the passage is completed by the person. The person can now rejoin society with one’s new status. It is usually celebrated by having a ceremony or a gathering characterized by some ritual.
In my life the first rite of passage, I was old enough to remember, was enrolling in the school. I was leaving behind my status as a prep child and becoming a school boy. It was intended to start building my foundation for professional education latter in life. I believe it served the purpose as it enabled me to learn new things and have curiosity about different things in our world.
Another one was when I went to college and my seniors gathered me along with all other freshers for an initiation ceremony. It was about leaving behind the status of a school boy and becoming a college boy. The purpose was to welcome us into the college and introduction to all the seniors along with each other. Although the rituals of the ceremony went on for a week, the final day we were gathered again and each presented with a T-shirt saying “Freshmen” marking our changed status. The ritual was more than successful as all those who participated freely always received help and support from the seniors.
5. When considering identity, what did Marcia mean by a "crisis"? Give two examples of crises to illustrate your understanding. (3 points)
Crisis in identity is a particular state in which an individual may have confusion regarding their purpose of existence or in terms of their physical identity. People suffering from identity crisis are always questioning their role or importance. Such people show no signs of having any idea regarding who they are, where they belong or where they should go. Some people may even withdraw from normal activities, showing disinterest at show, marriage or school. Some even fall into negative activities including crime or drugs. They believe negative identity is better than no identity at all.
Although such issues are more prevalent in teenagers, the crisis tends to subside or is completely withdrawn from the thinking process. However, the crisis may recur in later stages of life especially when faced with challenging problems or difficulties. Not every teen suffers from identity crisis; rather they choose to foreclose their identity by accepting the values of their parents. Permanent state of crisis has also been noticed in some people.
Consider if a person is presented with a situation where he has to choose between being a leader or a follower. For example, college authorities want to elect a student representative body for discussions on various matters. Everyone is presented with an opportunity of filing nomination for the post secretary or the highest post of the body. A person with identity crisis won’t be able to decide whether to file a nomination or to support a particular candidate. In the end he is not able to take part at all.
Another example of identity crisis can surface when a particular person visit a foreign country for the first time. As the individual is subject to the laws of the land and has to cooperate with the local authority according to prescribed guidelines. In such a situation the particular individual can go through a phase of identity crisis until he is able to understand the state of things.
6. What is meant by a "foreclosed" identity? What type of parenting would be most likely to result in this identity status? Give an example of an individual who is identity foreclosed. Is identity "fixed", or can identity status change? Be sure to explain your answer. (4 points)
Foreclosed identity is an identity status that is characterized by lesser or no interest in exploration, but has a high degree of commitments. Adolescents with foreclosed identity are not concerned with determining what’s important to them. They don’t question or object the values or beliefs they have been taught, instead they simply accept the identity assigned to them based on beliefs, family values, community and culture. Although they remained committed to these goals or values, they never consider any alternatives. Authoritarian parenting, also called strict parenting, is most likely to in foreclosed identity status. Authoritarian parents always make their children follow their directions and allow little scope for making any choices for themselves. The kids become used-to following their parents’ directions, which is when they stops giving importance to exploration and focus all energy on commitment.
For example, Jason, 17, wants to be a dentist like his father and is applying to the same school his father’s family has attended for generations as they were all dentists. He was taught and instructed based on the decision of his parents that Jason also will become a dentist. Jason has not considered any alternatives and is rather determined to make his family proud by going to dental college. He has decided to be like the rest of the men of his family. This is a typical example of foreclosed identity.
Every status is characterized by a configuration of progress based on identity exploration and commitment to values and beliefs. The identity status is not fixed, as these statuses are progressive, although Marcia’s theory does not assume that every adolescent goes through all four statuses. Also an adolescent may feature different statuses across different domains like religion, work or politics. Marcia's theory accounts for multi-directional movement between and among the various identity statuses. A traumatic event may cause young people to re-assess their situation and value system. They may move to a different identity status.