6 June 2016

A century ago, the American writer Jean Erskine Steward said, “In no order of things is adolescence a simple time of life.” At times it seems like the American public believes the struggle of some youth is a new revelation, but it’s clear that stereotyping adolescence as a time of strive, storm, and turmoil is a long standing tradition supported by several historical figures. Parents, writers, and Hollywood have spurred on the generalizations about adolescents that teenagers are lazy, rebellious, and moody. It’s not surprising that many parents are overwhelmed by the teenage years. After all, their own concerns about their child leaving the nest likely influences their perspectives on their teenagers. But for years, researchers have also joined in the act of pathologizing adolescents.

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A stereotype is a broad generalization that reflects our beliefs and impressions about people. Joseph Adelson’s research focused on the development of political ideology during a tumultuous time for our nation. Adelson explained that it was not possible for young teens to present a well-developed and thought out political opinion because they were not yet intellectually capable. Adelson was appalled by the belief of others that adolescents had a viable voice in the political arena.

Daniel Offer had a much more positive view of adolescents and his research may be more objective because he surveyed thousands of youths from many different cultural backgrounds. Offer found that by the age of 16 teenagers are intellectual equals to their adult counterparts. This researcher believed generalizations have been made about adolescents because only one small part of the population is used for the majority of studies and discourse. It’s true that some teenagers use drugs, skip school, and aren’t ready to make intellectually demanding decisions. But the same could be said about many adults or members of other age groups. Daniel Offer’s research revealed that most teenagers are responsible, intelligent, and adept at solving problems.

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